Study: Playing Euchre and other card games could stave off Alzheimer’s

Good news for competitive people: Those family euchre tournaments that get a little too intense may be delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years, a new study reveals.

Scientists have long thought that brain-stimulating activities like reading, puzzling and playing cards could prevent dementia, and the July 14 study in the Neurology journal shows cognitive activities may be helpful in staving it off.

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The researchers examined about 1,900 older people, averaging 80 years old, who did not have dementia and monitored their participation in “cognitively stimulating activities,” and then clinically evaluated them to diagnose dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.

“We tried to pick activities that would not have too many physical or social barriers, or financial barriers, so these are things that most older people are able to do,” said Robert S. Wilson, lead researcher and professor of neuropsychology at Rush University Medical Center. “And what we looked at was the age at which dementia was diagnosed, and we found that people who reported being cognitively active got dementia at a much later age than those who were cognitively inactive.”

The study found that participants with a lower cognitive lifestyle developed dementia at around 88, on average, while the mean onset was 93 for those with higher levels of cognitive activity.

Wilson said it is an observational study that does not prove causality, but there are very few alternative explanations.

“This is suggestive of the idea that a cognitively active lifestyle doesn’t make the underlying disease go away, but it can delay the appearance of the symptoms which disable you,” he said.

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For Midwesterners, the card game you’re most likely to play is euchre, according to a survey conducted by TopUSCasinos.

The study, which surveyed 1,000 Americans, also found that Americans played card games more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 55% of Americans learned a new card game this year.

Wilson said that, despite how passionate Midwesterners are, euchre might not technically be better than other card games in this particular scenario, but all that trying to read your partner’s mind or trying to remember what suit the jack is this round could be paying off.

“It’s not the actual cognitive activity that is key,” Wilson said. “The brain is not something that just sits there like a blob, it’s constantly responding to the activities that we ask it to do, so I think the key with cognitive activity is something that is sustainable and hopefully enjoyable because we think that the important thing is that it’s something that you repeat over time.’”