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Health Issues and Square Dancing

Here is an article that talks about dancing and memory.
At the bottom of this page you will find links to other pages on the internet regarding dancing and health.

Rx for the Mind: Mind Games

A new study says playing games and doing puzzles wards off dementia, supporting the use-it-or-lose-it theory.

Excerpt By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 18 (HealthDayNews) -- If you don't use your mind regularly through activities such as reading, doing puzzles or playing a musical instrument, you risk losing some of your cognitive abilities as you age.

That's the message from a new study appearing in the June 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City found seniors who participated in mind-stimulating leisure activities had a lower risk of developing the brain disease dementia.

"Subjects whose levels were in the top third of the cognitive activity level had almost a 65 percent reduced risk of dementia," says study author Dr. Joe Verghese, an assistant professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College.

The researchers measured cognitive activity levels by asking 469 people over the age of 75 what leisure activities they participated in, and how often. All of the study participants lived in the Bronx, one of New York City's five boroughs.

Participating in a cognitive-stimulating activity one day a week translated into one point on the cognitive activity level scale.

The researchers asked about a variety of activities, including playing board games or cards, reading, writing for pleasure, playing a musical instrument, doing crossword puzzles, participating in group discussion, dancing, doing housework, walking, swimming, biking, babysitting and participating in group exercise.

The cognitive activities that showed the greatest risk reduction were reading, board games or cards, and playing a musical instrument. Writing and participating in group discussions didn't reduce the risk of dementia. Physical activities, with the exception of dancing, didn't appear to greatly reduce the risk of dementia.

Every year, for an average of five years, the study participants were evaluated. During the study period, 121 study volunteers developed dementia.

By comparing those who developed dementia with those who didn't, the researchers found that for one point on the cognitive activity level scale, there was a 7 percent reduction in the risk of dementia. People in the highest third had a score of 11 points or higher. That means they participated in mind-stimulating activities more than once a day each week. Their risk of developing dementia was 63 percent lower than people who scored in the lowest third of the cognitive activity level scale.

Verghese says the researchers weren't able to include past history of these activities in this study.

One reason people might have scored low on the cognitive activity level scale, according to Verghese, is that they could have the beginnings of dementia, but not show outward signs of the disease. To control for this possibility, Verghese and his colleagues re-examined the data, excluding anyone who developed dementia in the first seven years of the study, and the results still held true.

Dr. Joseph Coyle, who wrote an accompanying editorial, says this study provides a remarkable contrast to more complex dementia research that focuses on the specific changes that occur in the brain as dementia develops. He says after looking at that complexities in some of that research, it's hard to believe that something as simple as playing cards could ward off dementia.

Nevertheless, he says, the results of this study are convincing. "Effortful mental activities may forestall the onset of dementia," says Coyle, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

Exactly how it occurs isn't yet known, he says. But "participating in these activities that use the brain may stimulate neurons to work around the damage associated with the early stages of dementia," he says.

So for now, both experts say it's a good idea to engage in activities that stimulate your mind throughout your life.

More information

For more information on dementia, go to the National Institute on Aging. To learn more about Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association.

Check these web links out for more articles about health and dancing (Links valid as of November 22, 2012):

Click here to go to NE Journal of Medicine for the 2003 article "Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly"
Click here to go to NE Journal of Medicine  a pdf article from 2003 "Walking Compared with Vigorous Exercise for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Women"
Click here to go to for an article on exercise activities that lift your mood.
Click here to go to were you can find another article about the benefits of health and dancing.
Click here to go to for an article on the unworkout, 7 ways to get fit while having fun.
Click here to see a letter from the Mayo Clinic and Article by Dr. Arron Blackburn
Click here to see msn's webmd article about square dancing being good for body and mind.
Click here to see article Dance Your Way To Health
Click here to see article on dancing from UT-Houston Medical School
Click here to see MIT article on square dancing thriving and their athletics department giving physical education credit.  Note-Summer 2003 issue.
Click here to see Go Ask Alice response to the benefits of dancing and your wellness.
Click here to see the Toe Dragger Project "Square Dancing for a Healthily Lifestyle"
Click here to see article by Bryant A. Stamford, PH.D. and Lee Walker, M.D.
Click here to see AARP's article "Let's Dance to Health"  
Click here to see an article on square dancing. (Not health specific, but good PR for square dancing)
Click here to see UK square dancing health benefits.
Click here to see Wall Street Journal article that mentions
Click here to see Wall Street Journal article that is not health specific, but good PR.
Click here for information on book Rhythmic Activities and Dance.  Click here for general dance information.

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