Leisure activity may reduce risk of Alzheimer's, says USC research team

Participation in a greater overall number of leisure activities during early and middle adulthood is related to lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according a team of researchers headed by University of Southern California graduate student Michael Crowe. He and his colleagues - University of South Florida faculty member Ross Andel (a recent USC PhD), USC and Karolinska Institute professors Margaret Gatz and Nancy Pedersen, and University of Gothenberg professor Boo Johansson - published the results of this recent study in the September issue of The Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences (Vol. 58B, No.5, September, 2003).

"The idea that mental activity is good for the brain is not unlike the idea of 'use it or lose it' when it comes to keeping the body fit," said Andel. Using data from the Swedish Twins Registry, a population-based dataset of twins living in Sweden, the team analyzed information on like-sexed twins born between 1886 and 1925. The study was funded by the Alzheimer's Association and the National Institute on Aging.

In the 1960s, these twins had filled out questionnaires about their leisure activities, which included reading, social visits, theater and movie going, club and organization participation, gardening and other outdoor activities, and playing sports. They subsequently participated in clinical follow-ups in the 1980s and 1990s, when they where tested for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

In an analysis of 107 of the pairs where one twin was diagnosed with some type of dementia while the co-twin was cognitively intact, the twin who did not develop dementia reported greater overall participation in leisure activities. Moreover, among female twin pairs, the twin who participated frequently in "intellectual-cultural activities" showed a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.

This study cannot entirely rule out the possibility the twins had factors in their youth that led both to greater leve

Contact: Todd Kluss
The Gerontological Society of America

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