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Mind Puzzles May Prevent Mental Decline of Aging

They can sometimes come in handy when waiting at the doctors office, but crossword puzzles and other games may also promote mental health. KSMU's Benjamin Fry reports.

Those who are in their golden years may indulge in the simpler things in life, like sitting down to a board game or taking up a hobby.

But it turns out that avoiding boredom may also delay the consequences of aging.

Ongoing research may suggest that playing games that stimulate the brain could stave off the neurological effects of aging, including Alzheimer's Disease.

Jayne White is a Child Development Professor at Drury University.

She says its best to do this before brain activity starts to decline.

"It's so important that before we begin to develop dementia, before our brains start atrophying, that we are building up a reserve by learning, learning, learning.."

Cognitive development stems from the creation of new brain synapses.

This development is most active during early childhood years when babies are being stimulated to learn new things every minute.

White says researchers hope this may also apply to us as we age.

"Could this not be transferred to us as we get older and let's stimulate the older people's brains."

White says estimates suggest that genetics are responsible for about one third or our memory and brain health.

Lifestyle choices including nutrition, diet, and brain activities dictate the other two-thirds.

Besides being stimulated, staying stress-free is also key to a healthy mind.

Chronic-stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone Cortisol, which White says can be detrimental both physically and mentally.

"The Cortisol will cause some stress related changes in the body and then these can help cause us to not remember things."

Some studies suggest that light exercise such as walking or swimming may also sustain a health mind.

For KSMU news, I'm Benjamin Fry.