Volunteering more than doubles your protection against dementia by keeping your brain engaged, study reveals

  • Giving back to your local community for just one hour a week has brain benefits
  • Those who sporadically volunteer do not have any protection against the illness 
  • Volunteering gives us a sense of structure and often widens our social circle 
  • It makes us feel we contribute to society and may help us to get some exercise 

Regularly volunteering more than doubles your protection against dementia, a new study reveals.

Researchers have found giving back to your local community for just an hour a week prevents the mental health disorder.

Volunteering on a regular basis is thought to keep our minds sharp as it requires we engage our thoughts, the researchers said.

Study author Yannick Griep, from the University of Calgary, said, ‘[Volunteering] brings a structure to the day. It offers social contact with people outside of our family. It makes us feel like we’re making a meaningful contribution to society.’

Dementia affects an estimated 5.2 million people in the US and 850,000 people in the UK.

Volunteering for at least one hour a week more than doubles your protection against dementia

WHAT IS DEMENTIA?

‘Dementia’ describes a set of symptoms that include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

It is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or a series of strokes.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of the condition.

There is no cure.

Treatment focuses on helping people to cope with the symptoms or delaying their progression.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society 

Researchers from the University of Calgary analysed 1,001 retired Swedish citizens over five years.

They divided the participants into three groups – those that consistently volunteered in their community for at least one hour a week, those that sporadically volunteered and those who never did.

The researcher monitored their mental health through questionnaires, the use of dementia medication and keeping track of any other diagnoses.

Results revealed those who never volunteered were around 2.4 times more likely to develop dementia than those who consistently did so for at least an hour a week.

Those who sporadically volunteered were not protected against the condition.

It is not clear why sporadic volunteers did not benefit.

Griep said: ‘Work has many benefits beyond just a pay cheque.

‘It brings a structure to the day, like when we need to be up at seven and at the office for 8:30.

‘It offers social contact with people outside of our family.

‘It brings us the social status we get with a job title.

‘It makes us feel like we’re making a meaningful contribution to society.

He said: ‘And there’s a physical aspect as well, even if it’s just walking from your house to the spot where you do your volunteer work.

‘As a senior, your risk of dementia goes up substantially every year. Anything you can do that’s low cost and easy to implement that will reduce the likelihood of developing dementia is invaluable.

‘It’s not only beneficial for the healthcare system but also for those individuals who might develop dementia, as well as the family members who wind up caring for them.’

This comes after researchers in Seoul, South Korea, and Utah found obesity drastically increases your risk of developing dementia.

Brain scans revealed overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes had more severe and progressive abnormalities in brain structure compared to people of a healthy weight.

 


Link original: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4499820/Volunteering-doubles-protection-against-dementia.html?ITO=applenews

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