Complex jobs like engineering may help ward off Alzheimer’s

Occupations including engineer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, and social worker may afford protection against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research presented yesterday at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in Toronto, as reported by Tara Bahrampour in The Washington Post.

She reports that two studies have suggested that work that involves complex thinking and social interaction can offset the effects of an unhealthy “Western” diet of red and processed meats and white bread.

She quotes said Matthew Parrott, a post-doctoral fellow at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and presenter of one study, as saying, “You can never totally forget about the importance of a good diet, but in terms of your risk of dementia, you are better able to accommodate some of the brain damage that is associated with consuming this kind of (unhealthy) diet.”

The other study, Bahrampour reports, found that people with increased white matter hyperintensities (WMHs) often associated with cognitive decline “…were able to better tolerate WMH-related damage if they worked primarily with other people rather than with things or data.”

She quotes that study’s presenting author Elizabeth Boots, a research specialist at the University of Wisconsin, as saying occupations involving mentoring were considered the most complex. That study was conducted by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute.

She reports that according to Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging and the Mayo Alzheimer’s Research Center, the studies augment previous studies that physically stimulating lifestyles correspond with better cognitive outcomes later in life.

“Physical activity has been reasonably well-documented, but with intellectual activity the data get pretty soft…these two studies speak to that,” Bahrampour quotes Petersen as saying.

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