Education, Intelligence May Protect Cognition, but Don’t Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
In a search for clues to what may delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists report that smarter, more educated people aren’t protected from the disease, but do get a cognitive “head start” that may keep their minds functioning better temporarily.
Put another way, the investigators say, those who start out with greater cognitive reserve — a baseline of higher mental functioning — may have more they can afford to lose before Alzheimer’s disease symptoms begin to interfere with their daily lives compared with those who don’t have as much schooling or participate regularly in mentally challenging tasks.
The findings suggest — but don’t prove — that exercising your brain might help keep people cognitively functional longer, but won’t ward off the inevitable decline of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our study was designed to look for trends, not prove cause and effect, but the major implication of our study is that exposure to education and better cognitive performance when you’re younger can help preserve cognitive function for a while even if it’s unlikely to change the course of the disease,” says Rebecca Gottesman, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
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