Elderly family members may lower their risk of dementia through chores, exercise, and visits from family and friends, a new study suggests.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are currently more than 6 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, making it the most common form of dementia in the country. Characterized by memory loss and decline in other cognitive abilities, the disease severely affects an elderly’s quality of life.

A new study published in the July 27, 2022 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that physical and mental activities and social visits could help reduce the risk of dementia.

“Many studies have identified potential risk factors for dementia, but we wanted to know more about a wide variety of lifestyle habits and their potential role in the prevention of dementia. Our study found that exercise, household chores, and social visits were linked to a reduced risk of various types of dementia,” said study author Huan Song, MD, Ph.D., of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.

The study involved 501,376 people from a UK database, asked to fill out questionnaires at the beginning of the study. They also reported whether they had an immediate family member with dementia to determine genetic risks.

After adjusting for factors like income, age, and smoking, the researchers found that people who highly engaged in activity patterns including frequent exercises, household chores, and daily visits from family and friends had 35%, 21%, and 15% lower risk of dementia, respectively.

“Our study has found that by engaging more frequently in healthy physical and mental activities people may reduce their risk of dementia. More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging that making these simple lifestyle changes may be beneficial,” said Song.

The researchers found that regardless of whether or not they had a family history of dementia, the participants benefited from the positive effects of physical and mental activities.

As for the study’s limitation, the participants reported their own physical and mental activity, meaning they might not have remembered or relayed them correctly.