Education VS Dementia : Does Learning Protect Your Brain from Diseases?
There is an opinion among neuroscientists and physiologists, that education is an efficient way to protect your brain from dementia and its most widely-spread type – Alzheimer’s. However, the new studies of this question may bring some new turns in this idea.
Due to high level of healthcare that takes place in today’s society, people live longer lives. Therefore, the percentage of people, who have such diseases as dementia grow year after year. As Alzheimer’s Association states, more than 5 million of adult Americans suffer from this illness today. Unfortunately, some of its symptoms cannot be cured or reduced. Considering this, researchers as well as patients pay special attention to possible prevention methods. As it is commonly believed, risk factors are connected with unhealthy lifestyle and bad habits, such as smoking, alcohol, and a lack of physical exercises. While the prevention strategies include healthy eating and learning.
Learning and dementia: does education prevents illness?
Many studies conducted by experts claim that learning can prevent dementia or at least delay it. The reason is that constant learning provides some kind of a “cognitive reserve” that supports brain and keeps it functional for longer. Experts believe that such reserve decreases risk and encourage people to continue intellectual activity during their entire lives. Therefore, there is a theory that people, who stay in education for longer period and have higher degree can avoid or slow down the illness.
However, a new research on the links between studying and Alzheimer’s was made and published in Neurology journal recently. This study was conducted by Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL. The main thesis of the article is that stress is suggested as the main risk factor of dementia rising.
About 3,000 people from Religious Orders Study and Rush Memory and Aging Project were examined. The participants agreed to donate their brains for scientific investigation after death. People were observed for about eight years. During this period, one-quarter of them developed Alzheimer’s. During the research, 752 of them died; 405 of them had dementia.
To find out whether education has any influence on dementia, scientists has divided participants into different levels of education. Scientists discovered that learning does have a beneficial impact on brains of those people, who stay longer in education. However, higher education didn’t prove to protect them from dementia. In general, there is no significant difference.
As for the progress of the disease and its speed, there were no confirmations that people, who have higher educational degree experience slower development of Alzheimer’s. At the same time, the pace of disease development was not any faster for those who have lower levels of education. Therefore, the most widely-accepted theories about links between education and mental decline didn’t prove to be 100% true.