October 25, 2023

Simple steps for good brain health

Explore some of the recent science related to brain health

Just like planting a tree, the best day to start is the day you can. We are never to old to start looking after our health and in particular our brain health. One of the chronic diseases seen in older adults is Alzheimer's Disease. At this stage its cause remains unknown, but an early sign of Alzheimer's can be a decrease in cognitive function particularly in things like our skills involving learning and problem solving. 

It has been highlighted in some studies that cognitive training can improve cognitive functioning, indicating that even in older adults, the brain retains its ability and capacity to adapt and remodel itself. One study used the interventions of card games to combine training with social interactions and showed that this method significantly improved the participants’ cognitive function. Other studies have looked at single memory training techniques, e.g. memory strategy, where the outcomes have shown that improvement rarely transfers to other cognitive functions or that, following the training participants still had difficulty utilising memory strategies. 

A scientific report published in the international journal Nature in 2021 discussed a study that was conducted with the aim of assessing the effects of combined cognitive training on the prospective memory ability of older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Prospective memory refers to the remembering of planned activities or recalling a planned intention at some future point in time like replacing the cap on the toothpaste or stopping to pick up groceries on the way home. 

In this study, the participants were divided into multiple groups that received a range of interventions from just having some community education without any training to things like executive function training and memory strategy training and a group that received a combination. Their results showed that combined cognitive training similar to the combination of cards and socialisation, could significantly improve the cognitive function of older adults with mild cognitive impairment. While combined cognitive training could also improve the prospective memory, it did not do so to the same extent as the memory strategy training. 

What can we do to improve our cognitive function? 

Here are some simple exercises and activities that may help boost and maintain brain function:

1. Play board games

2. Play memory card games

3. Meditate

4. Play puzzles e.g. crosswords, sudoku, find-a-word

5. Complete a jigsaw

6. Participate in social activities

7. Learn a new skill e.g. photography, quilting

So if you want to have the best chance of keeping your wits sharp. You could try the daily crossword or if you make it to the back of the magazine, there are a few Crossword and Sudoku puzzles for you to try.