New 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.
High Idea Density
The idea that early education has an impact on long term brain health is an interesting finding. Particularly, when added to what we know from the American Nun Study. The 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 was required to write 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..
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.
Encouraging intellectually engaging activities outside of school is also important. 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 developmen. Finding fun and engaging ways to make them a part of your children’s (or grandchildren’s) everyday is a great ‘brain gift’ you can give them.
Read to Your Kids
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.