A new study in France of nearly half a million retirees provided support for the theory that using one’s brain can help prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That is because the research shows a link between delayed retirement and a lowered risk of the disorder.
The results did not come as a surprise to researchers. When compared with the life of a retiree, working life tends to provide more social connections, physical activity, and mental challenges – all factors shown to help prevent a decline in mental faculties.
Researchers at INSERM, a health research agency of the French government, analyzed the health records of 429,000 workers. They averaged 74 years of age and had been in retirement an average of 12 years.
The study showed that each additional year of work reduced the risk of developing dementia by about 3 percent. On average, an individual who had retired at 65 had about 15 percent less risk of dementia than someone who had retired at 60.
Sometimes declining mental abilities force people into early retirement, and researchers knew they had to control for that possibility. To do so, they ran separate analyses of their data that eliminated subjects who had developed dementia within 5 years of retirement and within 10 years. The trend was the same, demonstrating that work had affected dementia and not the other way around.
About 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s – 1 of every 9 people who are 65 years or older. While the cause remains unknown and no treatments exist to slow its progression, scientists recommend certain lifestyle changes that are likely to lower the risk of developing it. They include: exercise and general physical activity; social connections, including volunteer work and joining clubs; healthy eating, including lots of vegetables; and mental challenges, such as crossword puzzles.
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