Busy brains may delay Alzheimer's in people with higher risk

From the Summer 2016 edition of Care and cure magazine, research shows that, for people with the APOE4 gene, keeping your brain busy may delay some of the signs of Alzheimer's disease. 

The study followed 393 people aged over 70 who did not have dementia. They were asked questions about their education history and how mentally active they were in middle age. The researchers then looked for signs of Alzheimer's, including amyloid protein in the brain. 

They also took into account whether the participants had the APOE4 gene. This gene is the strongest known genetic risk factor for the most common form of Alzheimer's disease. Having two copies of this gene (one from each parent) is thought to increase your risk of dementia by about 10 times.

The results showed that, for people with the APOE4 gene, having at least 14 years of education and keeping mentally active in mid-life was associated with lower levels of amyloid in the brain. 

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, said, 'Alzheimer's disease is caused by a complex mix of genetics and lifestyle, and it could be that particular groups of people may benefit from making certain lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.

'Although people with the APOE4 gene have a higher risk of dementia, there are things they, and indeed all of us, can do to cut that down. This might include staying fit and active, not smoking, and keeping the brain busy – this could be through reading or playing games and puzzles.'

Further reading