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Skip Medications, Brain Activities Effective for Treating Mild Cognitive Decline

Update Date: Apr 16, 2013 11:44 AM EDT
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Aging often comes with several health complications that include both mental and physical complications. Most seniors today have to deal with progressive cognitive impairments, such as memory loss and dementia. Although there are medications for these conditions, a new study reports that skipping the pills might be possible. Researchers found that for people who suffer from mild cognitive decline, which includes minor lapses in memory and other small mental capabilities, doing brain-stimulating activities frequently can help with keeping the brain healthy and stave off minor cognitive impairments.

The researchers wanted to study certain preventable measures for people with mild cognitive degeneration, which often is not treated through medication since the situation is considered to be minor. But, since there are no useful medical treatments, these small incidences of memory loss have a higher chance of worsening if nothing is done, which is why the researchers wanted to find alternative options for this group of elderly people. The researchers looked at 32 older trials that involved patients that were randomly treated with drugs, herbal remedies, physical activity or mental stimulation for their minor instances of cognitive impairments.

The researchers decided to compare these four forms of treatment with the hopes of finding a link between the treatment options and improving cognitive functions. They found that the drugs used in the trial, which included donepezil, were not that effective in treating cognitive decline. The researchers also found very limited evidence that herbal remedies helped, such as the supplement ginkgo and hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). When it came to physical exercise, the researchers discovered that mental capabilities were improved in some of the participants, but not memory necessarily.

The researchers concluded that the treatment option that led to the most improvement was mental activities, such as playing Brain Age, which requires the brain to remember certain information that aids them in answering questions and other activities, such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Based from these findings, the researchers recommend people suffering from minor lapses in memory function to do these daily mentally stimulating activities to help improve their memories.

The report was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

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