Healthy Living: 8 Steps to Take Today
Healthy living starts right now. Experts tell you how.
Healthy Living Step No. 8: Challenge your mind.
Participating in mentally stimulating activities, especially activities that
involve other people, may be good for the brain.
There's no downside to including brain-challenging activities as part of
your healthy living, unless "you spent $400 on some computer program that
makes all sorts of wild claims about brain health," says David Knopman, MD,
a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Knopman explains that brain fitness is influenced by many factors, including
education and opportunities for mentally stimulating activities starting in
childhood, and also by the presence or absence of depression, diabetes,
smoking, high blood pressure, and other
Observational studies have shown that people who engage in mentally
stimulating activities may be less likely to develop dementia. But Knopman notes
that such studies don't prove cause and effect, so it's not clear if mentally
stimulating activities protect against dementia or whether people with
healthier brains are drawn to those activities in the first place.
That said, Knopman says, "I think that socially engaging activities are
particularly important, and that's why I'm somewhat skeptical about the various
commercial entities that seek to sell computer games to stimulate the brain.
... If that's done to the exclusion of socially engaging activity, it's