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Keep brain active to avoid dementia

18th May 2009

Research carried out at King's College London has suggested that people who carry on working as they get older could protect themselves against dementia.

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The study from the college's Institute of Psychiatry looked at information from 1,320 dementia patients.

They found that in the cases of 382 male patients, working delayed the onset of the disease.

About 700,000 people have dementia in the UK and the figure is predicted to rise to 1.7 million by 2051.

Dementia causes a huge loss of brain cells and it is believed that one way to prevent this is to encourage the connections between cells by staying "mentally active". This is called "cognitive reserve".

The study showed that people who retired at an older age than others developed the disease later.

Every year a person remained in work equated to a six week delay in the start of dementia.

Researcher Dr John Powell said: "The possibility that a person's cognitive reserve could still be modified later in life adds weight to the "use it or lose it" concept where keeping active later in life has important health benefits, including reducing dementia risk."

Researcher Professor Simon Lovestone said: "The intellectual stimulation that older people gain from the workplace may prevent a decline in mental abilities, thus keeping people above the threshold for dementia for longer."

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