SUNDAY, Aug. 9, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults might want to remember to exercise their brains regularly.
Brain-stimulating activity, according to a new study, can delay the rapid loss of memory that precedes dementia.
For five years, researchers followed 488 adults, aged 75 to 85, who did not have dementia at the start of the study. They recorded the number of brain-stimulating activities that people participated in each week.
About a fifth of the participants had developed dementia by the end of the study, but the onset of memory decline appeared to vary based on the amount of mental exercise they had gotten.
Every time a senior took part in an activity such as reading, writing or playing games or music, the person appeared to delay rapid memory loss by about two to three months, the study found. A report on the study appears in the Aug. 4 issue of Neurology.
"The point of accelerated decline was delayed by 1.29 years for the person who participated in 11 activities per week compared to the person who participated in only four activities per week," study author Charles B. Hall, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.
Activities included reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing board or card games, having group discussions and playing music. On average, those who developed dementia did one activity a day.
"The effect of these activities in late life appears to be independent of education," Hall said. "These activities might help maintain brain vitality."
Hall noted, however, that further study would be needed to determine whether increasing participation in such activities might prevent or delay dementia.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about dementia.