Friday, November 15, 2019

Could Reading Protect Against the Forgetfulness of Dementia?

For the last 12 years, I have shared many posts about early literacy from birth to adulthood. But this is the first post that I have written that considers the benefits of reading for the possible prevention of dementia. Garry Stix, Senior Editor of Scientific American, has shared in a recent article in the publication Scientific American, a fascinating study which found the very act of reading or writing (apart from any formal education), may help protect against memory loss. 

The article discussed research evaluations of the elderly in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of Manhattan New York. The study revealed that reading or writing - outside formal education - might possibly protect against the forgetfulness of dementia. As one of the senior authors writes:

The people who were illiterate in the study developed dementia at an earlier age than people who were literate in the study.

The team of researchers responsible for the study, were largely from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The team selected 983 people with four years or less of schooling who were part of the Washington Heights Aging Project. They found that 35% of the illiterate group had dementia when the study began, compared to only 18% of people who were literate. The findings were based on multiple follow-ups of their subjects, with average interval of four years over a period of up to 23 years. In a recent follow up study they once again identified a similar finding.

The researchers hypothesize that perhaps, helping people to read might help to change or lower the risk of dementia. The first author Miguel Arce RenterĂ­a, speculated:

“Could we change and lower that dementia risk by intervening at midlife or later life by helping people to learn to read and write?”

Clearly, much more research is needed before drawing more definite conclusions, but it's an interesting are of inquiry as we see rates of Dementia rising.

You can read the Gary Stix's article HERE.

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