There’s some debate over the plasticity of the brain and whether it’s possible to train the brain to ward off age-related cognitive issues like dementia.
One research physician recently explained that cognitive decline is a result of the brain getting smaller as people age. There are several reasons the brain shrinks over time, and some may actually be treatable:
- Vascular problems such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes
- Sleep conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea
- Anxiety and depression
- Concussion and brain damage
Some of these conditions can be eliminated, and research has shown that, in some cases, treatments can not only stop brain shrinkage, but also get it growing again. There are scientists who believe that growing the brain can help reverse the symptoms of memory loss and other indicators of cognitive decline.
However, there is dispute within the field as to whether brain games or brain training actually help prevent cognitive decline. Some studies have concluded that lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating and regular exercise, can help. As for working on crossword puzzles to help ward off dementia, for now it’s probably safe to say that it can’t hurt.