While every worker would prefer a fun, mentally stimulating job, new research reveals an added bonus: Such work could help prevent dementia in old age.
On-the-job intellectual stimulation appears to lower levels of certain proteins that block brain cells from forming new connections — and doing so could help prevent or postpone dementia, the study’s authors say.
“This is an important study and adds to the body of research that suggests cognitive stimulation is good for the long-term health of the brain,” Claire Sexton, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association, says.
Exactly how lifestyle and work can help lower dementia risk isn’t clear, she says, but keeping your brain active might well be a part of keeping it healthy.
For the study, an international team compared levels of dementia in people with highly stimulating jobs to those whose jobs provided less of a workout for the brain.
Based on those comparisons, a mentally stimulating job may postpone the onset of dementia by about two years, lead author Mika Kivimaki, shares.
His team cautions that this study doesn’t prove that having a mentally stimulating job prevents dementia, only that the two factors seem to be linked.
What jobs are mentally stimulating? Researchers say they’re those that involve demanding tasks and decision-making. Non-stimulating jobs have low demands and little job control.
“While the jury is still out on the exact lifestyle recipe for dementia risk reduction, there are things we can do today that may decrease our risk of cognitive decline as we age,” she adds. “Eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and staying cognitively engaged are just a few.”
Kivimaki’s team collected data on nearly 108,000 men and women who took part in seven studies from the IPD-Work consortium, which includes 13 European groups.
They also looked at mental stimulation and proteins in more than 2,260 participants from one study and at