New U.K. research has found that the more often people do word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function as they age.
The large-scale study, carried out by experts at the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London, looked at data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over which was submitted in an online trial.
The participants were asked how frequently they played word puzzles such as crosswords, and also completed online cognitive tests to assess brain function.
The results showed that the more regularly participants did word puzzles, the better the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks assessing a range of aspects of function including attention, reasoning and memory.
In fact, the researchers found that those who regularly enjoyed word puzzles have brain function equivalent to ten years younger than their age, on tests of grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy.
Keith Wesnes, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Exeter Medical School, described the results as a "very exciting association," adding that the research now needs to be followed up by a clinical trial to confirm the findings.
We know that many of the factors involved in dementia are preventable. It is essential that we find out what lifestyle factors really make a difference to helping people maintain healthy brains to stop the soaring rise of the disease.Clive Ballard, Prof. of Age-Related Diseases
Clive Ballard, Professor of Age-Related Diseases at the University of Exeter Medical School, also added that, "We know that many of the factors involved in dementia are preventable. It is essential that we find out what lifestyle factors really make a difference to helping people maintain healthy brains to stop the soaring rise of the disease. We can't yet say that crosswords give you a sharper brain — the next step is to assess whether encouraging people to start playing word games regularly could actually improve their brain function."
In the meantime, Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research of Alzheimer's Society, advises that, "Our top tips to reduce the risk of developing dementia are keeping physically active, avoiding smoking and eating a healthy balanced diet."
The research was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017 on Monday, July 17.