How Arts and Crafts Can Protect Your Brain

Have you been itching to take up a new hobby? To finally learn how to use a pottery wheel or take that photography class at the local community college?

There’s no time like the present to pick up a creative pastime, especially for those in their mid-life years, according to recent research from the Mayo Clinic that found that people who engage in artistic and social pursuits have a reduced risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a common precursor of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans 65 years old and older have MCI.

The study authors came to this conclusion after examining data from 256 older adults with a median age of 87 years who were longtime participants in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. At 50 years old, the participants reported the day-to-day activities they were involved in and how social they were. Throughout the study their medical records were also made available to researchers.

Though some participants did develop MCI, those who participated in activities that were artistic, social or involved the use of computers and other technology from mid-life onward were far less likely to encounter cognitive issues in their later years.

“Long ago, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was a common expression, suggesting that eating well could improve health,” says James E. Galvin, MD, MPH of the Center for Cognitive Neurology at the NYU Langone Medical Center in an editorial accompanying the Mayo research. “Perhaps today the expression should expand to include painting an apple, going to the store with a friend to buy an apple or using an Apple product.”

Galvin points out that a number of factors—some that are controllable and some that are out of our hands—contribute to an individual’s risk of developing MCI and dementia, including age, genetics, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, diabetes and hypertension.

“While we cannot cure MCI or AD [Alzheimer’s disease], there is increasing evidence that disease risk may be modifiable,” Galvin says.

When choosing which hobby or skill to add to your repertoire, most experts suggest trying something you’ve never done before as it will kick start your brain to create new neural pathways that help defend against the effects of dementia. “Novelty and variety are the keys to battling routines and enhancing cognitive ability,” says Shlomo Breznitz, PhD, co-author (with Collins Hemingway) of Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom. “Engaging our minds outside of our established domains is more beneficial.”

For more tips on how to boost your brainpower, see 8 Ways to Protect Your Brain

So…what new hobby will you start today?

Related
The Brain’s Natural Defense Against Dementia
Why Relationships Are So Good for Your Health
How to Embrace Old Age
Dementia and Selective Memory

 

230 comments

Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H3 years ago

Cool. Thanks :)

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Thanks, I love taking pictures. I used to take them of our kitties, now it's of the grandchildren!

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

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Margaret M. F.
Marge F3 years ago

Interesting. Thank you for posting.

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Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Valerie A.
Valerie A3 years ago

thanks

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Lisa Zarafonetis
Lisa Z3 years ago

Good points. Thanks.

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Vikram S.
Vikram S3 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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