Harvard Women's Health Watch

Staying mentally active throughout life preserves brain health

New research suggests that being mentally active, both in childhood and later in life, could help preserve your memory as you age. That's according to a study published July 3 in the online issue of Neurology. The study included 294 people who were given tests of memory and thinking every year for an average of six years before they died (the average age at death was 89). Participants were also asked what mentally stimulating activities, such as reading and writing, they had participated in at various stages of life—childhood, adolescence, middle age, and their current age. After the participants died, their brains were examined for signs of dementia, including the plaques and tangles that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. After researchers adjusted for these physical signs of dementia, they concluded that people who had taken part in mentally stimulating activities, both when they were young and later in life, had a 15% slower rate of memory decline than those who weren't mentally active.

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