BY NORBERT RUG
I do Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles and write 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. I feel that keeping my brain healthy is as important as keeping my body healthy. I recently found some support for this opinion.
The Daily Mail reports that doing Crosswords and Sudoku could keep your brain up to ten years younger. They stated that doing a puzzle every day might have a “dramatic effect” on your memory and help to ward off dementia as you get older.
The Mail reports that joint studies were done by the University of Exeter and King’s College, London. This involved participants that were between 50 and 93 years old. The participants took an online survey, reporting how often they did these types of puzzles, as well as tests to measure the changes in their brain function.
This research concluded that doing a puzzle every day could lower your brain age by up to a decade. According to a study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, people over 50 can improve their brain function by completing word games. 19,100 people took part in this research, and they were tested on their attention, memory, and reasoning and were asked how frequently they did puzzles. Findings showed that those who did these puzzles performed better in tests, and had a lower ‘brain age’ than those who didn’t. The difference in brain function was ten years for those who worked on the puzzles regularly and an eight-year difference for short-term memory.
I find that writing stimulates long forgotten memories. I call this opening the “file cabinets of my mind”. As soon as I open a drawer, hundreds of memories come pouring out. Memories of people I knew and things I did. Memories from my childhood right thru last week.
Sometimes they come so fast, this hunt and peck typist has trouble writing them all down. Frequently when the memories stop, I find I have written 1500 words or more. Now comes the job of paring it down to an acceptable size. I try to cut it to 800 to 900 words and save much of what I remove for another day. I frequently tell my wife that I have a 25 year old mind in a 70 year old body.
Dr. Anne Corbett, senior author of the Daily Mail studies, said: “Most of the people involved in the research did crosswords or Sudoku every day, which exercises the memory and improves problem-solving abilities and focus.” The theory behind these results is that the brain is just like anything else in the body. Continuing to use your mind and not vegging out will improve it’s capacity and adaptability.
The brain has a lot of connections that we need to use regularly doing activities like puzzles. It’s the old “use it or lose it” theory. We don’t really comprehend though if people like doing puzzles because they possess a higher level of brain function or if their mental function improves due to the fact they are solving puzzles.
Some people say that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain. This means you can lessen your risk of dementia by having a balanced, healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping alcohol use to a minimum, and quitting smoking. I quit smoking after 45 years and I never felt better. I think that maintaining social connections with your friends and family might also reduce cognitive decline.
The brain controls many things like memory, making decisions and much more. These cognitive abilities can affect how we are able to perform everyday tasks and if we can live independently. Changes in thinking as people age are normal. Older adults could have problems with multi-tasking, difficulty finding words and recalling names and decreased ability to pay attention. However, as a person gets older, certain parts of the brain shrink, particularly those areas that are important to learning and other complex mental activities. This doesn’t mean you cannot learn new things. You can teach an old dog new tricks!
I changed careers at 60, taking a job that I had absolutely no experience in or training for. I love a good challenge and just figuring out how to do this job made me feel younger. To do this job, I had to write PowerPoint training modules, something I had never done before. Not only was I able to write them for my job but other supervisors asked me to write modules for them. The last time I attended college, I went to UB when I was 62. Since then, I have received several certificates and diplomas from online courses including from NCCC and the University of Central Florida.
There is increased scientific evidence that the mind does not remain static but is able to take on new challenges as people age. It is not exactly clear why certain people think just as well when they get older and others don’t but exercising your brain is very important.
Norb is a writer from Lockport, NY. You can follow his blog.