Dementia is a term used to describe a decline in cognitive function, including memory, language, and problem-solving skills. It is a serious health condition that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and ability to live independently.
While the causes of dementia are complex and not fully understood, there are several known risk factors, including age, genetics, and lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity.
Recently, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explored how different types of sedentary behavior—specifically television watching and computer use—may affect the risk of developing dementia.
Inactivity and Dementia
The study, which was conducted in the United Kingdom, included 146,651 participants who were 60 years or older and did not have a diagnosis of dementia at the start of the study.
Participants completed a self-reported questionnaire about their leisure-time sedentary behaviors, including time spent watching TV or using a computer. These behaviors were divided into two categories: TV time and computer time.
The study followed participants for around 12 years and recorded the incidence of all-cause dementia. Over the course of the study, 3,507 individuals were diagnosed with dementia.
The researchers found that time spent watching television was significantly associated with an increased risk of incident dementia.
Specifically, those who spent more time watching TV had a 24% higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who watched less TV.
On the other hand, time spent using a computer was associated with a decreased risk of incident dementia, with those who spent more time on the computer having a 15% lower risk of developing the disease.
Why TV May Increase Your Risk of Dementia
Cognitively passive activities, like watching television, do not require much mental effort or engagement. On the other hand, using a computer generally involves more cognitive activity, requiring more mental effort and engagement. This difference may be why television is linked to an increased risk of dementia while computer use is linked to a decreased risk.
Another possible explanation is that television watching may be associated with a lack of social interaction and engagement, which has been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Computer use, on the other hand, may be more likely to involve social interaction and engagement, which may help reduce the risk of dementia.
It’s important to note that this study does not establish a causal relationship between television and dementia risk. Further research is needed to fully understand the potential link between these factors. However, the findings do suggest that reducing time spent in cognitively passive activities like television and increasing time spent being cognitively active may be effective in reducing the risk of dementia.
Other Ways to Reduce Your Dementia Risk
In addition to reducing time spent watching TV, there are several other lifestyle factors that may help reduce the risk of developing dementia. These include:
● Physical Exercise: Regular physical exercise has been linked to a lower risk of developing dementia. Engaging in activities that increase heart rate and sweat, such as running or cycling, can be particularly beneficial.
● Healthy Diet: Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in processed and fried foods, has been linked to a lower risk of developing dementia.
● Mental Stimulation: Engaging in activities that challenge the brain, such as reading, crossword puzzles, and learning new skills, may help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
● Social Engagement: Being socially active and engaging with others has been linked to a lower risk of developing dementia. This can include activities such as joining a club or group, volunteering, or simply spending time with friends and family.
While it’s not possible to completely eliminate the risk of developing dementia, taking steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle may help reduce the risk and potentially slow the progression of the disease.