Published on: May 27, 2019
by HealthDay News:
Mornings spent figuring out Sudoku Sudoku or finessing a crossword could spell better health for aging brains, researchers say.
In a study of over 19,000 British adults aged 50 and over who were tracked for 25 years, the habit of doing word or number puzzles seemed to help keep minds nimble over time.
“We’ve found that the more regularly people engage with puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the sharper their performance is across a range of tasks assessing memory, attention and reasoning,” said research leader Dr. Anne Corbett, of the University of Exeter Medical School.
“The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance,” she added in a university news release. “In some areas, the improvement was quite dramatic — on measures of problem-solving, people who regularly do these puzzles performed equivalent to an average of eight years younger compared to those who don’t.”
Does that translate to protection against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia? The study “can’t say” at this point, Corbett said, “but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer.”
The study was conducted online. Participants were assessed each year, and they were asked how often they did word and number puzzles. They were also given a series of tests measuring attention, reasoning and memory, to help assess changes in their brain function.
The result: The more often participants did word and number puzzles, the better their performance on the brain tests, Corbett’s group found.
Although the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, some differences were significant. Brain function for those who did word puzzles was equivalent to 10 years younger than their actual age on tests of grammatical reasoning, and eight years younger than their age on tests of short-term memory.
The findings are outlined in two papers published May 16 in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, and add to results presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2018.
The study is now expanding into other countries, including the United States.
Brain experts in the United States weren’t surprised by the findings.
The large, decades-long study “confirmed what your grandmother told you: ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,'” said Dr. Gayatri Devi. She’s a neurologist specializing in memory disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The fact that something as simple as puzzle-solving can take years off the brain is “a comforting finding,” Devi said.
She stressed that exercising the body can do the same. “Physical exercise is one proven way to keep our brains and our body healthy,” she said.
Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein directs geriatric education at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She said interventions to help the brain stay healthy longer are sorely needed.
“As older patients live longer, the growing number of Alzheimer’s patients represents a major challenge for health care systems worldwide,” Wolf-Klein said. “Currently, the pharmaceutical industry has yet to propose any promising medical treatments. So, searches for lifestyle interventions that might preserve cognition [thinking] has become a priority.”
“This study further supports many [prior] studies highlighting the benefits of mind exercises,” she said. It also “reinforces the need for all of us to keep our minds as active and engaged as possible.”
On Mother’s Day, amazing support for women’s brain health and our initiative from Robin Wright, Diane Lane, Trudie Styler, Teddy Sears, Martha Stewart, Tonya Lewis Lee, Marcia Gay Harden, Donna Karan, and Cecile Richards.
Here’s some of the “Best Brain Boosts” we’ve discovered to help women boost their brain health, providing a buffer against cognitive decline.
Thanks to the ongoing support of our partner Brain Canada, and The Citrine Foundation of Canada, Women’s Brain Health Initiative’s newest edition of MIND OVER MATTER has just been published. Loaded with interesting science-based articles, MIND OVER...
The material presented through the Think Tank feature on this website is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. WBHI strongly advises all questioners and viewers using this feature with health problems to consult a qualified physician, especially before starting any treatment. The materials provided on this website cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. The materials are not exhaustive and cannot always respect all the most recent research in all areas of medicine.