MONDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- As Americans increasingly
delay retirement, a new French study indicates this scenario may
have a silver lining: a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's
Researchers analyzing health and insurance records of more than
429,000 self-employed workers found a 3 percent reduction in
dementia risk for each extra year at the age of retirement. Workers
evaluated had been retired for an average of more than 12 years,
and 2.65 percent of the group had dementia.
"There's increasing evidence that lifestyle factors such as exercise, mental activities, social engagement, positive outlook and a heart-healthy diet may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia," said Dr. James Galvin. "Now we can add staying in the workforce to this list of potential protective factors."
Galvin, director of the Pearl Barlow Center for Memory
Evaluation and Treatment at the NYU Langone School of Medicine, was
not involved with the new research.
The study, led by Carole Dufouil, director of research in
neuroepidemiology at the French National Institute of Health and
Medical Research, is scheduled to be presented Monday at an
Alzheimer's Association conference in Boston. Research presented at
scientific conferences typically has not been peer-reviewed or
published and results are considered preliminary.
About 5.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's
disease, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United
States, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Americans are increasingly putting off retirement, especially
those in the middle class. According to a 2012 Wells Fargo survey
of 1,000 Americans earning less than $100,000 annually, almost
one-third said they'd need to work until age 80 to live comfortably
But Dufouil's research, which linked health and pension
databases of self-employed workers who were retired as of 2010,
puts a positive spin on that choice. In study background materials,
she said the data is in line with the "use it or lose it"
hypothesis of brain health. The study showed an association between
higher retirement age and lower dementia risk, but not a
One Alzheimer's disease expert was not surprised by the new
"There seems to be growing evidence that staying cognitively [mentally] active is really important to reducing a person's risk, and perhaps professional activity may be one of those cognitive activities," said Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, based in Chicago. "What we know is that things that promote lifelong learning seem to be beneficial. But that may mean different things for different people . . . and exactly what that is, we can't define at this point in time."
For his part, Galvin noted several caveats to keep in mind when
interpreting the study's meaning. First, he said, self-employed
workers may be inherently different than company-employed workers,
with differences in skill sets, work environment, stress and social
mobility that might affect the study's results.
Also, the prevalence of dementia was based on a review of either
an existing dementia diagnosis or prescription for dementia-related
medication, he noted.
"There is no way of knowing about those individuals who did not seek medical attention, did not have access to health care or who were not properly diagnosed," Galvin added. "Nonetheless, the study supports the concept that keeping oneself mentally, physically and socially active over the span of a lifetime may have important effects on both physical and mental health."
The Alzheimer's Association has more about
living with Alzheimer's.
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