What were you doing in grade four?

Written by Nicole Scheidl

December 1, 2017

Early educational experiences have an impact on dementia risk later in life. Learning reduces dementia risk – so create a love for it that will last your whole life through.


learning reduces dementia risk

Learning Reduces Dementia Risk


Education Matters

Research from Sweden shows a connection between early school grades and dementia risk in later life. The study followed 7574 individuals – 950 of whom went on to develop dementia.

Dementia risk was elevated by more than 21% for individuals who had the lowest early-life school grades.

So if you had poor grades in grade four, your risk for developing dementia in later years was higher. The study also found that education levels and type of occupation had an impact on dementia risk. the higher your education levels, the lower your dementia risk. Engaging occupations or leisure activities also positively impact brain health.


High Idea Density

The idea that early education has an impact on long term brain health is important. Add that to what we have learned in the American Nun Study and you have actionable steps.

The American Nun Study found that individuals with high idea density at a young age had a lower risk for developing dementia.

So what is high idea density?

High idea density is the complexity of an individual’s thought patterns.

In the Nun Study, each nun wrote an autobiographical letter. That letter was analyzed and scored on high idea density.  The nuns who exhibited complex thoughts and word choices were scored higher than those who did not. Nuns who had high idea density as young women were less likely to develop dementia later in life.


Early Cognitive Development Matters

Both the Swedish study and the American study show that early-life cognitive development is a foundation for how well the brain ages. It is important, therefore, to help our children and grandchildren develop the muscle of their brain as well as the muscles in their arms and legs. This means helping them be successful in school. And even more importantly – developing an early love for learning.

A love for learning is a lifelong habit. Develop this love of learning for yourself and your children and grandchildren. But don’t just focus on school.

Encouraging intellectually engaging activities outside of school is also important.

Take into account that individuals learn in different ways. Kinesthetic learning, which requires a more tactile approach, is also important for brain development. For example, building with Lego (or Lego robotics) can be as intellectually stimulating for a kinesthetic learner as reading a book is for a visual learner.

Reading and writing are key elements in brain development. The important role that reading plays is the introduction of ideas and the opportunity to develop your imagination. Using your creativity also impacts brain health and lifelong engagement. But development of creativity like any other skill must be exercised.

Finding fun and engaging ways to make reading and writing a part of your children’s (or grandchildren’s) everyday is a great ‘brain gift’ you can give them.


Read to Your Kids (or Grandkids)

One of the best ways to build complex thought is to read to your children or grandchildren. For example, a child may not be able to read The Hobbit on their own but they will be able to understand and follow the story. The dialogue and descriptions will help to fuel their imagination and develop complex thinking patterns. This will create a great foundation for the development of a healthy cognitive reserve as they grow.

And the bonus is – you get to create great memories and bonds over shared stories and time spent together.


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  1. Sharon

    This is so interesting. In grade four I had a wonderful teacher who had us do all sorts of craft projects including papier mache masks. Now that is a teacher who had no fears! Imagine the mess! As well, every Friday afternoon we listened to a Red Cross Radio Broadcast that was always informative and entertaining and in which they often played “Celito Linda”. Love that tune / song. Grade 4 was fun.
    Thanks for encouraging me think of that good time.

  2. Nicole Scheidl

    I remember building a papier mache volcano in grade 4 and when the teachers lit it up it exploded like a real volcano and burnt the ceiling tiles. It was VERY impressive! I guess papier mache was the ‘grade four thing’.

    I also remember around that time – maybe grade five – having Mr. Fox read us Animal Farm by George Orwell. I was captivated by the story. I don’t think teachers read to their students anymore – but I loved it! Charlotte’s Web, Animal Farm …stories burned in my memory because of my teachers taking the time to read to us.


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