A study published in the March 27, 2012 issue of Neurology titled “Cognitive decline after hospitalization in a community population of older persons” looked at 1870 patients over a nine-year period comparing “tests of memory, thinking, language, and judgment in people who went into hospital with those who did not.” Most of the hospitalized patients were in their 70’s, about half were women and half were African American. (Follow this link for an abbreviated Patient version of the full article.)
All of the patients, whether hospitalized or not averaged slightly poorer scores on the tests. At the beginning, those who ended up with hospital stays did a bit worse than those who never entered the hospital. Significantly, the ones who spent time in hospitals got worse on the tests much faster than the other group.
The authors could not conclude whether the hospital group got worse because of their stay or because they were ill enough to need admission. The seriousness of the reason for hospital admission did not appear to be a factor in how rapidly cognition declined.
It seems to this blogger that if you have to enter a hospital, it behooves you to make a special effort after you get out to do everything possible to enhance brain function. There is compelling evidence that the more you involve yourself in intellectual activities, even as basic as crossword puzzles, the better chance you have of keeping your mind healthy.