Is Reading Fundamental to preserve and prolong our cognition?

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One study shows that life-long reading may help ward off Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s

I am an occupational therapist who worked out-patient and transitioned to home health. During this time I noticed a lot of cognitive declines with patients and family members. I saw it wreak havoc on the spouse/caregiver(s), patient, and loved ones.

Hoping to avoid this in my own life, I started asking each patient and family member questions regarding work history, education, drug use, alcohol use, sleep patterns, hobbies, etc. The single activity that showed up constantly was reading. These patients read novels (fiction or nonfiction) throughout their lives. Periodicals, newspapers, and online articles were not a part of these particular patients’ regular reading habits.

They read several books a year until vision or commitments interfered, though some that were interviewed still read. I started keeping track 13 years ago of readers versus non readers. Data was gathered from December 2006 to December 2017 with a total of 1,571 participants, all with or without a formal diagnosis of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. Age range was 72 to 105.

The women’s study consisted of 979 women, of which the average age was 82.3. 43.7% of these women had a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Of that 43.7%, 11.9% read books and 88.1 % did not read books. The remaining 56.2% did not have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, 45.3% read books while 54.6% did not read books.

The men’s study consisted of 592 men, with the average age being 80.2. 67.2% of the men had a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Of that, 8.5% read books and 91.4% did not read books. The remaining 32.7% did not have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s. 69.5% read books and 30.4 % did not read books.

Out of 428 females with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, 88.1% did not read books regularly during their lifetimes. Out of 398 men with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, 91.4% did not read books regularly during their lifetimes.

These numbers reveal that reading may preserve and prolong our cognition. With our lifestyles of TV, movies and video games, it’s almost ironic that one of the 3 “R’s” could be what assists us in keeping our memory.

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About Author

David Cobb
David Cobb

David Cobb is an Occupational Therapist working in Cleveland TN for the past 20 years. He has an emphasis in musculoskeletal injuries and deficits, pre-habilitation for surgery, injury prevention, musculoskeletal pain management and post-surgery rehabilitation. David is a registered and licensed Occupational Therapist with a certification in Sports Injury Prevention. He is married, has 2 children and loves tennis.

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