Maintaining a cognitively active lifestyle

Brain games are not only entertaining, but essential to maintaining cognition. Whether you play the Wordle or Sudoku, keeping your brain engaged and active throughout your life is crucial, no matter your age.

An animation of a word-based brain game called "Midicle" - a parody of Wordle. The game spells out the words Wordy, Games, Think and finally, correctly, Brain."“People should challenge themselves with brain games as soon as possible,” said Dr. Angela Catic, assistant professor in the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor College of Medicine. “There is no age that is too young. Like exercise, it’s never too late to start.”

Individuals with normal cognition can delay or prevent cognitive decline by keeping their minds active daily, whether that includes reading a book, doing a puzzle or crosswords or playing Sudoku. Studies show that structured brain training is beneficial for people who have cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia.

“You want to do activities you enjoy because that means you’re going to actually do them, but you also should do activities that push your cognition and thinking. Continue to push your limits by doing something that is stretching your mind and increasing in difficulty,” Catic said.

People enjoy positive feedback. Studies find that people tend to engage with mind games they do well on, and that has less of an impact on maintaining or improving cognition. Doing the same difficulty level of a crossword every day will not be as effective as doing one that increases in difficulty every day.

Catic suggests engaging in cognitive activities on a regular basis. People who are either concerned about cognitive decline or have cognitive decline but are hoping to slow the progression should be mentally, socially and physically active daily.

Use your brain

Read a book, work on a jigsaw puzzle, do a crossword puzzle, learn a foreign language, cook a new recipe, listen to music or play chess or bridge. Watching television does not stimulate the mind.

Do something social

Find a way to start engaging socially. The isolation people have experienced over the last few years has had a significant impact on cognition, especially in older adults. Reengage in a way that feels safe.

Interact with family, have a phone call with a friend, visit the senior center or visit your faith organization.

Do something physical

Physical activity is key in both preventing dementia onset as well as slowing the process of it.

Take a walk, garden, cycle, go to the gym or anything else that gets you moving.

“We always need to be growing. Whether we’re cognitively intact or have some sort of cognitive issues, implementing these three things in daily activities really is protective for the brain,” Catic said.

By Homa Shalchi

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