These days there has been a lot of attention placed on aging and along with that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Emerging research has shown that the simple act of reading, playing crossword puzzles, or doing crafts can decrease your chances of mental decline as you age. Some neuro-scientists have taken this a step further and have been developing specific, targeted exercises to not only stave off dementia, but to also improve mental sharpness, memory, attention, processing speed and cognitive control (decision making and planning). I don’t know about you, but these are all areas in which I could use improvement.
A new Mayo Clinic study found that reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and crafting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. People who watched television for less than seven hours a day in later years were 50 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who watched more than seven hours of television per day. Additionally, individuals who participated in social activities and read magazines during middle age were about 40 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not participate in those activities. This study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 25-May 2, 2009 and written about on Mayo Clinic.
In a recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in collaboration with Syracuse University studied 469 subjects older than 75 years of age who lived in the community setting. They recorded the frequency of participation in leisure activities for the subjects. They documented their thinking and physical abilities and recorded them in activity-days per week. The researchers found that over an average period of 5.4 years, dementia developed in 124 subjects (Alzheimer’s disease in 61 subjects, vascular dementia in 30, mixed dementia in 25, and other types of dementia in 8). They also found that among leisure activities, reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments, and dancing were associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
In searching the web for information about this, as well as programs or exercises to help improve my mental sharpness, I came across a site called Lumosity.com. Run by Lumos Labs, a cognitive neuroscience research and development company that builds software tools for improving brain health and performance, this site was created with fun in mind. They have a large selection of Flash based online games that give your grey matter a good workout, while keeping you entertained. Personally I feel like my brain muscle is getting stretched.
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