• George Mears (guest blogger with

Play These Games to Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer's

Scientists continue to look for the cause and cure of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. While the answers continue to evade them, there is some promising research showing that people can influence their risk factors for developing the disease if they stay physically active, reduce the amount of sugar in their diet, and get plenty of social and mental stimulation, especially by playing games. Playing games does not require the drastic lifestyle changes that some of the other recommendations do, so start today by playing one of the four games we suggest below.

1. Mentally-Stimulating Video Games

Video games – and the teens who play them – get a lot of negative press, but there are some that are mentally stimulating. In fact, researchers have found that some video games increase seniors’ attention spans. In one study, seniors who played a game called NeuroRacer had scores comparable to those of 20-year-old players who had not trained in playing the game. The positive effects of brain training via the game stayed with the seniors for six months after playing, too. The study also found that the seniors who played the mentally-stimulating video game had improved working memory and sustained concentration.

Recently, researchers also found that playing three-dimensional video games also may be a viable treatment in protecting against age-related memory loss or dementia. One study found that playing video games for a half an hour every day improved players’ memory. Scientists believe the positive effect is due to the games stimulating the hippocampus, or the part of the brain that is key to memory. The study specifically looked at the effects of playing Super Mario 3D, but other 3D games are believed to have the same benefits for people hoping to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s.

2. Card Games

Card games have several significant benefits for people who want to stimulate the brain to help ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Depending on the type of card game you choose to play, you can sharpen your math skills by playing. You may need to use a strategy, weigh potential plays, and do quick mental math or statistical analysis to plan a move. Card players also have to monitor which cards have been played and how their opponents play certain hands.

The brain-boosting benefits of playing cards increase when you play with others versus playing alone. In playing cards with a group, you use recall to have conversations and you use various language centers of the brain to communicate. You also may learn a new game from your friends, which provides a great mental workout.

3. Memory Games

Any game that involves using your memory provides mental stimulation and can help protect against Alzheimer’s. The great thing about memory games is that you can make one up and get creative while doing so; using the creative portions of your brain also provides important mental stimulation. For example, you may go through boxes of old photographs with a friend or family member and make a game of matching photos from various trips or events. You also could play twenty questions about the photographs to jog your memory and begin telling stories about the situation depicted in the photo.

Of course, you can play Memory or a version of a memory game at home, too. By arranging cards face-down and trying to match them, you are giving your brain a great workout that will make it stronger and help minimize the brain health deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

4. Sports

Yes, sports are great for your physical health, but it turns out they’re also good for your mental health. Playing sports can improve your concentration, help you sleep better, improve your mood, and more, all factors that lead to healthier brains. There are a lots of recreational sports leagues these days where adults of any skill level are getting together via sites like to play basketball, flag football, and even dodgeball. Older adults might feel safer going with a water sport, like pool volleyball, because of the reduced risk of having a harmful fall.

5. Word Puzzles

Puzzles involving words, such as crossword puzzles and word searches, are ideal games for exercising the brain. You can save newspapers and start doing a crossword a day, or at least spend a few minutes each day working on a long one. There also are several websites that offer crossword puzzle games both online and in printable form. If you have difficulty seeing, look for large print word puzzles.

Word searches also are available online for seniors. In many cases, websites offer puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty, so you can match the senior’s ability level to the puzzle and ward off frustration.

Playing games for about 20 minutes a day is a smart way to get the mental stimulation that helps reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. Choose a game that is mentally stimulating and get started on the path to better brain health.

Image via Pixabay by superanton