Cooking, washing dishes and gardening can cut Alzheimer’s risk, study finds

Cooking, washing the dishes and gardening cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s by more than a fifth, new research suggests.

A study of more than half a million Brits found those who did household chores were 21% less likely to develop the disease.

It was the second biggest protective activity behind regular brisk walks or bike rides – which lowered cases by 35%.

The other vital factor was meeting up with family and friends which was linked to 15% lower rates.

Lead author Professor Huan Song, of Sichuan University in China, said: “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.”

The team analysed data from the ongoing UK Biobank study which is tracking the health of 501,376 older people.

Those most engaged in physical and mental activities were least likely to be diagnosed with dementia over an average follow up period of eleven years.

Similar patterns were identified when the amount of time all participants spent in the study was added up – a statistical technique known as ‘person-years’.

Dementia incidence rates in people who got frequent exercise were 0.45 cases for every 1,000 person-years – compared to 1.59 for ‘couch potatoes’.

Those who did lots of household chores had a rate of 0.86 cases – rising to 1.02 among peers who didn’t.

People who visited family daily had a rate of 0.62 cases – increasing to 0.8 for those who only saw them once every few months.

A separate study using Biobank data found every 10% increase in daily junk food intake raises the risk of dementia by 25%.

Scientists followed more than 73,000 over 55s for an average of ten years.

The heavily processed products are high in added sugar, fat and salt and low in protein and fibre.

They range from burgers, chicken nuggets, sausages, pizzas and chips to yoghurt, baked beans, ice cream, cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks.

Study lead author Dr Huiping Li, of Tianjin Medical University in China, said: “Ultra-processed foods are meant to be convenient and tasty but diminish the quality of a person’s diet.

“Our research not only found ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia, but also replacing them with healthy options may decrease dementia risk.”