September 2, 2010

Exercises Slow Dementia at First, Then Speed it Up?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- You've heard that activities like completing crossword puzzles, reading a book and listening to the radio may protect your brain from dementia. Now, a new study shows those exercises may slow cognitive decline at first, but may speed it up later on.

Researchers studied the mental activities of 1,157 participants aged 65 or older who did not have dementia at the start of the 12-year study. The participants answered questions about how often they participated in certain mental activities on a five-point activity scale. The more points scored, the more often they participated in the exercises.

Results showed, during the next six years, the rate of cognitive decline was reduced by 52 percent for each point scored on the cognitive activity scale. However, for people with Alzheimer's disease, the average rate of decline per year increased by 42 percent for each point on the cognitive activity scale.

"Our results suggest that the benefit of delaying the initial signs of cognitive decline may come at the cost of more rapid dementia progression later on, but the question is why does this happen?" Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, was quoted as saying.

Wilson's theory is mentally stimulating activities may enhance the brain's ability to function normally even if lesions in the brain, which are associated with dementia, exist. Once patients are diagnosed with dementia, those who have a more mentally active lifestyle are likely have more brain changes related to dementia. As a result, those with more mentally active lifestyles may experience a faster rate of decline once dementia begins.

Wilson notes that mental activities do compress the time period that a person spends with dementia, delaying its start and speeding up its progress. "This reduces the overall amount of time that a person may suffer from dementia," he said.

SOURCE: Neurology, September 1, 2010