Doing Crossword Puzzles Linked to Better Brain Function

At the 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference last week researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London presented findings from a study looking at the association between doing word puzzles and brain function. For the more than 17,000 people ages 50 – 96 who participated in the study, there was a direct relationship between the frequency of doing word puzzles and attention, reasoning and memory. The more frequently they were done, the better the cognitive function. Further, the researchers found that the brain function of people who did word puzzles was equivalent to ten years younger than their age on tests of grammatical reasoning speed and short term memory accuracy.

Summary of the conference presentation: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/318487.php

Use this news

Sign Up for E-News

The results of the research cited above adds to previous knowledge about the relationship between what we do (or don’t do) and how it affects our thinking, memory and learning (cognitive functions) as we age. Loss of all cognitive functions, dementia, is not a normal part of aging. However, as the  Alzheimer’s Research Center at Emory University, points out, some brain functions do normally decline with age, while others are not affected. For example:

  • Intelligence, that is knowledge or experience we accumulated over time, actually remains stable as we age, but knowledge or abilities not based on experience or education tend to decline.
  • Long term or remote memory of events stored over many years remains relatively preserved in old age.  Recent memory or the formation of new memories, however, is more vulnerable to aging. 
     
  • Attention, simple or focused such as the ability to pay attention to a television program tends to remain as we age.  What may become more difficult is paying attention to two things at the same time, for example watching TV and talking on the phone.
     
  • Language or verbal skills, including vocabulary, stay with us as we age.  What commonly declines has to do with word retrieval or the process of getting words out.  It takes longer and is more difficult to find the words we want or to recall names of people and objects.  It’s not that the information is lost, it’s just more difficult to find.
     
  • Reasoning and problem solving abilities stay with us as we age. But, it may take longer to solve problems we never faced before.
     
  • Processing information and doing things takes more time. It doesn’t mean the activities cannot be done, they just take a little longer.

There are a number of ways known to improve thinking ability including:

Managing stress: High stress levels can impair learning and memory. To counter this, engage in stress reducing activities on a daily basis such as exercise (including walking), meditation or yoga.

Maintaining overall health: Some medical conditions or their treatments may impair thinking. To counter this, keep chronic medical conditions under control, have regular evaluations of medications for possible interactions and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants such as blueberries, strawberries, and broccoli and healthy fats such as olive oil.

Using memory joggers: Recognition of new information can be helped with cues to ‘jog’ the memory, for example: following a routine (e.g., always putting the keys in the same place), using external ‘joggers’ (a calendar, a pill box, an alarm on the cell phone), and taking more time to actively process new information (coming up with an association to recall at person’s name)

Sleeping:  Insufficient sleep can affect thinking and memory. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night supports brain health.

Socializing:  Isolation from social interaction negatively affects our brain function. After all, we are social animals. So, stay connected to friends and family, join a club or organization, volunteer, take a class – anything that gets you out and about and interacting with other people.

Keeping mentally stimulated:  This is the “use it or lose it” scenario. Engaging in challenging cognitive tasks such as playing bridge, reading, attending adult education courses, learning a new language or a new musical instrument, can protect against age-related declines in thinking.

Although the research cited above did not investigate if doing word puzzles improves cognitive function, it did find the more frequently people did word puzzles, the better their brain function. So, since doing a crossword or other word puzzle everyday does not require a prescription, have any negative side effects, may help keep you ‘sharp’, and is free – make a cup of coffee, grab a pencil, pull up a chair,  and get to work on that puzzle – your brain may thank you for it.

