“Brain Games” May Cut Your Risk of Dementia & Alzheimer’s

Whether you are a gym rat or you prefer embracing your inner couch potato, you are probably well-aware that physical exercise is critical to a long-term healthy lifestyle. What if a good brain workout could do the very same thing for your cognitive health? Turns out, all those games kids are playing these days may be more than just time-wasters! They encourage hand-eye coordination and they, essentially, work out the brain.

Results of a major study done in Finland and released in a well-known medical journal revealed that brain games, in combination with a healthy diet, exercise and efforts to control blood pressure can help slow mental decline in seniors. Men and women, ages 60-77, who were determined to be at high-risk for developing dementia were divided into two groups and given the usual healthy lifestyle advice: eat well, exercise and control weight. Half of the 1,260 participants were also instructed to perform regular brain training exercises. These exercises including memory games and other types of puzzles that encourage various parts of your brain to engage. By doing activities that cause mental stimulation, scientists believe we can enhance mental fitness and even prevent memory issues that are associated with general aging and dementia-related conditions.

The results of the Finnish study, published in the Lancet, revealed the following statistics about the group that incorporated brain games into their daily routines:

  1. They scored 25 percent higher on standard brain function tests
  2. Their ability to organize their thoughts was 83 percent higher
  3. Mental processing speed was 150 percent higher

Scientists who conducted the study, as well as many experts who have reviewed and commented on the results, were impressed with the comparable differences. While the results do not offer information on whether a steady brain workout may impact a patient’s likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease, researchers agreed the question is worth debate.

Looking for a way to get started with brain games? Consider an online computer program or app on your phone or tablet. Some charge fees, others are completely free. Also, if you are less tech savvy, test yourself with playing cards (remember the old concentration game,) start playing Sudoku, crossword puzzles or other activities that challenge your memory. Trivia questions are great mind stimulators, as well.

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