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Remember, Puzzling Is a Good Thing!

by Melrose Gardens

While aging is a natural process, we can all take an active role in keeping our memory sharp. There are several ways to at least slow the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia some of us, or our loved ones, will encounter as we grow older. Diet, exercise and some prescription medications are beneficial, but if you are looking for a more entertaining way to decrease memory impairment, try a puzzle! 

Studies have demonstrated that puzzles can strengthen memory. The skills it takes to remember the different shapes and colors in a jigsaw puzzle are particularly useful for strengthening short-term memory skills. Also, solving puzzles assists your brain’s production of dopamine. This neurotransmitter not only helps us feel happier, it can positively impact our memory, motivation and concentration. 

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Doing a puzzle reinforces connections between brain cells. This, in turn, improves cognitive speed. That is why puzzles are such an effective way to improve short-term memory. Jigsaw puzzles improve your visual-spatial reasoning, and are a fun way to socialize with friends and family! Why not take advantage of the beautiful Los Angeles weather by heading outdoors to a beach or park with a puzzle? You could invite a friend, (or as many as you want), family, or loved one to join you in the fun and sun while you puzzle solve!

Solving puzzles is a whole brain activity! What does that mean? The two hemispheres of your brain are responsible for controlling different functions. The left side of your brain controls logic and analytic thinking, while the right-side controls creativity and emotional thought content. Thus, you are giving your entire brain a workout when you are working on puzzles, a win-win result for both hemispheres. You go brain!

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 Working on puzzles reinforces the connections between our brain cells while helping to form new ones. That is another reason they are helpful in improving short-term memory. We use memory in the process of completing a jigsaw puzzle by remembering shapes, sizes, and pieces and visualize where they fit. Studies have shown that the growth of new brain cells, along with the connections that are formed, help reduce the amount of brain damage in Alzheimer's patients and slow the onset of dementia. You “GROW” brain! 

 Of course, jigsaw puzzles aren't the only puzzles that will help slow the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's. One study touted the benefits of doing crossword puzzles to possibly slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's. The Bronx 20-year longitudinal Aging Study determined that self-reported crossword puzzle use was associated with a 2.54 year delay in dementia onset. This would seem to indicate that mentally stimulating activities may help delay the onset of symptoms, but on their own they cannot prevent dementia. However, in contrast to the use of unproven dietary supplements,  there are no health risks associated with puzzle use. Therefore, puzzles may be considered as part of a more comprehensive dementia prevention program that also incorporates a diet and exercise regimen. Because whether we're taking care of our brains, or our bodies, there are several components to maintaining good health. Remember that diet, exercise, and engaging your brain may be helpful on their own merits. But the ultimate cognitive benefits of each are obtained when combined together. 

That's why here at Melrose Gardens, we utilize all modalities at our disposal to help delay memory loss and impede the progression of Alzheimer's and Dementia. Whether it’s enjoying a crossword puzzle in one of our beautiful resident rooms, or socializing with friends here at Melrose Gardens around a Jigsaw puzzle in our recreation area, we provide a caring environment for mind and body alike. If you’re considering an assisted living facility for yourself or a loved one in the Los Angeles area, we welcome any questions here at Melrose Gardens. Contact us here and we will be happy to arrange a visit so you can experience what Melrose Gardens has to offer.


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