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HuffPost: Continuing Education Could Help Reduce Risk of Dementia in Older Adults

HuffPost recently interviewed Zaldy Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Jona Goldrich Center for Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders and the Carmen and Louis Warschaw Chair in Neurology at Cedars-Sinai, about the link between learning and dementia.

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that middle-aged and older adults who took adult education classes showed greater “fluid” intelligence and were 19% less likely to develop dementia. Tan, who was not involved in the study, told HuffPost that, essentially, the participants were able “to recall new information that changes over time.”

Tan explained that fluid intelligence is more reliant on short-term memory, such as recalling what you ate for breakfast or your upcoming weekend plans. He added that patients with mild dementia or mild cognitive impairment have great “crystallized” intelligence—information that remains the same over the long term.

Although the results of the study were refreshing, Tan told HuffPost he wasn’t surprised, because our chances for learning new things—which form new connections between brain cells—tend to diminish as we age. 

“Whenever you make these connections, you increase what we call brain plasticity. Plasticity is [the] ability of our minds and our brains to adapt to change,” he said. “And that is the theory [behind] why people, for example, who have higher degrees of formal education have less risk of developing dementia later in life.” 

While intellectual stimulation is important, Tan recommended individuals consult a doctor for more information on how to maintain a healthy mind. “The more we can cross-train our cognitive abilities, the better off we are in the final tally,” he told HuffPost.

Click here to read the complete story from HuffPost.