A new study suggests that having a routine job with little mental stimulation in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s can increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment by 66% and dementia by 37% after age 70. The study compared these jobs to roles with high mental and social demands.

Lead author Dr. Trine Edwin from Oslo University Hospital in Norway emphasized the importance of jobs that require complex thinking for maintaining memory and cognition in old age. However, attending college could reduce the risk of a repetitive job by about 60%, but not completely.

Dr. Richard Isaacson from the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Florida highlighted that staying socially active, learning new things, and being engaged at work can protect against cognitive decline and dementia. He compared exercising the brain to physical exercise, both helping to fend off dementia.

The study, published in Neurology, followed 7,000 Norwegians from their 30s to retirement. It categorized the cognitive demands of 305 occupations. Routine jobs, like factory work and bookkeeping, were linked to repetitive tasks and higher cognitive decline risk. Examples of more mentally stimulating jobs included lawyers, doctors, and teachers.

Consistency in job complexity throughout one’s career was important in the study. Dr. Isaacson pointed out the importance of cognitive engagement throughout life, suggesting that people at risk for Alzheimer’s should take advantage of learning new job tasks and refining skills.

Additionally, adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle, such as a Mediterranean-style diet, limiting alcohol, managing health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, and getting enough sleep can help slow cognitive decline.

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