October 21, 2018

Study demonstrates mental stimulating activities protect against cognitive impairment

Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) are a group of conditions that cause mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. These conditions affect one’s ability to function socially, personally, and professionally. It’s important to recognize that Alzheimer’s disease begins long before symptoms start just like many other conditions. There is evidence that simple prevention strategies can reduce the risk of ADRD by as much as 50%.

According to a new study published January 30th in JAMA Neurology, Mayo Clinic researchers demonstrated that mentally stimulating activities reduce the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment even when performed later in life.

This study found that healthy individuals age 70 or older who were active on a computer, played games, and were involved in craft and social activities had a reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

The study included 1,929 cognitively normal participants or an average duration of 4 years. As a result, the researchers discovered that the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment decreased by 30% with computer use, 28% with crafts, 23% with social activities, and 22% with playing games.

Furthermore, individuals who performed these activities at least once to twice week had less cognitive decline than those doing the same activities only two to three times a month.

I remember when I was doing a lot of continuing education in postgraduate functional neurology we always talked about “what you fire, you wire”. It’s all about neuroplasticity and stimulating those neural pathways to make them stronger and more efficient.

The benefits of being cognitively engaged were also seen in those with the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, which is a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD). The researchers found that only computer use and social activities were associated with a reduced risk of MCI in APOE carriers. This is another example of the important role of the environment and epigenetics and not solely focusing on the gene.

When one looks at any condition, the cause is multifactorial and there are addition things health care providers can do to help their patients. I shared a recent study in August in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry researchers at UCLA demonstrated the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise and its impact on reducing amyloid plaque build-ups that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Previous research has demonstrated the association between diabetes and Alzheimers. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease compared decades of research on diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, a study published in 2015 in the journal, Neurology, demonstrated that resveratrol stabilized amyloid-beta40 (Abeta40) in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. This biomarker declines when the disease progresses.

Another study published in 2015 in JAMA Neurology demonstrated a significant association between vitamin D insufficiency and cognitive decline specifically seen Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial nutrients involved in numerous metabolic processes that play a significant role in cognitive health. There was an interesting study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers found a link between Omega-3 levels, homocysteine, and brain atrophy rates. Homocysteine plays a role in regulating phospholipid metabolism and omega-3 distribution by the methionine cycle. As a result, B vitamins are essential for the synthesis of phospholipids. This study demonstrated when omega-3 levels are in an upper normal range, B vitamins slow cognitive decline and brain atrophy.

Glutathione is also essential for neurodegenerative disease. This powerful antioxidant has been found to be depleted in the brain of neurodegenerative disorders. Providing antioxidant support with NAC or glutathione are essential for neurodegenerative disorders because the body’s cells are more susceptible to damage and death after 40 years of age.

Curcumin also provides protection amyloid-induced toxicity. There are only a few natural products that have demonstrated the wide range of protective properties as curcumin. Additional brain supportive nutrients include magnesium l-threonate, acetyl-l-carnitine, and glycerophosphocholine.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Janina Krell-Roesch, Prashanthi Vemuri, Anna Pink, Rosebud O. Roberts, Gorazd B. Stokin, Michelle M. Mielke, Teresa J. H. Christianson, David S. Knopman, Ronald C. Petersen, Walter K. Kremers, Yonas E. Geda. Association Between Mentally Stimulating Activities in Late Life and the Outcome of Incident Mild Cognitive Impairment, With an Analysis of the APOE ε4 Genotype. JAMA Neurology, 2017; DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.3822

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