Round-up of other findings from 2022

Balance and memory tests

Being able to keep your balance is essential for day-to-day activities. Staying upright is complicated. The brain uses information from our eyes, muscles, joints and balance organs in our inner ears. This information needs to be processed before signals are sent out to the muscles to make any adjustments needed. There is a known link between balance and cognitive ability.

We have found that higher performance in the cognitive tests (word lists memory, search speed, reading) at aged 53 were linked with the ability to stand longer on one leg with eyes shut at ages 53, 60-64 and 69.

Balance and falls

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of people aged 80 years or older fall each year. Falls or fear of falling can restrict mobility, can decrease independence, and falls cause serious injuries. Despite the importance of balance little is known about how balance under the age of 65 can affect falls later in life.

We have found that being able to stand on one leg for 30 seconds with eyes open at age 53 is linked with a decreased risk of recurrent falls (more than 2 falls in 12 months) at ages 60-64 and 68.

Milk and grip strength

Milk is a source of several nutrients which may be beneficial for skeletal muscle. However, little is known about any links between milk intake and muscle strength.

NSHD data show that higher total milk intake at ages 36, 43 and 60–64 years is linked to stronger grip strength aged 69 years in men. There is no apparent link between milk intake and grip strength in women.

Reading, leisure activities and cognitive ability

NSHD data has shown that someone’s education, job and social life, as well as whether they participate in clubs, religious groups, sports, artistic pursuits or volunteer their time, may lead to better cognitive abilities at age 69, even for people who had low childhood cognitive test scores.

Continuing to learn over a lifetime may help protect the brain.

Physical activity and dementia

Participating in physical activity is linked with a lower risk of all-cause dementia and cognitive decline in older age. However, little was known about links between physical activity in midlife and cognitive health later in life.

We found that being physically active at any time in adulthood is linked with better cognition in later life. Even minimal physical activity is beneficial (i.e., participating at least once per month), but the strongest link is for those maintaining physical activity for longer.