Jul 25, 2016

By Jane Brown

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An array of new research findings suggests a rich mental life and a specific type of brain exercise may work to prevent the onset of dementia.

The idea of brain training may confer a level of protection from dementia as subjects age.  As part of the study, roughly 700 healthy participants, averaging 74 years of age, received ten hours of training on a computer task.  Some received an additional four hours of training one to three years later.  After ten years, 33 percent fewer of those who received the initial training developed dementia compared with a control group who received no training.  Among those who received the additional training, 48 percent fewer developed dementia.

The results are being presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, which began yesterday in Toronto.

The event is billed as the world’s largest gathering of Alzheimer’s researchers.

Diet could also play into the early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Doctor Matthew Parrott at Baycrest Health Sciences here in Toronto tracked some 350 independently living older adults over a three year period. He found that those who adhered to a typical “Western” diet, that included processed meat, white bread, potatoes and pre-packaged foods and sweets were more likely to experience cognitive decline. But that negative effect did not show up for those subjects whose backgrounds included at least two of three indicators; a high level of education, a complex occupation and a significant amount of social engagement.

According to recent estimates, 1.4 million Canadians are expected to be living with Alzheimer’s disease by 2031, a steep rise that is mirrored in other developed countries as populations age.

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