June 27, 2007
CBS2 Chicago
Staff Reporter

 There are simple ways you might be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease; you might say they coincide with the old phrase “use it or lose it,” as CBS 2’s Medical Editor Mary Ann Childers reports.

A new study by Chicago researchers says that keeping your brain stimulated in old age is related to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Many people enjoy playing chess, but when older people play or read newspapers or engage in activities that are mentally stimulating, they get more than just pleasure. A new study says they are 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“It was activity late in life that was most protective against developing Alzheimer’s and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s like mild cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Robert Wilson of Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

The Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center followed 700 seniors in Chicago for five years, and found that engaging in brain-challenging activities several times a week seems to boost mental fitness.

“The more activity in terms of memory and cognition that is going on, we think the better prepared those neural systems are for the inevitable changes that occur when you age,” Wilson said.

There are many ways to exercise your brain–from games and reading to attending plays, museums and using computers. Posit Science software is offered free or at low-cost to Humana Medicare medical and prescription drug beneficiaries.

Seniors can take it for a test drive during Taste of Chicago in the senior pavilion. People who want to protect their brains can get in the habit of exercising your brain now.

“I think the really good news is in middle age,” said Wilson. “It serves as a platform for being cognitively active in old age.”

The study is in the journal “Neurology.”