May 13, 2012

Aging in the Information Age

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Mild cognitive impairment might be less common in older people who are mentally active using computers

(dailyRx News) The “information age” has given many people more access to social activities and learning through computers. Elderly people who stay mentally active using computers may lower their risk of losing cognitive abilities.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in later life can lower quality of life and increases risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Scientists are learning that some lifestyles are linked to lower the chances of developing MCI. Staying mentally and physically active may be the key to keeping the mind strong. 

"Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program"

People with MCI lose cognitive abilities, like thinking and memory, more so than what is seen in normal aging, but MCI is less severe than Alzheimer’s Disease. 

A study by Yonas Geda, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues interviewed 926 people aged 70 and older to measure their cognitive abilities.  After the interview, they asked the participants to report on their diet, exercise, and computer use. 

Dr. Geda’s study found that the odds of having MCI were lower for people who rated moderate levels of exercise, like brisk walking, yoga, aerobics, or tennis, compared to people who rated only low levels of exercise, like slow walking, slow dancing, or bowling. 

For patients who reported moderate exercise, regular computer use decreased the odds of developing MCI even further.

dailyRx spoke with Jay Seitz, PhD, a neuropsychologist, about this finding. He said, “Physical exercise has direct and positive benefits on the central nervous system, indeed a cascade of beneficial neurochemical effects, and mental stimulation (e.g., computer use) adds additional value in preventing cognitive decline in the elderly.”

Dr. Geda’s study was observational and could only look at the odds of having MCI. More research is needed to find out how computer use actually influences changes in memory during aging.

The paper was published in the May issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Authors on this study report financial affiliations with the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Lilly, Allon, Forest, Elan, and Baxter, among others.
 

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
May 11, 2012

Last Updated:
July 10, 2012