Alzheimer’s Research Emphasizes Complex Jobs, Diet

Written by Hiland - Senior Lifestyle Expert on Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Washington Post cited new research and surprising results from two studies presented during the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto.  The studies focused on the relationship between complex work and social engagement and how effective they can be against the effects of unhealthy diet in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Importance of Complex Work

Researchers agree that diet, especially the typical Western diet that is based on red processed meats, potatoes and prepackaged foods have a negative effect on cognitive abilities and can encourage cerebrovascular disease. Researchers believe there are newfound reasons for hope based upon intellectually stimulating exercises that can offset some of the Western diet risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Degrees of cognitive decline can be significantly reduced if individuals regularly experience mental stimulation. Additionally, persons who have mentally stimulating occupations like lawyers, engineers, social workers and physicians enjoy high levels of protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Workers in these sectors fare much better than laborers, cashers, clerks or machine operators in the struggle against cognitive impairment. 

Matthew Parrott of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto explains: “You can never totally forget about the importance of a good diet, but in terms of your risk of dementia, you are better able to accommodate some of the brain damage that is associated with consuming this kind of (unhealthy) diet.”

Benefits of Working With People

As described in an  earlier post, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease present sufferers with abundant challenges.  However, one of the new studies on social interaction suggests that persons who work closely with others in mentoring or instructional capacities receive more protection against dementia than those who have spent their lives receiving instructions.

Mentoring requires problem solving and communication skills that can be complex. A collaborative study between Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute concentrated on persons who were cognitively healthy but were seen as at significant risk of Alzheimer’s.

Elizabeth Boots of the University of Wisconsin explains; “By showing that cognitive reserve is already at work early in the disease process, we believe this could have potential implications for early intervention, such as identifying those with potentially lower reserve and suggesting ways to boost that reserve in some way.” The study concluded that persons with lower protection levels should attempt to implement more complex intellectual skills in their daily routines as soon as possible.

A representative of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging noted the importance of health benefits related to exercise but underscored the less discussed benefits of intellectual activity. In fact, the Mayo Clinic study emphasizes that the earlier the individual engages intellectually stimulating activity, the more protection that individual will have against the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease later in life.

The bottom line is that while seniors are constantly encouraged to exercise for health reasons, when it comes to the fight against Alzheimer’s, intellectually stimulating lifestyles offer greater protection. In a study conducted for the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vitally Elderly, 2,785 seniors were divided into three groups and received training in:

  • Classroom-based memory strategies
  • Classroom-based reasoning strategies
  • Computerized speed of processing training

Groups initially received 10 one-hour training sessions over five weeks. Some adults also received booster sessions one year and three years later. The results from these groups were compared to results from the study’s control group. The results indicate that speed of processing training had a greater impact against Alzheimer’s disease than did the substance of what individuals learned in the other groups.

Ten years after the study was concluded, persons in the speed of processing group enjoyed a 33% reduction in instances of cognitive impairment. The rate climbed to 48% for those who participated in booster sessions.  Interestingly, the other two groups suffered the same rates of cognitive impairment as the study’s control group.

Let’s get our senior intellect active and communicating with others to fight off risks of Alzheimer’s disease!