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Even watching 'moderate' amount of TV in middle age increases risk of dementia

WATCHING a 'moderate' amount of TV in middle age increases the risk of dementia, experts have warned.

Researchers state that engaging in healthy behaviours between the ages of 45 to 64 could help brain health in later life.

Cognition refers to a person's ability to remember, think, reason, communicate and solve problems.

Lead author of a study into how television consumption impacts the brain, Priya Palta, assistant professor of medical sciences and epidemiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City said people should reevaluate their TV consumption if they want to preserve their brain health.

She said: "Our findings suggest that the amount of television viewing, a type of sedentary behaviour, may be related to cognitive decline and imaging markers of brain health.

"Therefore, reducing sedentary behaviours, such as television viewing, may be an important lifestyle modification target to support optimal brain health."

The study looked at 1,601 adults around the age of 76 years old and looked at several clinical visits.

On visits one and three all participants said they hardly ever watched television and on visit five they underwent an MRI scan on the brain.

Using the brain MRI scans, researchers looked at several structural brain markers, including deep grey matter volume in the brain of each participant.

Grey matter is the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord and it is involved in muscle control.

It is also involved in seeing and hearing, decision-making and other important brain functions.

If a person has higher volumes of grey matter – they usually have better cognitive skills.

Palta and her team found that people who watched TV sometimes had lower volumes of deep gray matter more than a decade later in life – this indicates brain deterioration.

The team also found that the association with the level of TV watching to brain grey matter was greater with persistent television viewing throughout midlife.

The experts said that the participants’ self-reported physical activity and exercise habits did not change the associations between the level of television viewing during midlife with brain structure measures of grey matter.

KNOW THE SIGNS: Common symptoms of dementia you need to know

There are some common early symptoms that can start to show some time before someone is diagnosed with dementia

  1. Memory loss
  2. Difficulty concentrating
  3. Finding it hard to carry out familiar everyday tasks, such as getting confused over paying at the supermarket and counting change
  4. Struggling to find the right words or finding it hard to follow a conversation
  5. Being confused about the time and where you are
  6. Mood changes

As part of another study the experts also looked at 10,700 adults in the US, who were on average 59-years-old.

Participants recorded their TV habits over a number of years and this would include how often they watch TV for and how persistent these habits were.

Over fifteen years results were recorded from participants on four occasions and on the last visit they were also given cognitive tests of working memory, language and executive function/processing speed.

The experts found that compared to people who never or seldom watched TV, those who watched it sometimes or very often had a 6.9 per cent greater decline in cognitive function over 15 years, suggesting worse changes in performance on cognitive tests over the course of the study.

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