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This Surprising Habit Can Stave Off Dementia, Says Study

This popular pastime can help improve cognition, quality of life, and mood.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated five million adults with dementia—a number expected to reach nearly 14 million by 2060. While there is no cure for the degenerative health condition, there are ways to help improve quality of life. And, according to recent research there is one thing in particular that can positively impact those who are suffering from dementia. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

Listening to Music Can Help Improve Cognitive Functioning

According to a recent meta analysis study from Pitt published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, listening to music can help improve quality of life and mood, as well as cognitive functioning. 

"We are excited to see these results because participating in music, like singing in a choir or playing in a drum circle, is a safe, engaging activity that our research demonstrates can support cognition at a critical time for older adults facing cognitive decline," lead author Jennie L. Dorris, MM, of the University of Pittsburgh, said in a press release. 

The analysis involved nine studies with a total of 495 participants and looked at different forms of music participation, including singing, playing existing music, improvising music, documented movement, dance or both. It also involved various delivery methods, such as music being provided by music therapists, occupational therapists, and professional musicians.

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"To examine randomized controlled trials with active music-making interventions, in which older adults with probable mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia physically participate in music, and their effects on cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, and social engagement. Participating in music-making is engaging and has shown diverse benefits. Additionally, this review categorized the music activities of each intervention," wrote the authors. "This review shows that music-making has a small but statistically significant effect on cognitive functioning for older adults with probable MCI or dementia. Future music interventions can benefit from rigorous intervention protocols that isolate specific activities."

Ultimately, they determined while the positive effect was small, participation in music does have a positive impact on cognition. However, researchers did point out that the positive effect was not greater than those reaped by physical exercise.

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"With an ever-increasing prevalence of dementia around the world, it is critical to identify affordable, safe interventions to support affected older adults. Active music-making has shown to be an effective intervention; classifying active music-making within Robb's reporting guidelines has created more clarity about the importance of Re-Creating Music by Singing/Playing Instruments and Improvisation," the study authors concluded. "Developing more interventions with these activities and offering these programs widely could potentially provide millions of people with critical support for their cognitive, emotional, and social well-being." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.