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Could puzzles and games fight off dementia?

Could puzzles and games fight off dementia?
18th July 2014

Individuals who complete crosswords and play card games could find their risk of developing dementia lowered. 

Research published at the ­Alzheimer’s Association international conference (AAIC) in Copenhagen earlier this week (July 14th) suggests that people who participate in this kind of brain-related activity have a larger brain volume and fare better on cognitive tests. 

Scientists studied 329 individuals who were deemed to have a higher-than-normal risk of developing the degenerative condition. The lion's share (74 per cent) had a relative who had experienced the disease, while 40 per cent tested positive for the APOe4 gene, which is seen as a hallmark. 

The participants undertook a series of brain-related activities and were measured using the Cognitive Activity Scale (CAS). They also had MRI brain imaging and completed many neurocognitive tests. 

They were asked how often they read books and went to museums, while also how frequently they played card games, completed crosswords or other similar puzzles. 

It transpired those who said they had played these games more often had a greater brain volume and also had better test scores when it came to memory and function. 

Lead researcher Stephanie Schultz from the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute and the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center said: "Our findings suggest that, for some individuals, engagement in cognitively-stimulating activities, especially those involving games such as puzzles and cards, might be a useful approach for preserving brain structures and cognitive functions that are vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease."

Ms Schultz called for more detailed studies to be undertaken in a bid to consolidate their understanding of how an "active, healthy lifestyle" could stave off the development of the degenerative condition. 

Research also presented at the AAIC from the University of California, San Francisco suggested that older people who struggle sleeping were more susceptible to developing this form of cognitive decline. 

Individuals who were diagnosed with non-specific sleep disturbance, apnoea or insomnia had a 30 per cent heightened chance of the disease compared to those without. 

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes.