Brain Teasers and Mind Games

By: Madeline Roberts Vann, MPH

A healthy brain works better longer, keeping memory accurate and thought processes clear. The same things that keep your body healthy (exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep) also keep your brain healthy. However, there is one additional step to preserving the brain's health and abilities: exercise for the brain!

Doing crosswords and puzzles, learning a new language and spending time with friends and colleagues are all important parts of preserving your brain and memory. These activities have been shown to stimulate the brain and increase the connections between brain cells. You can also:

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  • Take a class
  • Develop a new hobby
  • Take music lessons
  • Volunteer or get a new job that requires new skills

Finding Brain Teasers

Puzzles and brain teasers are everywhere. Most daily newspapers have a page of word games and crossword puzzles that can provide the challenge the brain needs. Or you can find games online (see "Internet Resources" below).

As always, a balanced approach to health is preferable. Researchers have shown that learning new things and doing crossword puzzles help with memory - but research also has shown that 10 minutes of chatting with another person has the same beneficial effect on memory as doing a puzzle, and socializing is known to reduce the risk of dementia.

It is also important to focus on enjoying yourself as much as challenging yourself. Find puzzles and brain challenges that give you some pleasure and a sense of accomplishment for the time and effort you put in.

Most puzzles have different levels of difficulty. Crosswords in the daily paper are often easy on Monday and get increasingly difficult through Sunday. Soduku puzzles (a kind of number puzzle) are rated with a star system, from one star for easiest to five stars for hardest; they also get harder through the week. Realize that it is OK to not be able to do the hardest puzzles. Just find the level that suits you and challenges you a little, and do those puzzles daily.

Internet Resources

  • Crosswords: www.bestcrosswords.com
  • Soduku: www.websudoku.com
  • Logic puzzles: www.puzzlemonster.com/logic
  • Picture logic puzzles: www.conceptispuzzles.com
  • General games for older adults: http://fun.eons.com/games

SOURCES: University of Connecticut Health Center; Eons.com

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