Alzheimer's Dementia

Preventing mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment is forgetfulness that is worse than normal for one’s age but isn’t associated with dementia. Studies suggest however, that these people progress to Alzheimer’s disease at about 10% to 15% per year.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic will report on factors that decrease this risk at the upcoming meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in April.

First, the details.

  • 197 randomly selected elderly people attending the Mayo Clinic who were ultimately diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment were compared to 1124 randomly selected, cognitively intact people who served as controls.
  • Everyone completed a survey on cognitive activities in late life (within the past year) and in midlife (between ages 50 and 65 years).

And, the results.

  • Certain late-life activities were significantly associated with a 30% to 50% decreased risk for mild cognitive impairment.
    • Reading books
    • Playing games (including computer games)
    • Craft activities (quilting or pottery)
    • Watching less television (50% less risk for less than 7 hours vs more than 7 hours per day)
  • Social activity, including going out with friends, was not significantly associated with a decreased mild cognitive impairment risk.
  • Midlife activities significantly associated with a 42% decreased risk for mild cognitive impairment.
    • Social activities
    • Reading magazines

The bottom line?
“Our study confirms that engaging in intellectually stimulating activities is associated with a decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Yonas Endale Geda during a Medscape interview.

The reasons for these findings are unclear. Cognitive activity might have a direct effect on the brain to stimulate neuroprotective chemicals. Or, it might just be part of healthy lifestyle choices.

3/7/09 14:40 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.