A new study, from Rush University and Illinois Institute of Technology, found some evidence to support their idea that simple tasks such as writing, reading, and doing puzzles, may keep the brain healthy as you age.  This new study focuses on physical brain health; whereas previous studies were more focused on how these activities keep the brain sharp.

Arfanakis, an associate professor at Rush University Medical Center said, “Reading the newspaper, writing letters, visiting a library, attending a play or playing games such as chess or checkers, are all simple activities that can contribute to a healthier brain.”

In the study, they used a specific MRI scan, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which measures how well the water molecules travel throughout the brain.  The researchers studied 152 people who were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, which is a study exploring Alzheimer’s risk factors.  The average age was 81 and no one had a clinical diagnosis of dementia or any other cognitive problems.

The researchers had the patients evaluate the frequency of certain activities within the past year, varying from daily to never.  They also continually took MRI brain scans, evaluating them for 12 months.  The results show a prominent link between mental activity and brain health.

“Keeping the brain occupied late in life has positive outcomes,” said Arfanakis.  Those who think that doing puzzles and reading newspapers keep their brains sharp, are also keeping their brain healthy and putting themselves at a lower risk for developing a cognitive impairment.

As of now, Arfanakis is sure they found that mental activity helps to keep the brain healthy, but is still unsure if it keeps anyone from developing Alzheimer’s.  They will continue to study the patients over time to see if they develop any cognitive impairment in the future.

For more about keeping the brain healthy! Read on!