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4 July 2005
Dementia Associated With Adolescent IQ

The topic of dementia - neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's which cause a decline in memory and thinking abilities - is of great interest to many researchers as it affects so many elderly people. New research from Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland indicates that the seeds of dementia may be planted very early in life.

According to the The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, people who were more active in high school and who had higher IQ scores, were less likely to have memory problems and dementia as older adults. "We found that higher adolescent IQ and greater activity level were each independently associated with a lower risk for dementia and mild cognitive impairments. Conversely, those who were lower on the IQ continuum and who participated in fewer activities in high school had a higher risk of cognitive impairments," said study author Thomas Fritsch. "The findings may help scientists in their efforts to understand the earliest roots of dementia. Such models might provide clues as to when it's best to try intervening with new therapies and treatments for persons with memory problems. The findings may also help those who are seeking ways to prevent the development of memory problems in adulthood."

The researchers used data from high school records from the mid-1940s to create a picture of the students' abilities and interests as teens.

In 2002, interviews with the graduates, now in their 70s, and their family members were conducted to learn about the adult cognitive status of each subject. The study took in data from nearly 400 graduates. "Our findings confirm that markers for dementia risk can be found early in life. However, while our research implicates a role for IQ and activity level in youth, many other factors, alone or in combination, also influence who will and will not develop dementia," said Fritsch. The researchers said that it was premature to make lifestyle recommendations to teenagers based only on a single study. However, Fritsch commented, "It's a safe bet that being intellectually engaged, physically active, and socially connected has many health benefits across the lifespan."


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