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Mentally Stimulating, People-Oriented Work May Slow Alzheimer’s

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The link between mental stimulation and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease has been debated for years. Conflicting studies seem to produce uncertain outcomes, with some claiming that keeping the brain active can inhibit the progression of dementia while others deny any connection.

Now a new study from Alzheimer’s researchers at the University of Wisconsin suggests that there is indeed a positive link. This study appears to demonstrate that “brain-challenging jobs –especially ones focused on people – may help shield a person’s mind against the ravages of age-related dementia.” We found this important article on a website called Healthday, and you can click here to read it.

According to this research, which is just about to be presented at a major international Alzheimer’s conference in Toronto, people with intellectually-demanding jobs seem better able to withstand the effects of brain lesions commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This “brain resilience” seems especially pronounced among those whose work involves large amounts of interaction with others, as opposed to people whose jobs are more isolated and individualistic. As one of the research study authors put it, “People are just more complex than data or things.”  So, she reasoned, “human interactions require much more brain power than working with data on a computer or working with machinery.”

The University of Wisconsin study is one of three similar findings discussed in the Healthday article. All of these studies are about to be submitted for peer review, and together they represent an encouraging effort to narrow down just which types of mental stimulation actually help the brain develop the “cognitive reserve” that enables it to fight off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease for as long as possible.

“With the brain, you use it or you lose it,” said another researcher. “The brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it develops, and the more it develops the more it is able to withstand insults and injuries” including the types of physical damages associated with dementia.

The researchers were also quick to point out that this report is potential good news even for those who do not do mentally-stimulating and highly social work. Volunteering in the community can produce the same effect, provided that the tasks one performs involve high levels of complex social interaction. Coaching little league is an example, or tutoring, or mentoring. It’s the skills you use, not the work itself that seems to matter most.

This finding appears to be related to another study described in the Healthday article in which researchers found that the best results for slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms appeared to be among people who had undergone brain-training that placed special emphasis on speed – quick thinking – as opposed to reasoning skills and memory skills. Teaching people to think and respond quickly seemed to reduce cognitive decline dramatically.

If these studies prove accurate, researchers may be honing in on the best, most effective methods of brain-training. We’ll continue to monitor these developments here at AgingOptions and will report about them on this blog. None of the clients we work with wants to be a burden to their loved ones as they age, and since dementia places such a heavy weight of caregiving on those closest to us, it makes sense to do all we can to stay mentally alert for as long as we live.

Planning for a healthy, vibrant lifestyle in your retirement years involves taking a whole host of elements into account, including health care. Our task, and our privilege, here at AgingOptions is to guide you through the retirement planning process, one that we call LifePlanning. A personalized LifePlan answers several questions essential to your peace of mind as you age – where you will live, how you will protect your assets, whether your family will support and honor your wishes, and much more. With our decades of experience dealing with clients in all professions and stages of life, we are uniquely qualified to help you develop this blueprint for your future.

To learn more, why not plan to attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars? Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website for details and registration. This information-packed session, offered with absolutely no obligation, is the ideal first step on your journey to a safe, secure, rewarding retirement. We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar in the very near future.

(originally reported at

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