You’re job could be protecting your brain from developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent report found those whose jobs require complex thinking have been found to be better protected against memory loss and confusion later in life caused by brain damage associated with the disease.
The findings presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto also revealed a stimulating job and an active social life can save a person’s brain from the impacts of an unhealthy diet.
Chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, Dr Maria Carrillo said, “Formal education and complex occupation could potentially do more than just slow cognitive decline – they may actually help compensate for the cognitive damage done by bad diet and small vessel disease in the brain.”
Scientists found it was those who worked with people, rather than computers, that formed a greater number of connections between brain cells, protecting them from developing Alzheimer’s.
While other risk factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and drinking alcohol contribute to the disease, researchers discovered people with more brain connections were able to withstand the damage associated with these factors.
A study conducted at Toronto’s Baycrest Health Sciences hospital tracked 351 healthy adults around 74-years-old over three years.
Those who ate lots of red meat, sugar and white bread declined significantly in brain power compared to those who spent a lifetime in complex jobs and a poor diet seemed to affect their brains more.
At the conference, the researchers said life-long mental stimulation, a strong social network and a healthy diet is vital for steering clear of “the danger zone” of dementia and other forms of the disease such as Alzheimer’s, which is the most common.
Researcher Elizabeth Boots from the University of Wisconsin said people with mentoring jobs like teachers, doctors and social workers are most protected. However, she notes others too can achieve the same outcome within or beyond their jobs.
“The more you use the brain in complex ways, the stronger it will become, so it certainly couldn't hurt to engage in more complex skills, no matter how complex your occupation may or may not be,” Boots said.
Despite the findings, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Doug Brown, said it’s important people still make healthy food choices and engage in regular physical activity.
“Getting a healthy balanced diet that’s low in red meat and high in fruit and veg is still one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia throughout life,” Brown said.