Hobbies in the middle age can help reduce chances of dementia, study finds

Scientists now believe that this resilience to dementia, known as ‘cognitive reserve’, is boosted by engaging the brain in different activities

                            Hobbies in the middle age can help reduce chances of dementia, study finds
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As we grow older, having a hobby almost seems like an impossible task with the many responsibilities that befall us. Even if we have some time on our hands, we tend to use it to relax and rarely invest the free time in a hobby. However, scientist believe that having a hobby in the middle age can be helpful in fighting dementia. Scientists discovered activities such as reading, playing sport and socializing contribute to maintaining brainpower into old age and may also reduce the chances of having dementia. The study found that a person is able to maintain their memory and IQ with time as they tend to engage themselves in different tasks, keeping their brain active.

As reported by Daily Mail, experts now believe this resilience which is known as ‘cognitive reserve’ is boosted by engaging the brain in different activities as much as one can while young. Researcher Dr. Dennis Chan, whose findings are published in the Neurobiology of Aging journal, said that "We start with the same hardware – our brains – but the things we do can make it more robust." 

He believes that the activities we do in middle age affect the chances of getting diagnosed with dementia later. "This is the phenomenon called cognitive reserve. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but the message is, what you do between the ages of 35 and 65 may affect your risk of dementia post 65," he said. 

Previously, there have been studies that suggest that people who have a higher IQ, spend longer in education and/or have more intellectually challenging occupations, possess a lower risk of developing dementia in later life due to these factors contributing to cognitive reserve. The researchers also tried to understand how the spare time spent before retirement can also impact boosting cognitive reserve of a person. 

They measured the brain sizes of 205 people aged 66 to 88 using MRI scans. The researchers then asked the volunteers to take IQ tests and complete a questionnaire about their hobbies. The questionnaire divided their hobbies int three: intellectual, physical and social activities such as reading a book or spending quality time with the family. Researchers discovered that these mid-life activities contributed to later-life IQ irrespective of levels of education or occupation they have received. 

The study also found that people who engaged in higher mid-life activities scores were less dependent on brain size for maintaining their IQ. This suggests that increased cognitive reserve is able to sustain their thinking ability despite the age-related shrinkage of the brain. "We’re quite excited by our findings," Dr. Dennis said. "Everyone can do this [increase their activity levels] – it doesn’t matter what you do for work or where you are. Activities like chatting to family or reading are free... all these activities are good for you."