Mayo Clinic Reports That Knitting May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk by 30-50%

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Mayo Clinic Reports That Knitting May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk by 30-50%

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Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. In this post for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month she shares how crafting can be used to prevent and treat age-related memory loss. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.

Reasons Why Knitting and Crochet Can Help Prevent and Aid Treatment of Alzheimer's

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Many crafters are doing their part to raise awareness around this awful disease. In this post I’ll share some research and information about how knitting and crochet may be used to prevent dementia in some people and improve quality of life for those who already have this condition.

Knitting and Crochet for Prevention of Alzheimer’s

There is still a lot that we don’t know about the prevention of age-related memory loss. However, there are a lot of signs that knitting and crochet may help delay or prevent the condition. Recent research from The Mayo Clinic found that crafting, including knitting, is a cognitive exercise that may reduce Alzheimer’s risk by 30-50%.

Here are some of the reasons:

  • Learning new things helps prevent Alzheimer’s. With knitting and crochet there are always new skills and techniques to learn.
  • Improved hand-eye coordination helps build up neural networks, which can serve as a neuroprotective reserve against Alzheimer’s.
  • Crafting is a form of emotional self-care, which helps reduce stress, a key component of reducing early Alzheimer’s.
  • There is a correlation between depression and Alzheimer’s. Crochet is one way to battle depression.

Knitting and Crochet for Treatment of Alzheimer’s

There isn’t a “cure” for Alzheimer’s, but there are many things that can be done to improve the quality of life for people who are dealing with this condition including knitting and crochet. These tasks are based on repetitive motion so that the individual can continue to remember how to do them through body memory even when cognitive memory is failing. Here’s how they help improve quality of life:

  • Making things helps the older person feel productive even when Alzheimer’s takes other skills away.
  • Teaching kids to crochet or crocheting items for family members helps the person with dementia feel like they can still offer something to the younger generation.
  • People with Alzheimer’s often suffer from “fidgety hands” and may pick at themselves or destroy things as result; knitting and crochet keep the hands active.
  • Sensory stimulation evokes positive feelings and can serve as a form of self-expression for people with advanced Alzheimer’s. Yarn is great for sensory stimulation!
  • Knitting and crochet are calming activities. Living with dementia is stressful and it helps to have activities that are relaxing to reduce anxiety.

Crafting for the Caregivers

Alzheimer’s doesn’t just affect the individual; it affects the family. Oftentimes, family members become caregivers for elders with dementia. Knitting and crochet can help caregivers in their own self-care so that they avoid burnout. Learn more here.

Crafters Doing Their Part

We know many crafters doing their part to raise awareness around Alzheimer’s. Just this month, Lion Brand sponsored Knitting Runner David Babcock in the New York City Marathon. David ran with the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter team to raise money for awareness and funds for Alzheimer research, care and support. AND you can still donate! Lion Brand will match your dollar donations until David meets his goal of $3500.

Anastacia Zittel of AnastaciaKnits does a big fundraiser each year, raffling off a crochet blanket to raise money for an annual Alzheimer’s walk in memory of her family members who have passed away from the disease. There are many other Alzheimer’s-related charities that accept handmade donations, check your local area listings for more details.

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  • Yet another method/hobby to aid in prevention of various forms of senility. Valuable to know. I am posting this blog on my web site on Conscious Aging, with thanks to the author and Lion Brand.

  • Sorry, this is wishful thinking. My aunt was an avid knitter, but it did nothing when Alzheimer’s stole her away from us.

    • Sorry to hear about your aunt. I can truly empathize with you as I lost my mom to multi-infarct dementia – which is caused by multiple “mini-strokes.” The symptoms are almost identical to Alzheimer’s, except it can be diagnosed via a specific brain scan.

      However, with regards to this article, my thinking is that this this pertains more towards those just taking up this craft later in life, thus having to “learn” a new skill, since both crochet and knitting can be challenging to learn if one hadn’t grown up doing this throughout their life. (I know it was and is for me, since I just started crocheting a year ago.)

      For those who’ve learned to do this early on in life – later to became avid crocheters and knitters (like your aunt) – such skills become almost automatic over time, which is why some are able to crochet or knit without looking at what they’re doing, and do so with remarkable speed.

      This article does not state that it will prevent Alzheimer’s (or other forms of dementia), but rather, that it may help to delay some of the effects of such diseases, since learning anything new (like a foreign language) helps strengthen some areas of the brain that are not yet harmed by disease.

  • My Mother was diagnosed with it, she has passed away, but she taught me to knit and crochet when I was a little girl. we spent much time knitting together over the years, we loved it so much. She used to be really good at unraveling tangled wool, she definitely had the knack for it, and the patience, but when she got bad, and could not knit or crochet anymore, I would tangle up balls of wool for her to untangle, we’d be sitting on the couch like usual, and you could see this glint of an old memory in her eyes as she gently untangled the wool, she did it for hours, calming her, all the while this horrific disease was tangling her brain. How I miss her!!!

  • Maybe this is why at my New Employee Orientation at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester) today, I was told that it was fine if I crocheted. By the end of the day, I was 1/2 Fi ished with my scarf.

  • It turns out that there are different types of Dementia, with Alzheimers being just one type. Research has found other types of dementia such as Lewy Bodies Dementia which is newer and often diagnosed as Alzheimers or Parkinsons Disease. Now I am no expert but I have recently learned that it takes a very skilled physician who is well versed with the latest research and diagnostic criteria (which is still mostly subjective) to be able to differentiate one form of dementia from another (Alzheimer’s vs. Lewy Bodies vs. Parkinsons, etc). This is because

    The only way to definitively determine one from the other is post mortum by autopsy.

    The reason I say this is because crafts may affect one type of dementia more than another. I would have to read the actual research paper to determine the population specifics for the study.

    Dementia of any type is a horrible, horrible disease, especially for the family as they ride a daily roller coaster.

    For me, personally, Im really happy that such a reputable healthcare organization has been able to prove that something I really and truly love to do is GOOD FOR ME! Because so many things in this world that are enjoyable are not good for you.

  • Thank you for the interesting thoughts on Crafting and Alzheimer’s. My mother suffered from this devastating disease. She was a brilliant knitter and an indefatigable supporter of good causes in her younger days and we found that knitting squares and scarves for refugees helped her feel still needed and useful in the world (even if, sadly, I had to ‘modify’ her efforts a bit as things got worse and she would cast off half way through a row and then set off again). It also gave us something in common even if she didn’t know who I was! Although it did not prevent her dementia, I think it was a soothing influence when the world was an alien place for her

  • Hi just wanted to say I have a94 year old mum with Alzheimer’s she absolutely loves doing her knitting
    Daily don’t know what we would do without it.It seems to keep her calm and happy,would highly
    Recommend it.

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