Does a Sudoku a day really keep the doctor away?
According to reports, tackling a puzzle such as a crossword often can actually help keep your brain younger.
The study claims a puzzle a day can boost your memory and stave off dementia in later life, reports Perspecs.
However, health experts say the evidence about the benefits of brain training so far is “not strong”.
Crosswords and Sudoku may keep your brain a decade younger in middle age, the Daily Mail reports. They say that doing a puzzle once a day can have a “dramatic effect” on memory, and help ward off dementia in later life.
The Mail reports on joint studies by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, involving 19,000 participants, aged between 50 and 93.
The participants completed an online survey, reporting how frequently they engaged in puzzles, as well as undertaking a series of tests to measure changes in brain function.
It found that those who did daily word puzzles – such as crosswords – performed as well as people 10 years younger. Those who did daily number puzzles – such as Sudoku – performed as well as people eight years younger.
Dr Anne Corbett, senior author of the two linked studies, said: “Most of the people involved in the research did crosswords or Sudoku, which exercise the memory and improve problem-solving abilities and focus.
“The working theory behind this is that the brain is a muscle just like any other in the body, and continuing to use it will improve its capacity and adaptability.
“The brain is made up of lots of connections, which we need to regularly use in activities like puzzles so we don’t lose them.”
However, NHS Behind the Headlines warns that the research does not definitely show that doing puzzles makes the brain sharper, or that it will stave off dementia in later life.
While the Mail was “enthusiastic” about the research, using phrases around years of “delay [in] brain ageing”, these figures did not appear in the published papers.
The research also only provides a “snapshot of one point in time” – and therefore it cannot prove whether puzzles lead to better cognitive function later on.
They explain: “We do not have much evidence about which activities work to keep the brain functioning as we age. Crosswords, Sudoku puzzles and “brain training” websites have all been investigated, but the evidence so far is not strong.
“We don’t know if someone enjoyed doing puzzles because they had high levels of cognitive functioning, or if their cognitive functioning got better after they started doing puzzles.”
The NHS adds that the study does not prove whether puzzles help to protect memory or brain power.
While the evidence around the power of crosswords and Sudoku puzzles is not yet clear, there are other ways to prevent dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by 2025. This will rise to two million by 2051.
It is estimated that 225,000 people will develop dementia this year – that’s one every three minutes.
There is currently no cure or medication to help with the symptoms of dementia. The NHS explains that there is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, but there is good evidence that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of it when you are older.
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Perspecs is a free app that curates the top news stories from a variety of established regional, national and international news sources. Unlike traditional aggregators and news curation services, Perspecs goes a step further and offers readers 3 polarised opinions of the same story.
How these opinions are categorised can vary. For political stories this could be in the form of ‘left’, ‘background’, ‘right’. For review items the categories could be ‘negative’, ‘neutral’, ‘positive’.
Readers often stick to their regular sources of news therefore often only ever seeing one side of a story. Perspecs will give you the opportunity to see things from a different perspective and allow you to form your own informed opinion.
Perspecs will publish 1 edition per day and each edition will be packed with a variety of interesting and sometimes controversial topics. Most importantly, there will be 3 sides to every story.
“What is good for your heart is also good for your brain,” they say. This means you can reduce your risk by eating a healthy, balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping alcohol to a minimum, and stopping smoking.
The Alzheimer’s Association also notes that maintaining social connections could lower the risk of cognitive decline.
While experts are not certain about the reason for this link, they suggest it may be due to “direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain”.
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