[NFBMO] Another reason of the importance of literacy for the blind?

Gene Fleeman gfleeman55 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 5 20:20:39 UTC 2020

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 | illiteracy
People Who Can't Read Are More Likely to Develop Dementia
Thursday, 14 November 2019 10:40 AM

Could illiteracy up your odds for dementia?

That's the suggestion of a study that found seniors who couldn't read or
write were two to three times more

likely to develop dementia than those who could.

The finding "provides strong evidence for a link between illiteracy and
dementia risk," said study author Jennifer Manly, a professor of
neuropsychology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons
in New York City.

The finding also offers sobering insight into how dementia risk could be
disproportionately affecting the roughly 32 million illiterate adults in
the United States.

For the study, Manly and her colleagues focused on men and women who were
at least 65, with an average age of 77. Most had been born and raised in
rural areas of the Dominican Republic before moving to northern Manhattan.
None — including those who could read or write — had gone to school for
more than four years.

Three separate groups of participants were tracked for an average of about
four years, with the first group formed in 1992, followed by a second in
1999 and a third in 2009, for a total of 983 people. For each group,
medical exams were conducted every 18 to 24 months, as were screenings that
assessed thinking, language, memory and visual-spatial skills.

Among those who were illiterate, over a third (35%) already had dementia
when the study was launched.

By comparison, just 18% of literate participants had dementia when the
investigation began. And after taking into account key factors — such as
age, income and heart disease history — the team concluded that those who
were illiterate were three times more likely to have already developed
dementia at the beginning of the investigation.

The team also found that after a four-year follow-up, 48% of the illiterate
group eventually developed dementia.

But among the literate group, just 27% went on to develop telltale memory
and thinking problems.

The team concluded that, all things being equal, those who were illiterate
were twice as likely to develop dementia during the study.

So, what is it about reading and writing that seems to protect against

Manly cautioned that the study does not definitively prove that illiteracy
causes dementia risk to rise. And she stressed that extenuating
circumstances — such as why someone may never have learned to read or write
in the first place — may also have a bearing on long-term dementia risk.

Still, "having had the opportunity to learn to read and write may have
lifelong advantages, compared to people who did not have the opportunity to
learn these skills," Manly theorized.

"Being able to read and write allows people to engage more often in what we
could call 'cognitively enriching' activities," she said. "In other words,
activities that 'exercise' the brain, like reading newspapers and books,
helping children and grandchildren with their homework, or getting a job
that requires literacy. Learning to read and write allows a person to
participate in these activities all throughout their lifetime."

With that in mind, Manly and her colleagues said researchers should now
explore whether or not tackling illiteracy might be a way to lower dementia

But Heather Snyder, vice president of medical science relations for the
Alzheimer's Association, cautioned that "literacy is shaped by a number of
factors, and it is important that all of these factors be better understood
and explored as potential contributors to dementia risk."

Nevertheless, Snyder, who wasn't involved with the research, said the
"results of this study are interesting, and add to the body of knowledge
that supports the idea that there are many elements that contribute to
later life risk of cognitive decline."

The study, published Nov. 13 in the journal Neurology, was sponsored in
part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National
Institute on Aging.
Read Newsmax: People Who Can't Read More Likely to Develop Dementia |

Gene Fleeman
gfleeman55 at gmail.com

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