Dementia: Playing a musical instrument could reduce risk of dementia by 64 percent – study

Dr Zoe says walking can reduce risk of dementia

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Researchers at Cambridge University reviewed the current evidence we have on this subject matter, including how effective playing music is for the brain. The team delved into the data of two cohort studies and one twin study, which were classified as having “good methodological quality”. These high-quality research papers all reported that playing a musical instrument benefits the brain.

The twin study noted that musicians were 64 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Meanwhile, the cohort studies found that playing a musical instrument reduced the risk of dementia by 59 percent.

Both of these positive associations between playing a musical instrument and reduced dementia risk are not to be scoffed at.

While the evidence base is limited by small sample sizes, the researchers concluded that the “protective” effects are not to be dismissed.

“The results are encouraging, but should be interpreted with caution,” the authors noted.

Experts at the Alzheimer’s Society confirmed that playing a musical instrument “engages the mind”.

An engaged mind is better able to cope with disease; playing music can also help to relieve stress and to improve mood.

Such an activity “may help to delay, or even prevent, dementia from developing”.

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Playing music on a regular basis could be one of the best things you could do for your brain.

If, however, you would rather do another activity, do not be alarmed.

Any activity that challenges your brain, and that you enjoy, can be beneficial.

Examples include:

  • Any kind of adult education or learning
  • Arts and crafts (especially in groups)
  • Singing
  • Volunteering
  • Doing “brainteasers”, such as puzzles, crosswords or quizzes
  • Playing card games, chess or board games
  • Reading books, or becoming a member of a book club
  • Creative writing or keeping a diary
  • Learning a new language.

In order to mitigate the risk of dementia, taking care of yourself is paramount.

Aside from the usual recommendations of eating a healthy, varied diet and exercising daily, which still hold true, there are additional factors to consider.

One of them is to ensure you get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis.

The charity confirmed that, for many people, getting around seven to eight hours of sleep per night is important.

Obstructive sleep apnoea, a sleep disorder, may increase a person’s risk of dementia.

A person who has this condition will stop breathing multiple times throughout the night while they are sleeping.

Consequently, the brain is frequently receiving a reduced amount of oxygen.

If you notice that you keep waking up during the night short of breath, book a doctor’s appointment to see if you have sleep apnoea, which can be treated.

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