It’s just one of the pieces of research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2016 in Toronto.
People who have jobs that combine complex thinking with social engagement are more likely to be able to fight off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, than those who have less mentally stimulating jobs.
Study findings presented at the Alzheimer’s Association conference in Toronto this year found the complex, sometimes stressful nature of jobs such as lawyers, teachers, doctors, social workers and engineers helped to protect them from mental decline compared to those in more manual jobs such as labourers, machine operators and shelf-stackers.
Researchers from the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre, in Wisconsin, examined white spots that appear on brain scans called white matter hyperintensities (WMHs). They’re associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They found people who worked with people were less likely to be affected by WMHs than those who worked with ‘things or data’.
Elizabeth Boots, a researcher on the project, said:
‘These findings indicate that participants with higher occupational complexity are able to withstand pathology associated with Alzheimer’s and cerebrovascular disease and perform at a similar cognitive level as their peers.
‘This association is primarily driven by work with people, rather than data or things. These analyses underscore the importance of social engagement in the work setting for building resilience to Alzheimer’s disease.’
Meanwhile, in other research presented at the conference, scientists claim that those who eat a Western diet that contains lots of red and processed meat, white potatoes and bread, and sweets, were more likely to get cognitive decline. However, ensuring that you have a mentally stimulating lifestyle could help to counteract some of the effects of this unhealthy diet.
And in a study funded by the National Institute for Ageing and also presented at the conference, research suggested that digital brain training exercises could help to stave off Alzheimer’s.
A computerised brain training program could help to cut the risk of dementia among healthy people by 48%, according to results from a 10-year study. However, the results do still need to be held up through peer review and publication in a scientific journal.
Maria C. Carrillo, the chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association, said:
‘These new data add to a growing body of research that suggests more stimulating lifestyles, including more complex work environments with other people, are associated with better cognitive outcomes in later life.
‘As each new study emerges, we further understand just how powerful cognitive reserve can be in protecting the brain from disease. Formal education and complex occupation could potentially do more than just slow cognitive decline – they may actually help compensate for the cognitive damage done by bad diet and small vessel disease in the brain.
‘It is becoming increasingly clear that in addition to searching for pharmacological treatments, we need to address lifestyle factors to better treat and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias.’