Background: Frequent participation in cognitively stimulating activities has been associated with reduced risk of AD in several prospective studies. However, the association of cognitive activity with cognitive decline, the principal manifestation of AD, is not well understood.
Methods: More than 4,000 older residents of a geographically defined biracial community of Chicago were interviewed at approximately 3-year intervals for an average of 5.3 years. Each interview included administration of four cognitive function tests from which a previously established global measure was derived. At baseline, each person rated frequency of participation in cognitively stimulating activities (e.g., reading a magazine) from which a previously established composite measure of cognitive activity was derived.
Results: Cognitive activity scores ranged from 1 to 5 (mean = 3.14, SD = 0.66), with higher scores indicating more frequent participation. More frequent cognitive activity was associated with reduced cognitive decline during follow-up. In a model that controlled for baseline level of cognition, age, sex, race, and education, a 1-point increase in cognitive activity score was associated with an approximately 19% decrease in annual rate of cognitive decline (p < 0.001). This effect remained when we controlled for depressive symptoms and chronic medical conditions (p < 0.001), and when we excluded persons with evidence of memory impairment at baseline (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Frequent participation in cognitively stimulating activities is associated with reduced cognitive decline in older persons.