It's not the most startling of conclusions, but a major new study lends weight to the theory that a lifetime of reading and other brain-boosting activities helps ward off dementia late in life, reports the BBC. The study in the journal Neurology tracked about 300 people from their mid-50s until their deaths, using mental agility tests every six years and questionnaires about how they spent their time. Researchers followed up with brain autopsies when the subjects died.
Maybe not surprisingly, those who read a lot, or wrote letters, or played chess, or whatever throughout their lives (including childhood) fared better on the mental agility tests. But the more intriguing discovery came with the autopsies, reports Today.com. Bookworms stayed sharp, or at least sharper than they should have been, even if their brains showed physical signs of Alzheimer's or dementia. The bottom line is that those who stimulated their brains in life had a rate of cognitive decline 15% slower than those who didn't. "In other words, like we’ve heard so many times before, use it or lose it," writes Alice Walton at Forbes. (Making the study more impactful: This report, which found that one in three older adults dies with some form of dementia.)