Leisure activity decreases risk of Alzheimer's disease

December 24, 2001

ST. PAUL, MN - Pick up a book or magazine, go for a walk, see a movie or visit a friend or relative -- and reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease. Reading and engaging in other leisure activities may reduce the risk or delay onset of clinical manifestations of dementia, according to a new study published in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

High education and occupational attainments have previously been associated with reduced risk of AD. This study, conducted by investigators at Columbia University in New York, demonstrates the benefits of leisure activities as an independent factor in reducing the risk of dementia among people of any education or occupational level.

For the study, 1,772 people age 65 or older, who were determined to be non-demented at the time of baseline assessment, were evaluated over a seven-year period. The study subjects were a representative sample of residents from three census tracts in north Manhattan, New York. Clinical data was gathered at an initial assessment, and subjects were categorized according to age, ethnicity, education level and occupation. They then reported their participation in 13 common leisure activities categorized as intellectual, physical and social pursuits.

"Even when controlling for factors like ethnic group, education and occupation, subjects with high leisure activity had 38 percent less risk of developing dementia," according to study author Yaakov Stern, PhD. Interestingly, the study also showed that participation in leisure activities may have a cumulative effect, with an additional 8 percent risk reduction associated with each leisure activity engaged. All three activity categories were shown to be beneficial, although the intellectual activities were associated with highest risk reduction.

For baseline clinical data, a physician elicited each subject's medical and neurological history and conducted a physical and neurological examination. All subjects also received neuropsychological testing. The evaluation was repeated at each follow-up event, at which it was determined whether or not participants became demented.

"Our study suggests that aspects of life experience supply a set of skills or repertoires that allow an individual to cope with progressing Alzheimer's Disease pathology for a longer time before the disease becomes clinically apparent," said Stern. "Maintaining intellectual and social engagement through participation in everyday activities seems to buffer healthy individuals against cognitive decline in later life."
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The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 17,700 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its web site at http://www.aan.com

For more information contact:
Kathy Stone, 651-695-2763; kstone@aan.com
For a copy of the study, contact Cheryl Alementi, 651-695-2737; calementi@aan.com

American Academy of Neurology

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