Socializing May Keep Elderly Minds Sharp05/04/11
WEDNESDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Being sociable can help
keep your brain healthy as you age, researchers report.
The team at Rush University Medical Center found that elderly
people with the highest levels of social activity -- doing things
such as visiting friends, going to parties or attending church --
showed much lower levels of cognitive decline than those who were
the least socially active.
The study included 1,138 adults, average age 80, who are
participants in the ongoing Rush Memory and Aging Project. At the
start of the study, none of the participants had any signs of
cognitive impairment. They were assessed annually and provided
information about their social activities.
The study participants were tested for various types of
cognitive function, including memory, perceptual speed (the ability
to quickly and accurately compare things) and visuospatial ability
(the capacity to visually perceive the spatial relationship between
Over an average of five years, those who were the most socially
active experienced only one-fourth the rate of cognitive decline as
those with the lowest levels of social activity. The effect was
independent of other factors that can play a role in cognitive
decline, such as age, physical activity and general health.
The study was published online April 8 in the
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
It's not clear how social activity may affect cognitive decline,
but one possibility is that "social activity challenges older
adults to participate in complex interpersonal exchanges, which
could promote or maintain efficient neural networks in a case of
'use it or lose it,'" lead researcher Bryan James, a postdoctoral
fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia at Rush
Alzheimer's Disease Center, said in a Rush news release.
Further research is needed to learn whether programs designed to
increase older adults' social activity could delay or prevent
cognitive decline, he added.
The Society for Neuroscience outlines ways to
keep your brain healthy as you age.
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