Opinion

For many, the word “hobby” connotes something simple or trivial. However, taking up a new hobby as one’s age provides a valuable defense against dementia. Some experts say.

About 5.8 million adults over age 65 in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 9 Americans over age 65 has Alzheimer’s disease.According to the Alzheimer’s Association. And although the The rate of forgetfulness may decrease. Thanks to lifestyle changes, most of us are living longer, which means the societal burden of dementia is increasing.

David Merrill, an adult and geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Mental Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., suggests using the word “pursuit” rather than “hobby” because the concept of an activity is demanding, pursuing something. which requires attention or cooperation. Something we should pursue.

Tasks that require concentration and industry are key to maintaining cognitive efficiency, Merrill says. Our mind continues to be like any other part of our body. “‘Use it or lose itIt’s not just a hypothesis, it’s a basic biological fact that holds to our brains like our muscles or bones.

While there is no reliable way to prevent or treat dementia yet, the Lancet identified it in 2020. 12 modifiable risk factors for the condition; They are physiological (hypertension, diabetes, hearing loss), lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking, physical inactivity), environmental (air pollution) depression, social isolation and low education. The Alzheimer Society of Canada is also clear about what we can do to help. Reduce our chances of forgettingBe engaged in knowledge, learn new things, meet new people, keep a diary, be curious and have conversations.

A possible link between dementia and air pollution

While muscle loss is a visual phenomenon — taut thighs become toned, a flat stomach smooth — and the health of our bones can be measured using bone density scans, Merrill says, “It’s only recently that we’ve realized the same thing is happening.” “In our minds” causes dysregulation of the same muscles that cause the cognitive decline seen in dementia.

Brain imaging illustrates this point: Learning and engagement not only increase psychological well-being, but also contribute to building a physiological level by maintaining brain size and preventing atrophy of memory centers. A well-defined shape, adds Merrill.

The Alzheimer’s Association says we should “disrupt” ourselves by challenging our brains by doing things we find difficult. Think of it as cognitive weightlifting, an activity that requires mental flexibility and strength. And that often means doing something we’re not used to doing: something new.

We do this naturally in our youth, but when we hit middle life, slowing down and becoming less social, we are left to stretch ourselves mentally.

Becca Levy, in her book “Cracking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Can Determine How Long and Healthy You Live,” A professor of psychology and epidemiology at Yale University, he argues that individuals — and society — accelerate aging by reinforcing stereotypes about “old age.” One of these images: “An old false age mentality that I had trouble learning new information.”

She writes, “The reality is that there are many positive cognitive changes in aging and there are many techniques to support lifelong learning. Older people can benefit from the same memory techniques that younger people use to improve their recall. In fact, our brains develop new neurons to respond to the challenges we face throughout our lives.

The problem is that thinking you’re old, or accepting the ageism society believes you are, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, so you’re less likely to try new things. Then you’re not only not exercising your head, you’re developing a habit of giving up.

Is my memory going or just old age?

According to Gallup, Average retirement age In 2022, it will be 61 in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center More than half of Americans over 55 are retired. In the year In the third quarter of 2021 – statistics that will be exacerbated by the epidemic and will be affected as the boomer generation approaches retirement age. The average life expectancy is 76.1 years years.

But with age – one hope – is given, not dementia, said Monica Moreno, senior director of care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association.

Research shows that mentally challenging activities have short- and long-term benefits for the brain, she says. And a hobby – something new we introduce into our lives when the demands of work decline – is a great way to challenge yourself and perhaps bring about positive change.

“Imagine that you decide to take dance lessons in retirement,” Moreno says. Ultimately, “not only are you benefiting from a cognitive challenge—learning new steps—you’re also likely to be more socially engaged and more active. And because you’re more active, you can think about your diet, so before you know it, you’ve made a lot of important lifestyle changes.”

She directed me to the Alzheimer’s Association Education Program, “Healthy living for your brain and body: tips from the latest researchHe said.

Sylvain Moreno (no relation to Monica Moreno), associate professor at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology in British Columbia, agrees that maintaining mental agility is important, and that it may carry more weight in protecting you from dementia than your genetics or current cognitive abilities.

How about learning something in retirement? “You’re never too old to improve cognitive function,” he says.

And as you think about retirement, consider staying engaged as you age. “Having a plan is very important,” says Monica Moreno. Ask yourself, “How can I stay busy, engaged, active?”

Taking up a new hobby is a great first step.

“Based on the large scientific literature, our general feeling is that it’s never too early or too late to engage in physically and mentally stimulating activities,” says Judy Pa, the group’s executive director. Alzheimer’s Disease Collaborative Study University of California at San Diego.

“We think of these healthy activities as brain savings accounts,” says Pa. “Start building that awareness now, so the money is in the bank if our brains want it.”

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