Alzheimer’s disease is incurable, and researchers continue to work on treatments that can effectively stop the progression of the disease. At the same time, researchers are studying lifestyle factors to see if certain habits or activities can help keep the brain healthy and slow the progression of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. There is growing evidence of a link between regular participation in mental, cognitive, or intellectual activities and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
What can play do for the brain?
One activity that could help keep the brain healthy is playing thinking or memory games, or even playing games in general. But it’s still unclear whether playing “Alzheimer’s games” can actually help slow cognitive decline. Most experts seem to agree that games themselves can’t really alter the biology of the disease or prevent the adverse effects of Alzheimer’s on the brain. That said, there are real cognitive benefits for people who play games.
What science has shown about play and cognition
Although long-term research is still needed to determine if specific games may play a role in maintaining brain health, preliminary studies seem to show a link between playing games and reducing the risk or delaying at least one type of age-related memory loss.
Mentally stimulating activities like computer use, games, crafts, and participating in group activities are linked to a lower risk or delay of age-related memory loss called cognitive impairment mild (MCI, often a precursor to dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease). The timing and number of these activities can also be important.
Making puzzles can be a way for older people to maintain their mental functions. Findings from two related articles published in the July 2019 issue of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry suggest that regular use of word puzzles (such as crosswords) and number puzzles (such as Sudoku) helps to make our brain better and longer. Studies have shown that the more regularly participants aged 50 and over engage in puzzles, the better they perform on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory. The study authors cannot say that playing these puzzles necessarily reduces the risk of dementia in old age, but their research confirms previous findings indicating that regular use of word and number puzzles helps to make function our brain better and longer.
Even in very old people, these activities seem to have preventive benefits. A study published in July 2021 in the journal Neurology showed that, in 1,903 people without dementia and with an average age of 89, a “cognitively active lifestyle”, which involves reading, working on puzzles and playing board games, checkers or cards could delay the onset of dementia for up to five years.
Memory games and cognitive activities are just one way to protect brain function. Maintaining cognitive abilities and preventing memory decline requires getting enough sleep, a healthy diet, and enough exercise. The more you incorporate these habits into your daily life, the better your brain is protected.
The best games to try to protect and boost your brain
Different games appeal to different people, and it’s important to have fun while playing. If you don’t like a game, or find it getting boring with repetition, try a new one. Or try a harder version of a game you like to challenge your brain more.
Crosswords help you expand your vocabulary. Their resolution also appeals to your memory. When we search our mind for a word, it can also trigger memories, which can make us happy and strengthen neural connections. You can find crossword puzzles in newspapers, on newspaper websites or by downloading their apps.
The Sudoku game consists of filling a 9×9 grid with numbers. Each grid comes with pre-filled numbers. You solve the puzzle by filling in the blank cells with a single digit number (from 1 to 9) which allows you to complete each row, column and region without duplicate digits. Solving a Sudoku puzzle requires logic and working memory (the ability to hold information in your mind for short intervals). You can find Sudoku puzzles in daily newspapers, in print, or online.
Doing a puzzle involves both sides of your brain: the right, which is the creative side, and the left, which is the logical side. Their resolution improves visuospatial functioning. The puzzles are also relaxing. Puzzles are also fun to do with friends, and social interaction is also great for brain health.
In this classic game, players earn points by building words by placing letters on a grid. Each new word on the grid must be connected to the words already in play, as if you were creating a crossword puzzle. Playing this game requires logical reasoning and strategy to know where to place each word on the board. Getting together to play is also a great opportunity to socialize.
Lumosity (on phone and tablet)
Lumosity is a brain training program made up of over 60 fun and challenging cognitive games. Used worldwide by more than 100 million people, Lumosity offers games designed to exercise memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem solving. You can play on your phone or tablet by downloading an app.
* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. [HighProtein-Foods.com]