Big thanks to Chris for emailing me this link:
that study along with this one:
both found a link between excessive TV watching and Alzheimer’s. But does TV watching directly contribute to Alzheimer’s, or is the association more complicated?
This is an important question, as Chris pointed out in his email:
“One other important aspect that this article did not touch on was the immense social economic cost to providing care to the segment of our society that deals with geriatric health care in regards to dementia.”
The United States is spending a huge amount of money on health care, with worse health outcomes for Americans. Numerous reforms are needed, but what would also help a lot would be if more Americans chose a more healthy lifestyle. This would include more exercise, healthier food, and of course much less TV.
Cognitive Stimulation and Alzheimer’s
The very interesting Nun Study found, among other things, that “higher education in early life was associated with less cognitive decline in later life.”
This was encouraging news which suggested that an active brain could prevent Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, further research has shown that while active cognition helps to delay Alzheimer’s, ultimately it doesn’t prevent it:
“People with more years of schooling appear to suffer the symptoms of dementia later than others who have it — but once it does come, it proceeds more quickly, researchers say… “Because education is associated with cognitive reserve,” the study said, “more pathology must accumulate before cognitive declined accelerates.” But once the effects of dementia begin, they move more rapidly, because the condition is more advanced, the researchers said. More education may also mean that early signs of a dementia problem are masked.”
So mental stimulation, although it may delay Alzheimer’s, does not prevent Alzheimer’s.
Diabetes and Alzheimer’s
It does turn out though that there is a strong link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes:
Diabetics have a significantly greater risk of dementia, both Alzheimer’s disease — the most common form of dementia — and other dementia, reveals important new data from an ongoing study of twins. The risk of dementia is especially strong if the onset of diabetes occurs in middle age, according to the study.
“Our results . . . highlighted the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle during adulthood in order to reduce the risk of dementia late in life,” explained Dr. Margaret Gatz, who directs the Study of Dementia in Swedish Twins.
Obviously it takes more than reduced TV or no TV to stave off type 2 diabetes, but there is a very real link:
“Children who reported watching TV/playing video games 2 or more hours/day were 73% more likely to be at risk [of type 2 diabetes].” – Journal of School Health (April 2006)
Watching a lot of television and other sedentary behaviors increase women’s risk of both obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to data analyzed in April 2003 from the Nurses’ Health Study. The 68,497 women in the diabetes analysis were free from diabetes at the start of the study; 50,277 non-obese women from that group were included in the obesity analysis. After 6 years of follow-up, researchers found that watching television was associated with both becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes. After adjusting for confounding factors, each additional 2 hours per day of television watching was associated with a 23 percent increase in obesity and a 14 percent increase in type 2 diabetes. – Prevention.com (Oct 2004)
So basically excessive TV watching is a very important contributor to obesity and diabetes, and diabetes is a very important risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s. It is no wonder that scientists have found a link between excessive TV watching and Alzheimer’s.
To reduce your chance of getting Alzheimer’s, an active lifestyle is essential, including less TV:
A study of the habits of members of the National Weight Control Registry — a group of about 5,000 people who have lost an average of 73 pounds and kept off at least 30 of them for more than six years — found that most watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week. – USA Today (Oct 2005)
For more on how less TV = a more active lifestyle see:
Here are links to more tips on preventing Alzheimer’s:
And remember, escape the couch !