On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Can Brain Puzzles Boost Your Memory?

Many scientists predict that very slow damage to the brain often begins several years before a person develops symptoms of memory loss. So, it’s important to keep your brain active as early as possible. Start by adding brain-stimulating activities into your health routine, and you could possibly help slow dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and improve your overall cognitive function.

We sat down with Dr. Lane Tinsley, a neurologist at the INTEGRIS Neuroscience Institute in Oklahoma City, to discuss.

“There have been multiple studies looking at various methods for preventing memory loss and improving cognitive abilities,” Dr. Tinsley says. “These studies traditionally compared people who engaged in frequent ‘brain games’ versus those who had minimal activity, and they showed that engaging in games possibly correlated with higher cognitive testing scores and better memory overall.”

Fun games that keep your brain sharp

Memory loss is often related to our genetics, which we can’t control. However, there are some things you can do to keep your brain sharp. It’s important to choose an activity you enjoy.

“I don't think you can go wrong with your favorite type of puzzle or game,” Dr. Tinsley says, “such as crossword puzzles, word searches, Sudoku, cards, board games, checkers or chess. Traditional jigsaw puzzles are great, too. You can work on them for weeks at a time and it’s very rewarding when you finish.”

The point is to continuously stimulate the brain. You might even want to rotate through different activities, since you’ll stimulate different areas of the brain with each one.

Other activities that are good for your brain:

·         Attend a class

·         Read

·         Play games with children

·         Exercise

·         Listen to music

·         Garden

·         Cook

·         Any activity that requires detailed work and hand-eye coordination

How often should you exercise your brain?

“You should try to engage your brain at least one hour a day by doing the various activities mentioned above,” Dr. Tinsley says. “Certainly, more than one hour would be great, but you also must set a reasonable goal that you can achieve." 

Games for tech-savvy seniors

Apps are a great way to keep your brain working. These days most people have some version of a smart phone. “Searching ‘brain games’ in the app store will give you many options including crossword puzzles, Sudoku, brain teasers, pattern drawing, etc.,” explains Dr. Tinsley. “Some of my favorites are ones that allow you to compete with others in real-time, such as ‘Words with Friends,’ which is a variation of Scrabble.”

Human interaction also stimulates the brain

Engaging in daily conversation also helps not only your brain but your overall well-being. “Based on my experience with my own practice, I whole-heartedly believe human interaction is vitally important to overall mental health,” says Dr. Tinsley. “It’s important to engage in conversation daily, even if it’s brief. Try to learn something new from your conversations every day.”

Now is the time to get started!

Take some time today to find something you enjoy and get started — what do you have to lose? It’s never too early (or too late) to get the wheels in your head turning.

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