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  • Posted April 18, 2024

Work That Challenges Your Brain Helps You Stay Sharp With Age

Jobs that challenge your mind could help your brain age more gracefully, a new study suggests.

The harder your brain works on the job, the less likely you are to have memory and thinking problems later in life, researchers reported April 17 in the journal Neurology.

“We examined the demands of various jobs and found that cognitive stimulation at work during different stages in life -- during your 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s -- was linked to a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment after the age of 70,” said researcher Dr. Trine Holt Edwin, of Oslo University Hospital in Norway.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 7,000 people in 305 occupations across Norway.

Researchers measured the degree to which each job taxed the brain and the body, based on the different skill sets required for the work.

They then divided the study subjects into four groups, based on their work routine and whether the job required more manual skill or brain power.

Teaching wound up being the most common job with the highest demands on a person's brain, while mail carriers and janitors had the most common jobs with the least demands on brain skills.

After age 70, participants completed memory and thinking tests to judge how well their brain was aging.

About 42% of people with jobs involving little brain work had developed mild cognitive impairment, the first step on the path to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

But only 27% of those with jobs demanding lots of brain power had developed mild cognitive impairment, results show.

The group with jobs demanding the least of their brains had a 66% overall higher risk of mild cognitive impairment, compared to the group with jobs requiring lots of brain work.

“These results indicate that both education and doing work that challenges your brain during your career play a crucial role in lowering the risk of cognitive impairment later in life,” Edwin said in a journal news release.

“Further research is required to pinpoint the specific cognitively challenging occupational tasks that are most beneficial for maintaining thinking and memory skills,” Edwin added.

More information

The National Institute on Aging has more about brain aging.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, April 17, 2024

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