My colleague Dr. Jeffery Cummings gave a very informative interview to the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week (entitled Alzheimer’s studies urge active retirement).In the article, Dr. Cummings highlights the growing body of research that leading an active life, especially after retirement, appears to be one of the most important things one can do in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. “Passive lifestyle is increasingly seen by researchers as a high risk factor for Alzheimer’s, a still incurable disease of the brain that causes the progressive degeneration of brain cells,” explains Dr. Cumming in the article. He goes on to say, “We have a social idea of what retirement consists of and we need to re-examine that idea. The logical extension of the data we have on dementia is that a person who is still capable of working, who is mentally stimulated with a strong sense of purpose, is better off from the cognitive point of view continuing to engage in that position.”
One of the studies that Dr. Cummings uses to illustrate his point is a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry we discussed on Brain Fitness for Life back in March in the blog post Living Life Purposefully Might Ward Off Alzheimer’s. The results of that study indicate that people who say their lives have a purpose are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
He also points to a British study published last year in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry which concluded that men working beyond the normal retirement age of 65 appeared to keep dementia at bay and that Alzheimer’s symptoms were delayed about seven weeks for each extra year the men worked.
There is a clear scientific correlation between staying active and improving your chances of avoiding, or at least postponing, cognitive impairment. The ways to stay active are as limitless as your imagination. What is important is that you actively live your life, whether through employment, hobbies, or social contribution. Staying active, especially if you are a senior, is clearly an important part of keeping yourself mentally fit.