Clean House, Healthy Mind? Chores May Lower Dementia Risk


A new study suggests that engaging in certain physical and mental activities may protect against dementia.

In a large prospective cohort study, people who regularly engaged in heavy physical exercise had a 35% lower risk of dementia, those who constantly performed housework had a 21% lower risk, and those who saw friends daily and family, the risk of dementia was lower by 15%. risk compared with participants least committed to these activity patterns.

In addition, protective effects of these interventions were found among participants both with and without a genetic risk for dementia.


“By engaging in healthy physical and mental activities more often, people can reduce their risk of developing dementia, regardless of their inherited genetic predisposition,” study co-author Huang Song, MD, professor of epidemiology, West China Big Data Biomedical Center, West China. This was reported to Medscape Medical News at Sichuan University Chinese Hospital.

The results were published July 27 in the journal Neurology.

Large prospective study

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The analysis included 501,376 participants from the British Biobank, an ongoing prospective cohort study of people aged 40 to 69 between 2006 and 2010 from England, Scotland and Wales. The median age at recruitment was 56.53 years, 54.4% were women.

The researchers collected information on socio-demographic data, lifestyle factors, health status and health status. They accessed data on medical diagnoses and survival status from linked national health registries.

Information on physical activity was obtained from the International Physical Activity Questionnaire self-assessment. The categories included activities related to housework or leisure activities such as strenuous sports, other exercise, walking for pleasure, and climbing stairs. People reported whether they participated in these activities, and if so, how often and for how long.


Other categories of physical activity included work-related activities such as standing or walking at work or heavy manual labor, and transportation—on foot, by bike, car, or public transportation.

Mental activity was associated with social contact such as visiting friends and family, going to a pub or social club, participating in religious or other group activities; use of electronic devices such as watching TV, playing computer games, and calling contacts on a mobile phone; and intellect.

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In addition to looking at high correlations and interactions between multiple activities, the researchers used principal component analysis to identify different behaviors presented as important principal components (PCs).


They calculated the PC score, where higher scores indicated greater adherence to a particular pattern. They also divided the PC scores into low, medium, and high groups.

Diagnostic codes have been used to identify cases of dementia. During a mean follow-up of 10.66 years, 5185 cases of dementia were reported, including 803 cases of vascular dementia, 1561 cases of Alzheimer’s disease and 2697 cases of other types of dementia.

To account for the potential delay in diagnosing dementia and the risk of reverse causation, the researchers used a lag of 1 year. They began follow-up of each participant one year after the recruitment date.


Covariates included demographic factors such as gender, age, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic factors of income and education, lifestyle factors associated with alcohol and smoking, body mass index, deprivation index, comorbidities, and history of hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

The results showed an association between physical or mental activity and dementia risk after considering the high correlation and interaction of these activities.

Significant patterns

Looking at the patterns, the researchers found a lower risk of developing dementia with frequent vigorous and other physical exercise (hazard ratio [HR], 0.65 for high and low PC scores; 95% CI, 0.59–0.71) and household activity (HR, 0.79 for high and low; 95% CI, 0.72–0.85).

The researchers note that physical activity may reduce the risk of dementia by improving cerebral blood flow and releasing brain-derived neurotrophic factors. Another possible mechanism is through antioxidant effects that slow brain damage.

In terms of mental performance, when people with high and low PC scores were compared, the risk of developing dementia was lower with greater adherence to visiting friends or family (HR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.75–0.96).

The researchers write that this result enhances the benefits of social contact, as social isolation may lead to faster cognitive decline. They add that isolation may indirectly affect brain function, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and depression.

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The results were similar for different types of dementia, as well as for different income levels, sex and age groups. The researchers note that the results were similar between participants aged 65 years and younger and those over 65 years of age at baseline, suggesting that the associations likely apply to both early and late dementia.

A unique aspect of the study was the study of predisposition to dementia, which was measured by the polygenetic risk scale (PRS), the presence of the APOE genotype, and a family history of dementia.

The RR for adherence to vigorous and other exercise regimens was 0.64 (95% CI, 0.52–0.77) in individuals at low genetic risk (PRS < 1st tertile) and 0.68 (95% CI, 0.52–0.77) 57–0.79) in individuals at high genetic risk. risk. Results were similar among participants with and without a family history of dementia, and between carriers and non-carriers of APOE ε4.

“Because we obtained similar results when conducting separate analyzes for subgroups of participants with different predispositions to dementia, our results highlight the universal importance of physical and mental activity in reducing dementia,” Song said.

She added that the study could influence public health initiatives.

“While more research is needed to confirm our findings, our findings encourage the development of exercise programs to prevent dementia early by engaging more frequently in these healthy physical and mental activities,” Song said.

The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, and the National Geriatrics Clinical Research Center. The song did not reveal any relevant financial relationships.

Neurology. Posted online July 27, 2022 Abstract

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