Read a book, preserve your memory

Published: October, 2013

Don't underestimate the value of everyday activities such as reading and writing. They may be enough to help you preserve your memory. A study published July 3, 2013, in the online edition of Neurology found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities such as reading books, both early and late in life, had a slower rate of decline in memory compared with those who did not participate in such activities across their lifetime. How much slower? The rate of mental decline was reduced by 32% in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared with people who had average mental activity. On the flip side, the rate of decline in those with infrequent activity was 48% faster than those with average activity. It's the latest evidence to suggest that more frequent mental stimulation in old age leads to better cognitive functioning. But you don't have to limit yourself to being a bookworm. "Any mental or social stimulation could potentially help," says Dr. Gad Marshall, a behavioral neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. "There are several population-based studies, such as the one discussed here, showing this benefit. However, there are no consistent randomized clinical trials showing this. Therefore, I usually recommend continuing or taking on new activities that are mentally or socially engaging, as well as enjoyable, in order to ensure regular participation." Such activities include arts and crafts, singing, dancing, attending concerts or shows, going to a community center, and doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles.

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