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Seniors who exercise their minds by reading, doing puzzles, or playing a musical instrument have less chance of developing dementia. Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City measured the cognitive-activity levels of 469 people over the age of 75 living in the Bronx, NY. They were asked what leisure activities they participated in and how often. Participation in a cognitive-stimulating activity 1 day a week translated into a point on the cognitive- activity-level scale.
The results of the study (published in the June 19, 2003, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine) showed that reading, playing board games or cards, and playing a musical instrument had the greatest reduction in risk for dementia. Over the course of the 5-year study, participants were evaluated yearly. In that time frame, 121 of the volunteers developed dementia. When comparing the volunteers who developed dementia with those who did not, the researchers found that, for 1 point on the cognitive-activity-level scale, there was a 7% reduction in the risk of dementia.People in the highest third had a score of 11 points or higher.This means that they took part in mind-stimulating activities more than once a day each week. The risk of developing dementia was 63% lower than in people who scored in the lowest third on the cognitive-activity-level scale.