Study raises questions about role of leisure actvity in Deme
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Studies have suggested that taking part in leisure activities such as playing cards or gardening may be associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. But a new study found no association between taking part in leisure activities at age 56 and the risk of dementia over the next 18 years. The researchers also found that some people who are later diagnosed with dementia stop participating in leisure activities years before they are diagnosed.

The study suggests that changes in the amount of leisure activity may be an early sign of dementia, possibly due to symptoms such as apathy or other social changes or early cognitive difficulties.

The study involved 8,280 people with an average age of 56 years who were followed for an average of 18 years. Their participation in leisure activities was assessed at the beginning of the study, five years later and again 10 years later. Researchers reviewed health records to identify people who developed dementia.

Leisure activities included reading, listening to music, taking classes, participating in clubs, visiting friends and relatives, playing cards or games, taking part in religious activities and gardening. People were placed in low, medium and high groups based on their participation levels.

During the study, 360 people developed dementia. The researchers found no relationship between taking part in more leisure activities at the beginning of the study and having a lower dementia risk nearly 20 years later. There was only a relationship when leisure activity participation in late life was assessed. People who took part in more leisure activities at the average age of 66 were less likely to have dementia diagnosed over the next eight years than people who had lower participation.

With every one standard deviation increase in leisure activities, equivalent approximately to doing three new leisure activities monthly or two activities weekly, people were 18% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia 8 years later. These results took into account other factors that could affect risk of dementia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and body mass index.

In addition of the 1,159 people whose activity decreased, 53 developed dementia, compared to 17 of the 820 people, or 2%, whose activity level stayed low over the years. More research is needed to confirm these results, but researchers know that early changes in the brain can start decades before any symptoms emerge. It is plausible that people may slow down their activity level up to 10 years before dementia is actually diagnosed, due to subtle changes and symptoms that are not yet recognized.

A limitation of the study was that dementia diagnoses were gathered from electronic health records rather than assessing each participant, so some cases may not have been diagnosed.

Source: https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/3831
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