Cognitive activities should be practiced at least once or twice a week to prevent memory problems.
The effectiveness of activities depends on the cognitive health of the older person
In 2010, researchers had already hypothesized that frequent cognitive activities reduce the risk of cognitive decline, without stopping the neurodegeneration observed in Alzheimer’s disease.
Indeed, once the diagnosis of dementia is made, cognitive problems accelerate in the active elderly person. In other words, people with a high level of cognitive activity (e.g. people exercising an intellectual profession) could have, once the disease has set in, a pathology of more serious intensity than people with a low level of cognitive activity. cognitive activities.
Thus the period of life with « dementia » would be shortened, because the onset of dementia would be delayed and its progression would be faster. Researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s disease Center in Chicago followed 1,000 healthy individuals for several years (at the start of the study).
They assessed the frequency with which they practiced so-called stimulating cognitive activities. This includes frequent watching television, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, going to a museum, fast payout casinos in Canada etc.).
The practice of these activities was rated on a scale of 5 levels: almost every day, several times a week, several times a month, several times a year, once a year or less.
At the end of the study, participants were classified as having no cognitive impairment (614 people), having mild cognitive impairment or MCI (395 people) or having Alzheimer’s disease (148 people). Once the diagnosis was made, they were followed up again at 3-year intervals for an average period of about 6 years, using a battery of 4 cognitive tests (story recall, number/symbol association, speed perception and mini-mental state examination).
It appeared that in people without cognitive impairment, cognitive decline is halved for each additional point on the Cognitive Activity Frequency Rating Scale. In other words, the practice of stimulating cognitive activity proportionally slows cognitive decline.
In people with MCI, the slope of cognitive decline is not related to the frequency of cognitive activities. On the other hand, in the 148 patients in whom Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed, the average annual rate of cognitive decline increased by 42% for each additional point on the scale for evaluating the frequency of cognitive activities. In other words, cognitive decline is faster in those with the highest cognitive activity.
Conclusion. This study confirms that cognitive activity delays cognitive decline in mentally healthy elderly people, but worsens it in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on these results, the researchers predict that the aging of the population will lead to an increase in the number of people suffering from severe cognitive impairment, despite prevention programs.
Moreover, this more rapid decline could receive other types of interpretation (other than that of a neuropathological interpretation), taking into account psychological factors.
Thus, for example, it could be that people with a high level of cognitive activities react particularly badly to the occurrence of cognitive difficulties, as well as to their impact on the performance of cognitive activities, resulting in the appearance of symptoms. depression (depressed mood, isolation, negative self-image, lack of motivation, etc.) contribute to the more rapid worsening of cognitive decline.
Sources: Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2017 and Neurology, September 2010.