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Study Shows Home-Based Caregivers Can Help Stave Off Dementia

Study Shows Home-Based Caregivers Can Help Stave Off Dementia

Seniors aged 60 and older who partake in long hours of sedentary behaviors have a higher risk of developing dementia. That’s according to a new study from University of Southern California and University of Arizona researchers.

About 6.5 million people in the U.S., age 65 and older, are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2022. This is a number that is estimated to reach 12.7 million by 2050, according to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, with others including vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia and more.

The study utilizes self-reported data from the U.K. Biobank, a biomedical database that encompasses over 500,000 participants across the United Kingdom. The study examines if there’s a connection between dementia and sedentary activities. It took into account the questionnaire responses of more than 145,000 participants.

One big takeaway from the study’s findings is that caregivers can play a role in keeping seniors engaged, and in turn reduce the risk of dementia in the long run.

The study found that the risk for dementia decreased among seniors who are mentally active while they remained sedentary — for example, reading a book.

“It isn’t the time spent sitting, per se, but the type of sedentary activity performed during leisure time that impacts dementia risk,” David Raichlen, one of the study’s author, and a professor of biological sciences and anthropology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said in a press statement.

Raichlen also noted that an activity like watching television involves low levels of muscle activity and energy versus being on the computer.

“While research has shown that uninterrupted sitting for long periods is linked with reduced blood flow in the brain, the relatively greater intellectual stimulation that occurs during computer use may counteract the negative effects of sitting,” he said.

Another notable finding was that the connection between sedentary behavior and dementia risk was still present with seniors who are physically active.

“Although we know that physical activity is good for our brain health, many of us think that if we are just more physically active during the day, we can counter the negative effects of time spent sitting,” Gene Alexander, one of the study’s authors, and a professor of psychology at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona, said in a statement. “Our findings suggest that the brain impacts of sitting during our leisure activities are really separate from how physically active we are.”

Ultimately, the findings from this study are a reminder for home-based care companies – and their caregivers – to look for opportunities to incorporate mentally engaging activities into their care delivery plan.