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Research says many types of reading promote better brain health at any age

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There is no doubt that reading a good book is a rewarding experience not only for casual readers but also avid ones. Books can also imprint lasting memories, especially if they are suspenseful, engrossing or difficult to put down.

Recent evidence has provided strong clues that even leisurely reading is an excellent tool for brain health and memory skills. Although this original finding related to older adults, it can apply to younger adults as well. I always say it is never too early and never too late to engage the brain in new ways.

It is normal to experience some form of small cognitive decline as we age. Fortunately, in most cases that will not lead to dementia – also known as Alzheimer’s disease. Today we know that many types of reading, even only once or twice per week, can reduce the risk and the speed/slope of this “physiological” cognitive decline.

And there are more beneficial effects:

Lower stress
It has been shown that while we are reading and get totally involved in the story, our heart rate and blood pressure are lower, and even anxiety levels are lower.

Greater well-being and longevity
There are reports showing that people who read three to four hours per week lived on average almost two years longer than those who don’t.

Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
The habit of reading regularly has been demonstrated to stave off the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In fact, compared with individuals who do not regularly read, people who read regularly have a slower rate of cognitive decline and memory impairments.

Although some older adults may have some reading challenges such as vision issues, this should not discourage anybody. In fact, many publishers provide large-print publications, and e-readers allow readers to select the font they use for a better experience.

Please remember that whether you are a regular or an enthusiastic reader, it is never too late to hit the book, journal, newspaper, or magazine and immediately enjoy the tremendous benefits of it. Let’s all pick up a book, a newspaper, or a magazine and show some love not only to our body but also to our mind! 

Dr. Domenico Pratico

Dr. Domenico Pratico is the director of the Alzheimer’s Center at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia.

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