HealthDay News — Activities that keep the brain busy — using a computer, crafting, playing games, and participating in social activities — appear to lower the risk of age-related mental decline in individuals 70 and older, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology.

Mayo researchers followed 1929 cognitively normal individuals participating in the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging for 4 years on average. Their average age when the study began was 77. During that period, 456 participants developed mild cognitive impairment.

The team found that those who regularly engaged in certain mind-stimulating activities had a lower risk of memory and cognitive difficulties. For example, researchers saw this risk go down by: 30 percent with computer use; 28 percent with crafting activities; 23 percent with social activities; and 22 percent with playing games. The researchers found that people who performed these activities at least 1 to 2 times per week had less decline in memory and cognitive skills than people who did these activities only 2 to 3 times per month or less.

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“Cognitively normal elderly individuals who engage in specific mentally stimulating activities even in late life have a decreased risk of incident mild cognitive impairment,” the authors write. “The associations may vary by APOE ε4 carrier status.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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Krell-Roesch J1, Vemuri P2, Pink A1, et al. Association Between Mentally Stimulating Activities in Late Life and the Outcome of Incident Mild Cognitive Impairment, With an Analysis of the APOE ε4 GenotypeJAMA Neurol. 2017 Jan 30. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2016.3822. [Epub ahead of print]