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Can Games, Puzzles Keep Aging Minds Sharp?
Date:7/14/2014

he noted.

Schultz agreed. "Our findings suggest that cognitively stimulating activities -- games, in particular -- may be beneficial," she said. "Whether that's due to the cognitive stimulation or the social aspect, or both, is a good question."

The findings are based on 329 older adults who were free of dementia, but at increased risk of Alzheimer's. Three quarters of the study volunteers had a strong family history of Alzheimer's disease. Forty percent had a gene that's linked to the disease.

On average, the researchers found, study participants who said they played games at least every other day performed better on standard tests of memory and other mental abilities, compared to those who played games less often.

Schultz said future research should try to weed out whether certain games seem more promising than others -- and then put them to test. That means designing trials where older adults would actually be randomly assigned to take up mentally stimulating activities or not.

Hartley agreed that studies like those would be useful. But for now, he said, people can think of mental exercise as one part of a healthy lifestyle that might affect their dementia risk later.

He suggested people eat a healthy diet, get physical as well as mental exercise, and talk to their doctors about managing cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

"It's about how you manage your whole life," Hartley said.

Schultz was scheduled to present the findings Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Because the findings are being presented at a meeting, rather than published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be viewed as preliminary.

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more on cutting dementia risk.

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