AAN Logo Previously we reported that people who engage themselves in education have lower risk of developing dementia. Now, experts share that mentally triggering activities like crossword, puzzles, reading and listening to the radio seemingly lower thinking skills but accelerate dementia risk later in old age.

Wilson shares that mental activities may improve the brain’s ability to function normally even with the buildup of lesions in the brain linked with dementia. However, once the patients are detected with dementia, those who have a more mentally active lifestyle may have more brain changes as compared to those without additional mental activity.

Experts share that people with more mentally active lifestyles may face a quicker rate of decline once dementia starts. They observed that the mental activities reduce the time period that a person spends with dementia, thereby delaying its start and accelerating its progress.

“Our results suggest that the benefit of delaying the initial signs of cognitive decline may come at the cost of more rapid dementia progression later on, but the question is why does this happen?” quoted study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Around 1,157 people who were 65 years or older were included for the analysis. They did not have dementia at the start of the nearly 12-year study. People answered questions about how frequently they engaged themselves with mental activities like listening to the radio, watching television, reading, playing games and going to a museum. They were asked to rate themselves on a five-point cognitive activity scale. The more points scored, the more often people engaged in mentally stimulating exercises.

After six years of analysis, experts identified that the rate of cognitive decline in people without cognitive impairment was lowered by around 52 percent for each point on the cognitive activity scale. However, for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the average rate of decline per year apparently augmented by 42 percent for each point on the cognitive activity scale.

These findings were published in the September 1, 2010 online issue of Neurology.