 Free crossword puzzles are available online from:

American Association of Retired People (AARP) http://games.aarp.org/games/crossword-expert/

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/crossword-puzzles/daily/?utm_term=.c7e9b89015a0

LA Times: http://games.latimes.com/games/daily-crossword/

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/crosswords/index.html?page=home&_r=0

For more information

Alzheimer’s Association
http://www.alz.org/facts/

Alzhimer’s Disease Research Center -Emory University
http://alzheimers.emory.edu/

Cognitive Skills and Normal Aging
http://alzheimers.emory.edu/healthy_aging/cognitive-skills-normal-aging.html

Healthy Aging and Prevention
http://alzheimers.emory.edu/healthy_aging/index.html

 

National Institute on Aging
The changing brain
https://brainhealth.acl.gov/the-changing-brain/

Cognitive Health and Older Adults
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults

 

 

 

 

Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal of Associates for Health Education and Behavior, LLC, in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. Her office offers individual and group health education, and individual health behavior change guidance.  For more information please see www.associatesforhealth.com  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her atjoanna@associatesforhealth.com

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Millburn/Short Hills

Millburn Recreation Accepting Memberships for Pool, Tennis and Golf

February 19, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Recreation Department announced that it is accepting memberships for the township pool, tennis and golf facilities. The memberships are available to all Millburn Township residents and the applications are available online.

The membership application can be accessed at http://www.twp.millburn.nj.us/DocumentCenter/View/3258 or go ...

Millburn Police Department Investigating Pair of Residential Burglaries

April 3, 2018

On March 28, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Goldfarb responded to the Union Police Department on a warrant arrest. Robert Kopik, age 41 of Springfield, was placed under arrest on an outstanding criminal warrant and remanded to the Essex County Correctional Facility.

On March 28, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Hunt responded to a Quaker Road residence on a residential burglary. The resident reports ...

Letter to the Editor: New Jersey’s Out-of-Network Bill is a Huge Blow to the Middle-Class

April 8, 2018

As Trenton currently looks to balance the budget, once again it’s our state’s hardest working citizens who will be left holding the bag. This time, though, it will be the hardworking office and ancillary staff from our small business private medical practices.  A bill called “The Out-of-Network Consumer Protection Bill” A-2039/S-485 looks poised to make ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_11a7f47d27aa64b07388_mark-kelly-about

Tue, April 24, 6:00 PM

The Venetian , Garfield

Prepared. For Life Dinner with Captain Mark Kelly

Other

Carousel_image_df9894831d33a18d5f90_63acbe0d6361db09daf9_joel-ingersoll-jgphoto-003-1_orig

Tue, April 24, 7:00 PM

New Providence High School, New Providence

Parent Wellness Series: College Admission Does ...

Carousel_image_de8fa64ac3f48813f5b8_f4a28bb354e48b53f79d_images

Tue, April 24, 7:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Lenore Raphael Presents Ellington and More at ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_343f4e7d32430a1ca3f1_renoir4

Wed, April 25, 2:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Pierre-August Renoir: The Joys of Life at ...

Middle School Presents Shrek the Musical, April 27-29

April 21, 2018

Middle School presents Shrek the Musical, April 27-29

The Millburn Middle School Spring Musical, Shrek the Musical, will be held on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th at 7 p.m.  A Sunday matinee will be presented at 1 p.m. on April 29th.

Shrek the Musical opened on Broadway in December 2008. It is based on the DreamWorks Animation’s film Shrek and William Steig’s ...

Millburn Road Closures for April 20

MILLBURN, NJ - Parsonage Hill Road closed between Long Hill Drive and White Oak Ridge Road until approx 4:00pm Officers working

Troy Drive closed to all traffic between Lawrence Drive and Troy Lane until approx 4:00pm Officers working

Old Short Hills Road has a changed traffic pattern between Silver Spring Road and Dorison Drive no closures expect possible delays until approx 4:00pm ...

Community Church to Hold Spring Rummage Sale for Charity

Community Congregational Church in Short Hills will hold its semiannual Rummage Sale on Saturday, April 21 from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. All proceeds of the sale benefit Community Church’s educational and outreach programs, including the Oasis program that provides bags of groceries and baby supplies to families in Irvington every month.

“The Rummage Sale for Charity at Community Church ...