December 21st is National Crossword Puzzle Day.  It’s the day that commemorates the first appearance of this challenging word game, which occurred in an edition of the New York World newspaper in 1913. Crossword puzzles have been shown to keep your brain active by problem solving and helping to delay the effects of dementia.  And the more challenging puzzles can expand your vocabulary!

Over 100 years later, every person from young to old is still testing their skills at these puzzles.  They can be found in crumpled up newspapers, at the back of gossip magazines, or even online. Whether they realize it or not, learning new things and solving problems keeps the mind active.  It also helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. (

If crossword puzzles don’t interest you, find another hobby that helps to keep your brain active.  The key is to keep learning.  Mental exercises such as doing math in your head, learning a foreign language, or even doing an athletic exercise, such as yoga, have all been shown to increase your cognitive ability and prevent memory loss.  Training your brain with new exercises will help to keep it healthy.

“Neurobic” exercises, mental exercises that use your senses in unusual ways, help to keep your brain alive. These exercises might include brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, switch around your morning activities , or even looking at objects upside down.  These techniques arouse your brain and force it to interpret things differently, making the task interesting, engaging, challenging, and fun.

Untitled2Oh, and let’s not forget video games.  Yes, you may make fun of the amount of time your kids and grandkids spend on video games.  However, these games could be an excellent way to improve your memory by keeping your mind stimulated and active!  There is such a multitude of games out there that focus on just about every part of the brain and body.  Whether you like sports games, strategy games, or even “shooter” games, there’s something for everyone.

So, go ahead…sharpen your pencils and your minds and tackle a mind game such as a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Forget the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Try “A crossword puzzle a day keeps dementia away”!