As we age, it’s common to experience some changes in our cognitive abilities, such as forgetting where we put our keys or struggling to recall a name.
You may start to worry—is this just a normal part of aging, or might it be a sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s?
Generally, normal forgetfulness is just a minor inconvenience. It may be a bit embarrassing, but it doesn’t significantly affect your quality of life.
But if forgetfulness prevents you from completing your responsibilities or negatively impacts your well-being, it may be a sign of age-related cognitive decline.
Although there isn’t yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are things you can do to slow its progress and reduce your risk of experiencing age-related cognitive decline.
Cognitive Training for Slowing Memory Loss
Like strengthening your muscles, your brain benefits from being challenged and used regularly. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
That’s why cognitive training continues to be studied as a potential way to slow down memory loss and cognitive decline.
Cognitive training involves exercises designed to challenge and stimulate your brain, such as puzzles, games, reading, and other mentally demanding activities.
Research has shown that cognitive training can help slow the progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a common precursor to dementia.
Crossword Puzzles are Better Than Brain Games
A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine compared the effectiveness of crossword puzzles versus web-based cognitive games in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.
The study found that crossword puzzles were significantly more effective than computerized games in improving cognitive abilities.
Participants who completed 12 weeks of intensive, home-based crossword training showed improved performance on the 11-item Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) score compared to those who completed computerized games.
The improvement was sustained even after 78 weeks, with participants in the crossword group exhibiting less cognitive decline than those in the game group.
This study adds to the growing body of evidence that crossword puzzles and other mentally challenging activities are effective in slowing cognitive decline in those with MCI.
Challenge Your Mind and Strengthen Your Brain
While the study provides compelling evidence in support of crossword puzzles as a cognitive training tool, keep in mind that any mentally challenging activity can be beneficial. Incorporating activities like reading, playing musical instruments, or learning a new language can all help to stimulate and challenge your brain. You are never too old to start a new hobby or learn something new—and doing so can provide substantial cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits.
You’ll need to push yourself a little bit. If it’s too easy, you won’t get much out of it. But it’s also important not to push yourself to the point of frustration or stress, as this can have negative effects on your cognitive health.
Instead, focus on finding enjoyable and engaging activities that provide you with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when completed. This will help you keep your mind sharp and give you some joyful moments to brighten your days.