Crossword fans have brains ten years younger than their real age
People who complete word puzzles have brain function ten years younger than their actual age.
Do you have a crossword fanatic in your family? If so, they are likely to outdo you in all sorts of tests. Experts from the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London have looked at data from more than 17,000 people aged 50 and over, and found that regular puzzlers have better brain function in later life.
Brand new findings from a large-scale trial, presented today at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, showed that people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to ten years younger than their age on attention, grammatical reasoning speed and short term memory accuracy tests.
Dr Keith Wesnes, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Exeter Medical School, says the results are exciting:
"We found direct relationships between the frequency of word puzzle use and the speed and accuracy of performance on nine cognitive tasks assessing a range of aspects of function including attention, reasoning and memory.
Performance was consistently better in people who reported engaging in puzzles, and generally improved incrementally with the frequency of puzzle use. For example, on test measures of grammatical reasoning speed and short-term memory accuracy, performing word puzzles was associated with an age-related reduction of around 10 years."
Clive Ballard, a professor of age-related diseases at the university, says that many of the factors involved in dementia are preventable:
"It is essential that we find out what lifestyle factors really make a difference to helping people maintain healthy brains to stop the soaring rise of the disease. We can't yet say that crosswords give you a sharper brain - the next step is to assess whether encouraging people to start playing word games regularly could actually improve their brain function."
Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, advises that keeping an active mind can help to reduce decline in thinking skills:
"This new research does reveal a link between word puzzles, like crosswords, and memory and thinking skills, but we can't say definitively that regular 'puzzling' improves these skills.
To be able to say for sure, the crucial next step is to test if there are benefits in people who take up word puzzles. In the meantime our top tips to reduce the risk of developing dementia are keeping physically active, avoiding smoking and eating a healthy balanced diet."