Solve puzzles 'to stave off Alzheimer's'

Solve puzzles 'to stave off Alzheimer's'

Want to keep Alzheimer's disease at bay? Try to solve puzzles like crossword daily, says a study.

Researchers at the University of California have found that keeping the brain active and stimulated by doing puzzles on a regular basis could reduce build-up of harmful proteins in brain, thus staving off the most common form of dementia.

This is because these proteins or destructive fibres, known as beta-amyloid, clump together in plaques, killing off nerves and leading to symptoms of memory loss and confusion typical of Alzheimer's, the 'Daily Express' reported.

Susan Landau, who led the study, said: "Amyloid probably starts accumulating many years before symptoms appear. The time for intervention may be much sooner, which is why we're trying to identify whether lifestyle factors might be related to the earliest possible changes."

The researchers have based their findings on an analysis of 65 healthy, normal adults aged 60 and over who were asked to rate how frequently since the age of six they did mentally engaging activities such as reading books or newspapers, and writing letters or email.

Their memories and other brain functions were assessed and their brain scans were compared with those of 10 Alzheimer's patients and 11 healthy people in their 20s. A significant link was found between higher levels of cognitive activity over a lifetime and lower levels of beta-amyloid, according to 'Archives of Neurology' journal.

Dr William Jagust, one of the researchers, added: "These findings point to a new way of thinking about how cognitive engagement throughout life affects the brain.

"Rather than simply providing resistance to Alzheimer's, brain-stimulating activities may affect a primary pathological process in the disease. This suggests that cognitive therapies could have significant disease-modifying treatment benefits if applied early enough, before symptoms appear."

Experts have welcomed the findings.

Dr Anne Corbett, research manager at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This is an interesting initial finding. The research involved only a very small number of people and we do not know if they went on to develop dementia. However, we would encourage anyone who enjoys reading, writing and playing games to keep it up."

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