There’s excellent news for those of us who didn’t go to college: higher educations is not linked to protection from mental decline. But, there are ways for all of us to protect our brains!
Staying in school or going to college did not appear to prevent or slow mental decline or dementia symptoms. However, people who stretched their cognitive skills frequently were better protected. Research from the Rush Medical College in Chicago found that our use of cognitive skills consistently throughout life was far more effective than college in the past. Researchers warn college-educated people not to rest on their laurels because years in the classroom are far less effective than later mental engagement.
About 50 percent of dementia is linked to biology but, during the study, autopsies found that some people had signs of Alzheimer’s in their brains despite being healthy and without cognition problems during their lives. Researchers linked this to their active mental lifestyles. The researchers saw that people who had attended college did have better cognitive abilities at the beginning of the trial however it evened out over time and was overtaken by people who were mental active and engaged during in the study.
The mental acumen linked to problem-solving and good recall is known as the cognitive reserve and Harvard explains it as being, “like a powerful car that enables you to engage another gear and suddenly accelerate to avoid an obstacle. Your brain can change the way it operates and thus make added recourses available to cope with challenges.” Like any other form of exercise, frequently using your brain and challenging yourself means better abilities down the road.
Reading, sewing, painting, being socially involved, playing board games or playing music are some actives that reduce your overall risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the Univ. of Gothenburg’s Center for Aging and Health found that mental and physical activity had different impacts on dementia types. The study followed 800 women for 44 years.
U.S. News quotes the researcher, Jenna Najar as saying, “When we studied the effect on different dementia subtypes, we found that higher levels of mental activity in midlife reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of how physically active the women were. Higher levels of physical activity reduced the risk of more vascular forms of dementia, regardless of how mentally active the women were.”
The cognitive reserve can be built at any time according to Yaakov Stern, a cognitive neuroscientist at Columbia Medical School, you’re never too early or late. Getting involved in a cause or club can be great because positive attitudes and feeling a sense of purpose can help you engage your brain and elevate your spirit. Depression and sedentariness were linked to heightened cognitive decline. People with active lives and sunny dispositions were better off. Stern is fast to point out that it doesn’t have to be a chore and can be any form of activity where your mind is engaged — go see a friend, spend time with your family just be sure it’s something wherein your involved!