How much and what type of mental activity do you need to do to reduce your risk of dementia? The research evidence to date suggests that any activity that involves thinking and learning may be beneficial for brain health and protecting against dementia. The evidence also suggests that greater benefit comes from more complex and challenging mental activities. The more brain activities you do, the more frequently you do them, and the more complex the activity, the lower your risk of dementia is likely to be.
Choose a variety of activities that you enjoy
Choose activities that challenge your brain and give you enjoyment as well. If you try to do something that you find very difficult or boring, you may become frustrated or stressed, and this is not healthy for your brain.
With many mentally stimulating activities, you can start at an easier level and move to more challenging levels as you get better with practice. This also helps you include new learning in your routine, which is important for building your brain reserve.
We are likely to be involved in different types of mentally stimulating activities at different stages of our life. No matter what your age, and whether you are studying, working or retired, exercising your brain can help reduce your risk of developing dementia.
Formal education, working or running a family can keep your brain very active. What you do in your leisure time can also help. If you are retired, you should think about new ways to give your brain a regular workout. There are many, many activities that involve mental stimulation and challenge. You could try:
- A hobby such as painting, carpentry, metal work, sewing, craft or collecting
- A short course such as woodwork, gardening, computers, cooking, mechanics or yoga
- Reading different styles of books, newspapers or magazines
- Writing poetry, essays or keeping a diary
- Doing jigsaw, crossword, number or word puzzles
- Playing board games or cards
- Learning to dance, play an instrument or speak a new language
- Going to the theatre, movies, museum, gallery or a concert
- Cooking a new recipe or building a model
- Joining a club or community group or volunteering
- Researching something you’re interested in on the internet or at your local library
Even having a chat with a friend about current affairs involves brain exercise. Choose activities that you enjoy and try to include lots of variety to exercise different parts of your brain.
Challenge yourself often and keep learning throughout life to keep your brain sharp and reduce your risk of dementia.
Do brain training games and programs reduce dementia risk?
A number of brain training programs are now available. There is evidence for some of these programs that they can improve the cognitive functions that the program is designed to train. There is evidence that some programs might also slightly improve general brain function. But we have no evidence yet that any brain training game or program can reduce the risk of dementia.
The Sharp Brains website has independent information about the many brain training products available.
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