Health & Fitness

These simple activities can slow your brain’s decline

Forget the expensive stuff. Simple activities, such as playing games, making crafts, socializing and reading books held off mental decline in older adults, according to a Mayo Clinic study.
Forget the expensive stuff. Simple activities, such as playing games, making crafts, socializing and reading books held off mental decline in older adults, according to a Mayo Clinic study. AP

Like to play bridge? Enjoy a good game of chess or spending a couple of hours on a craft project? Looking forward to reading your favorite author?

Now there’s encouraging news for you: A new study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic’s Scottsdale, Arizona, campus shows that such simple activities can hold off mental decline well into your 70s and beyond.

The study, published in the Jan. 30 edition of JAMA Neurology, showed that engaging in mentally stimulating activities seems to “protect against new-onset mild cognitive impairment, which is the intermediate stage between normal cognitive aging and dementia.”

“Our team found that persons who performed these activities at least one to two times per week had less cognitive decline than those who engaged in the same activities only two to three times per month or less,” Yonas Geda, M.D., psychiatrist and behavioral neurologist at the Mayo Clinic and senior author of the study, said in a statement.

The study of 2,000 people between 70 and 93 looked at five types of activities that are thought to help keep the mind sharp: computer use; making crafts; playing games including chess or bridge; going to movies or other types of socializing; and reading books.

Biggest benefits were seen most in computer users and in people who don’t have a gene variation linked with Alzheimer’s disease. Even in older adults with that gene, pre-dementia mental decline was less common among those who engaged in crafting, playing games and mind-stimulating activities.

A word of warning, though: For now forget the expensive computer-based games because those weren’t studied. And the researchers say study participants seemed to benefit from activities that are easily accessible anyway.

“They don’t have to spend their life savings” on fancy gadgets, Geda said.

The Mayo Clinic study appears to confirm what other research has shown. Staying engaged mentally and socially is good for your brain.

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