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Keep working to avoid Alzheimer’s

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Posted: 6 pm ET

Not only is delaying retirement and working longer good for your pocketbook, it also appears to be good for your brain.

A study by French researchers released at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston of about 429,000 self-employed French workers found that the risk of being diagnosed with dementia diminished 3.2 percent with each year people worked past age 60.

The study examined the medical records of people who were, on average, 74 years old and retired for 12 years. To reduce the possibility that those studied had retired early because of dementia, people who had been diagnosed within five years of retirement were eliminated.

"Our data show strong evidence of a significant decrease in the risk of developing dementia associated with older age at retirement, in line with the 'use it or lose it' hypothesis," said Carole Dufouil in a published statement. Dufouil is director of research in neuroepidemiology at INSERM at the Bordeaux School of Public Health.

"Professional activity may be an important determinant of intellectual stimulation and mental engagement, which are thought to be potentially protective against dementia," said Dufouil.

More than 5.2 million people -- about 1 in 9 of those 65 or older and 1 in 3 among those 85 and older -- have Alzheimer's or some other kind of dementia. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that number will increase to 13.8 million by 2050 as baby boomers age.

Having Alzheimer's can wreck your retirement planning. The Alzheimer's Association calculates that Medicare and Medicaid cover about 70 percent of the cost of caring for someone with dementia. The out-of-pocket costs are generally covered by the patients themselves or by caregivers. In 2013, the out-of-pocket spending for people with Alzheimer's and other dementias is expected to total an estimated $34 billion.

If working a few years longer keeps this terrible disease at bay, sign me up.

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