According to the World Health Organization, nearly 36 million people suffer from dementia worldwide. Since there is currently no cure for dementia, or its leading cause Alzheimer’s disease, many healthcare professionals have suggested that individuals practice preventative lifestyle strategies. While a good, balanced diet and physical activity are well-known preventative factors, another important one is keeping a sharp mind.

The National Institute on Aging reports that frequently engaging in mentally stimulating activities may actually help decrease Alzheimer’s risk by 47%.

This statistic was reported in a study that tracked the mental stimulation rates of 700 individuals. Another study, reported about in Reuters, noted that increased mental stimulation over a lifetime can significantly decrease a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Games, in particular, are a great way to keep mentally sharp. Nowadays, there are many options for finding and playing new games. These may include the old favorites like Scrabble, Suduko, or solitaire (or their computer versions), or updated mind puzzles like Qwirkle.

There are also many online programs that can actually help you train your memory and track your progress.

Lumosity, in particular, allows you to focus on certain areas of brain development. You can customize which games you want to play and put together a virtual training program. There are both free and paid versions of Lumosity.

While games are an important way of staying mentally stimulated, the studies also note that the following activities can help:

  • Volunteering
  • Reading books and magazines
  • Going to lectures or events
  • Listening to the radio
  • Memorizing poems or songs
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Learning a new language

Anything that requires new skills or allows you interact with others is a great way to stimulate your brain. The best activities are those that combine new learning with communication or interaction with others. Online courses, in particular, may be a great way to learn some new things while meeting new people. Coursera is a free option to take classes online with top professors from all over the world. Course options range from an overview of the Nordic diet to quantum physics to public speaking to jazz. Other popular options for mentally stimulating material include Khan Academy or TED videos.

How do you keep your mind sharp? Do you play games or take part in other activities?

Image by martinak15 via Flickr


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