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Thursday, 4 May, 2000, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Keeping active 'wards off Alzheimer's'
Physical activity
Physical activity may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's
Keeping active outside work, either physically or mentally, in middle age may help to prevent Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.

They found that people with higher levels of non-occupational activities were less likely to develop the disease.

Protective activities included:

  • playing a musical instrument
  • gardening
  • physical exercise
  • playing board games
Lead researcher Dr Robert Friedland, a neurologist at Case Western Reserve University, said people who were less active were more than three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

The study is the first of its kind to examine levels of activity from at least five years before Alzheimer's symptoms appeared.



It appears as though physical and mental activity in later life may ward off some of the symptoms of mental decline associated with dementia

Harry Cayton, chief executive, Alzheimer's Disease Society

The researchers used a questionnaire to collect data about participation in 26 activities by 193 people with Alzheimer's disease and 358 healthy people.

The healthy participants had been more active between the ages of 40 and 60 than had the patients with Alzheimer's.

Previous research has shown that people with Alzheimer's were less physically active and had lower levels or educational and occupational achievement than people without the disease.

The new research, however, suggests that it does not take a doctorate to ward off Alzheimer's - an intellectually or physically stimulating hobby will also be helpful.

Passive activities, such as watching television, do not lower the risk for Alzheimer's.

The research suggests that brain stimulation associated with intellectual and physical activities works against the degeneration of tissues in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer's.

Harry Cayton, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society said: "It appears as though physical and mental activity in later life may ward off some of the symptoms of mental decline associated with dementia.

"However, more research needs to be done to see whether it can actually prevent dementia."

The research was presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting.

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