AARP Eye Center
Can crosswords prevent dementia? Does mental sharpness inevitably decline as you age? Recent research is challenging long-held assumptions about the older brain and pointing to ways to support brain health. Check out these three myths — and myth-busting facts.
Myth 1: Doing brain games, like crossword puzzles, will slow mental decline.
Fact: Games and puzzles are wildly popular, but evidence that they reduce the risk of dementia is “weak to non-existent,” says a report by AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health. That doesn’t mean games are a waste of time, though. They may sharpen some skills — especially if you challenge yourself with new types of games or other stimulating projects. Plus, they can be a fun diversion!
Myth 2: The brain is hardwired to decline with age.
Fact: The brain’s plasticity — its ability to change and adapt — continues throughout life. While certain skills may decline, others may improve. Nerve cells in the brain’s hippocampus, important for learning and memory, may keep growing into a person’s late 80s, in fact.
Myth 3: Diet and exercise are good for the heart but don’t do much for the brain.
Fact: Habits that are good for the heart are good for the brain, too, research shows. For example, eating a Mediterranean diet — which is heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and olive oil and light on red meat — may protect against cognitive decline, as well as heart disease and diabetes. That’s a win, win, win.
For more brain-health myth busting, read this article on Staying Sharp.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any expert, professional or specialty advice or recommendations. Readers are urged to consult with their medical providers for all questions.