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Jobs With Little Mental Challenge Linked To Alzheimer’s

According to a recent study people who spend most of their life in jobs that require little mental exertion appear more likely of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings, reported in the journal Neurology reported that people without Alzheimer’s disease were more likely to have been in occupations that were relatively challenging mentally, while people with the disease were more likely to have held jobs that involved more physical exertion.

To determent whether job history played a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, researcher Kathleen A. Smyth and her colleagues reviewed the work history of 122 people with the disorder and 235 people who were free of the disease.

Jobs were considered to have high mental demands if they were complex, involved a variety of activities, required creative rather than routine tasks, and workers had some ability to control, direct or plan activities.

From the study it cannot be certain that menial jobs fostered the development of the disease or if people more prone to the disease tend to take on less mentally demanding careers.

As researcher Kathleen A. Smyth explained, “It could be that the effects of Alzheimer’s disease start early in life, and may influence people’s ability to get of keep mentally demanding jobs. It also could be that being in mentally demanding jobs for many years helps people to do better mentally when they are older.”

As previous research indicates that people who engage in mentally stimulating leisure activities tend to be less vulnerable to the disease it is suggested that these activities could offset the effects of those who are stuck in jobs requiring menial tasks.

Smyth, who is based at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio suggests; “I would recommend things like playing games involving strategy like chess, learning an instrument or a new language, or working crossword puzzles. Trying something new is probably a good idea. The idea is to do things that actively engage your brain.”

Smyth did point out that the study failed to examine whether certain decades of life are more vulnerable to the effects of jobs requiring low mental stimulation. But she noted that exposing the brain to stimulation in the early years might have a protective effect later on.

“I base this on the idea popular with many scientists that mentally stimulating activities help people build up a ‘reserve’ that helps them to perform better in later life,” Smyth noted. “If this is so, then starting earlier would allow more time for this reserve to be built up.”

1) McCook, Alison. “Jobs With Little Mental Challenge May Up Alzheimer’s”. Online Posting 9 August 2004.

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