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Play word games for better brain health

| Healthy You | Aging Well

An older man sits at a table in a well lit room working on a crossword puzzle in the newspaper

Your daily crossword could help you think better for longer.

Answer for 1 across: Brain;

Answer for 2 down: Nervous;

Answer for 3 across: System.

Filling out crossword puzzles or playing other word games not only passes the time, but it can also be good for your brain.

Your brain and nervous system work together to help you see, smell, taste, think, feel and move.  Your nervous system sends signals to your brain to control these important functions. It also takes messages from your brain to your muscles, organs and skin.

If there is a problem and the signals can’t be sent, you may experience neurologic symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, and difficulty with movement and speech. It could also show up as seizures or a neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

"Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your muscles to maintain health. In addition to staying socially engaged and physically active, making a habit of doing brain puzzles has been shown to help maintain cognitive function and memory. This helps people remain more independent into their golden years,” says Kathleen Parks, MD, PeaceHealth neurologist in Vancouver, Washington.

You can help maintain the signal connection with games that exercise the mind. According to a 2014 study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, frequently engaging in sudoku or similar puzzles showed positive association with grammatical reasoning, spatial working memory and episodic memory scores.

Regularly doing word games like crossword puzzles can improve how long you can keep your focus on a desired task. It also activates your working memory. These skills can promote better thinking or cognitive function over a period of time.

Playing Scrabble® with a friend also helps fulfill the human need for social interaction and social bonding.

According to a study in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, people who spent an hour a day on mentally challenging activities maintained their ability to effectively reason or think longer than people who only participated for 30 minutes daily or not at all. Additionally, engaging in these hobbies for one or more hours every day might protect against dementia in late life.

Complete our PeaceHealth “Wellness Crossword” for a fun brain health activity.