By Laurie Sue Brockway, Everyday Health Staff Writer
People who read, write, and engage in other mentally stimulating activities preserve memories at a rate at least 32 percent higher than those who don't — and more importantly, readers and writers are more likely to avoid dementia.
That's according to a study released today in Neurology, which also suggests exercising the brain with mentally stimulating tasks is especially helpful in old age if you have done it all your life. But at any age it helps the brain function at a higher level, said the study's lead author, Robert S. Wilson, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "Cognitively stimulating activity at any point in the life span appears to be related to better cognitive health in old age," he said.
Although she was not a participant in the study, my mother, Shirley Brockway, a retired social worker who directed a senior citizen center until her nineties, swears that, at 95, her mind is sharp as a tack due to a lifelong love of books. Her nighttime ritual includes reading in bed for two to four hours. She has been doing this since she was 40, and she currently reads three books a week, usually starting to read at 10 pm. She will stay up till 3 am to read if she really loves a book. When her eyes started giving her trouble last year, she found a work-around: She started getting large print books and read for one hour less.
"It helps me keep my mind busy and it definitely helps me keep my mind sharp," she said. "The only time I don't read is if I am really tired or I if I do a crossword puzzle. I am also addicted to crossword puzzles."
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