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Mental Exercise May Help Keep Seniors Sharp

Even solving puzzles might stave off decline and memory loss, study hints

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Mental exercise can help prevent thinking and memory decline in seniors, but evidence for the benefits of supplements and exercise is weak, according to a new study.

The findings were published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

The researchers reviewed 32 studies, including three that examined the effects of mental exercise involving computerized training programs or intensive one-on-one personal training in memory, reasoning or processing speed.

One of the studies found significant improvements in participants' memory over five years of follow-up. Another found an improvement in auditory memory and attention, according to a journal news release.

Supplements such as gingko, vitamins, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and other substances, however, appeared to provide no benefit. The same was true for physical exercise. Estrogen was associated with an increase in mental decline and dementia.

"This review provides some evidence to help clinicians and their patients address what strategies might prevent cognitive decline," wrote Dr. Raza Naqvi, of the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Toronto, and co-authors. "Future studies should address the impact of cognitive training on the prevention of cognitive decline, and we encourage researchers to consider easily accessible tools such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku that have not been rigorously studied."

Mild cognitive impairment affects 10 percent to 25 percent of people over age 70, according to the news release.

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