Can Games and Puzzles Reduce Your Risk of Dementia?

Mentally stimulating games may increase mental acuity in aging adults.

April showers can keep us sheltered indoors for long periods of time. Treat every rainy day as an invitation to increase your mental sharpness with mentally stimulating games and puzzles. We’ll show you how playing games, like puzzles, crosswords, cards and checkers, can have a positive impact on your overall mental health.

Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia, results from an abnormal buildup of plaques and tangles in the brain. Adults who play mentally stimulating games are said to have larger “cognitive reserves” to kick into effect when Alzheimer’s starts to take its toll. This means that there may be a connection with playing games and slowing the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s.

According to research, people who played these kinds of games at least every other day performed better on tests of memory and other mental functions. They also had greater tissue mass in brain areas involved with memory storage. Though nothing has been scientifically proven yet, the evidence suggests that this mental “exercise” can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, and in turn dementia, in certain cases.

So, why not just stimulate the mind with a book? The added social benefit of games keeps the mind active in a different way. Thinking increases the cognitive aspects and socializing increases the enjoyment factor. When you enjoy something, your brain will work harder to create a lasting memory. In other words, your brain is exercising harder when friends are introduced to the situation.

Aside from playing games and puzzles, try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly. When these are added to the mix, you’ll maximize healthy habits when it comes to your brain. 

Elderly woman with glasses filling in crossword puzzle.

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