Gardening, reading, writing and praying are among the brain-exercising activities that can stave off the development of Alzheimer's disease, while TV watching increases the risk, according to new research reported by scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology with colleagues at Case Western Reserve University
The findings were presented recently at an international neurology conference in Istanbul
attended by researchers from Israel, Turkey
, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
, India, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates
, among other countries.
Alzheimer's, the most common cause of progressive dementia, affects millions of people around the world, mostly after the age of 65. "The connection between leisure activities and damage to cognitive ability has been examined in a number of studies," neurologist Dr. Rivka Inzelberg of the Technion's Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera said. "It is known that active intellectual activity can delay development of Alzheimer's. We looked at more passive activities such as watching TV and leisure time interests that were pursued between the age of 20 and 60."
The researchers, who conducted door-to-door interviews with 600 Israeli Arabs
in the Wadi Ara area, found that incurable dementia was delayed or prevented in people who spent a lot of time in intellectual pursuits such as reading, writing and even prayer.
However, TV watching, which is "not intellectually demanding," had the opposite effect and could even encourage the development of Alzheimer's.
Although genetic influences are important in the development of this type of dementia, smoking, being exposed to others' tobacco smoke, a high consumption of fats and inadequate physical exercise also contribute to the development of the disease.
Prof. Robert Friedland of Case Western and Prof. Lindsay Farrer of Boston University
collaborated in the gene mapping. They mapped the chromosomes that increase the tendency for dementia and conducted genome analyses of individuals in specific family groupings who had a high prevalence of Alzheimer's.
Their findings strengthened the evidence of a genetic factor in Alzheimer's, said Inzelberg, who added that inbreeding (consanguinity or marriage of close relatives) intensified the risk. She said she believed the findings were relevant in any population, and that with a US National Institutes of Health grant, her team plans on expanding their study.