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Protects Social Engagement from Alzheimer's Disease?

Volunteering and dementia can be related.

Social contacts and volunteering can potentially be shielded from mental deterioration of age.

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Tue 02. July 2019

There is obviously a correlation between voluntary work and mental decline in old age. Researchers from Boston report in the journal American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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The higher concentration of amyloid-β protein is the first indicator of Alzheimer's disease. Current study suggests that social engagement for the elderly, experiencing such typical brain changes, is particularly important. In elderly people with higher levels of amyloid-β, those who had little or nothing at first were not socially engaged, a greater decline in mental abilities. For older citizens who carried out volunteer activities, this relationship was not visible.

"Social engagement and mental function are related and seem to be toned together," said author Dr. Nancy Donovan, head of the Department of Geriatric Psychiatry at Brigham and the Women's Hospital. "This means that social engagement can be an important indicator of the resistance or vulnerability of older people who are at risk of cognitive impairment."

The researchers interviewed 217 men and women who participated in Harvard's aging brain research, a long-term observational study in search of early signs of Alzheimer's disease. The 63- to 89-year-olds did not show any mental impairment but some people already had a high content of amyloid-β-proteins, as shown by the recording techniques.

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