You’ve heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. As it turns out, good nutrition isn’t the only way to prevent health problems. Soon we might be advising people, particularly those over 65, that a party a day keeps the psychiatrist away!
Okay, maybe a daily party would be a tad overkill. But recent research, published in the journal Neurology, has demonstrated a clear link between keeping busy and improved brain health.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic tracked 2,000 adults over the age of 70, who were cognitively healthy (showed no signs of dementia or age-related cognitive decline). Participants were asked to report their activities, and their brain health was reassessed at the end of a five-year period.
What they found was that engaging in a single activity on a regular basis slightly reduces the risk of mild cognitive impairment. However, those who enjoyed several activities on a regular basis enjoy a significantly lower risk. It appears that the number and variety of activities pursued will multiply the cognitive benefits.
As study co-author Yonas Geda, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and neurology at Mayo Clinic, says: “It’s not just about engaging in an activity, it’s about mixing it up with two or more. Two activities are better than one, three are better than two, and four are better than three.”
So, what’s the ideal prescription for long-term cognitive health? Boost your brain function by choosing several activities, especially those that challenge different areas of your brain, and commit to them on a regular basis. Consider activities like puzzles, social gatherings, volunteer work, reading, painting, making crafts, learning a new card game, and so on. Engage in these three to five days per week, and you will improve your odds of staying healthier for longer.
If you do have any concerns about your cognitive health, or that of your spouse, consult with your physician right away. With early detection, treatment for cognitive decline is more effective and can improve your quality of life.