Cognitive impairment: Exercise and reading protect men and women differently


Cognitive impairment: Exercise and reading protect men and women differently
Written by aquitodovale

from Cesare Peccarisi

Reading, having an active social life, and exercising are effective, but to a different extent in the two genders

In 1991, for the first time, the US Food and Drug Administration established a difference between men and women regarding cardiovascular disease. It was only in 1998 that both genders entered European clinical trials with a comparison between males and females: it had to wait until 2001 for the World Health Organization to insert the so-called gender medicine in its Equity Act, which affects not only health but all aspects of the lives of men and women. Over the years there have been many studies that have shown how female and male organisms respond differently to both diseases and treatments. Today – for the first time – some researchers at the University of California directed by Judy Pa have demonstrated through imaging and neuropsychological tests how the same stimuli have different effects on the brain and mental activity of the two genders.

I study

The study, conducted on 758 subjects of both sexes with an average age of 76, was published in the journal Neurology. The population examined was varied not only in terms of gender, but also in the type of condition presented: some / and had no memory or thinking problems, while others / and presented Mci, an acronym for mild cognitive impairmentthat is mild cognitive impairment, also known as pathological forgetfulness, a condition that often the antechamber of Alzheimer’s disease, which, moreover, suffered from other subjects included in the study. In addition to evaluating brain function, mental function and the correlation between mind and brain were also studied, trying to understand how improving one could affect the other. Here the surprises began: greater physical activity, for example, increases the speed of thought only in women, but, contrary to what has been observed in previous studies, in neither sex does it increase the so-called cognitive reserve. Both can instead increase it with more mental activities how to read, attend refresher courses, play cards or bridge.

Cognitive reserve

There cognitive reserve that sort of mental treasure to turn to when the brain shows signs of failing, for deterioration or dementia. The improvement of this reserve would be associated with both mental and physical activities. As for the former, the subjects were assessed on the basis of three simple activities carried out in the 13 months prior to the study: reading newspapers or books; participation in courses; board games, cards, bingo. The results were evaluated by the scores obtained with specific neuropsychological tests to evaluate cognitive and mental functions. In parallel, an evaluation by means of neuroimaging with resonance of the hippocampus, a fundamental brain region in dementia, which is reduced according to the severity of the condition, was also conducted.

Thirteen years gained

In the decay of the speed of thought processing, each additional mental activity brought on average an earnings of 13 years, but if for men it was 17, for women it was only 10. It would be more convenient for women than for men to increase physical activity: if they double it, they gain about 2.75 years of decay in the speed of elaboration of thought which appears more rapid, while in men it does not happen. This is provided, however, that it is not present in women a genetic predisposition to develop Alzheimer’s dementia due to the presence of the APOE-e4 gene, one of the strongest markers of predisposition to the disease. Having this gene in fact reduces the beneficial effects of female physical activity on cognitive reserve.

July 20, 2022 (change July 20, 2022 | 16:10)

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