Puzzles May Fight Dementia


Are Sudoku, crossword puzzles and brain teaser games your guilty pleasure? Then it’s time to let go of the guilt, my friends, because science is on your side—doing puzzles may help fight off dementia. 

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York followed 488 older adults, aged 75 to 85 years, to see who would, or would not develop dementia.  Participants detailed how often they engaged in six specific activities: reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing board or card games, having group discussions, and playing music. Points were given for frequency of participation, such as seven points for daily participation, four points for engaging in the activities a few times per week, and one point for weekly participation.

While no one had dementia at the start of the study, after five years 101 of the participants were showing strong signs of cognitive decline. These folks averaged seven points per week, or roughly one leisure activity each day. Eleven participants engaged in only one per week, and 10 did no activities at all.

Researchers found that every additional activity a person engaged in delayed the onset of rapid memory loss by 0.18 years. For example, compared to someone who engaged in only four leisure activities per week, participants who did 11 or more activities per week delayed dementia by 1.29 years. These results held up even after factoring in education level.