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Dementia and Reading Culture

Young Man Reading — Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis

Before I leave the topic of dementia, I would like to discuss the relationship between dementia and reading culture. This is important in the face of the rising incidence of dementia and poor reading
culture in our society. Many studies have shown an association with mentally stimulating activities such as reading or writing in the reduction in the risk of developing dementia.
In fact the “2018 Alzheimer facts and figures report” noted that there is strong evidence that lifelong learning/cognitive training reduces the risk of developing dementia.

Other studies have shown a lower incidence of dementia in certain mentally challenging profession such as in the academia or my noble profession “medicine.” This is a far cry from the general belief that professors or scientist tends to become eccentric because they read too much. I can even remember back in my medical school days, my colleague in other departments mocking us, (medical students) and saying we were all going to develop what they called “brain fag” (whatever that means) from reading too much.
However all present evidence points to the contrary, that mentally challenging professions rather than being a problem, may actually be a solution to mental health. Even though this makes me feel good, we should not loose fact of the point. The point is that the profession is not what matters, rather the mentally stimulating activity involved in the profession is what counts, which in most case is the lifelong reading and learning.

Therefore no matter our professions or whether we are retired  or not, we should continue to engage in intellectually stimulating activities like reading, writing or problem solving initiatives. You now see why it is quite troubling to read in one of the daily newspapers, that 30% of Nigerians have poor reading culture, or the human development report 2016, that only 59.6% of Nigerian population older than 15 years can read and write simple statements.
Reading is an intellectual activity that improves blood flow to the brain bringing much needed
oxygen and nutrients that the brain cells need to function properly and to establish communication
and networks with each other, thereby developing what experts in the field call “cognitive reserves”
that help to keep the brain functioning even in the presence of insults to the brain, thereby
preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. So my recommendation is that we do not only carry out physical exercise daily, but that we should also try to engage in intellectual exercise regularly, of which reading is a practical example. Read books – fictional or professional, journals, newspapers, online articles, and engage in intellectual
discuss for as long as we can in our life.


About Dr Okocha

Consultant Cardiologist with interest in preventive cardiology

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