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Why working women may have better memory as they age

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As we close out November and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a recent study shows women who work tend to have better memory later in life.

“I think it’s surprising because we know that things like education can boost our thinking as we age or cognitive activity can boost our thinking as we age,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “But this study shows that even beyond education level, something about work is really good for women’s brains.”

More than 6, 000 women between the ages of 16 and 55 participated in the study. They were followed for an average of 12 years and had their memory tested every two years. Results show, after the age of 60, memory decline was 50% greater among women who did not work.

Caldwell did not take part in the study but said her main takeaway is that staying active and challenging yourself will provide benefits later in life.

“It doesn’t matter if you take on that challenge when you’re younger, so those women who worked when they were 16 and in their early 20s just got the same benefit as women who came back to work later, so it’s not too late to get an extra challenge cognitively. It’s really helpful for aging,” she said.

Caldwell adds that keeping your mind active may also help with preventing Alzheimer’s disease. She reminds us, women are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s and account for two-thirds of current cases.