Could Crosswords Boost Your Brain?

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For years, Sudoku has been hailed a way to help fend off dementia and a recent study has consolidated this idea. Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Exeter found that those who regularly do crosswords and number puzzles have healthier cognitive functions.

“We’ve found that the more regularly people engage with puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the sharper their performance is across a range of tasks assessing memory, attention and reasoning. The improvements are particularly clear in the speed and accuracy of their performance,” says Dr Anne Corbett, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research.

Over 17,000 healthy people, aged over 50, took part in the study and researchers concluded that those who regularly play these puzzles have the brain function of someone up to 10 years younger. However, Corbett is quick to state that doing “We can’t say that playing these puzzles necessarily reduces the risk of dementia in later life but this research supports previous findings that indicate regular use of word and number puzzles helps keep our brains working better for longer.”

Dr Doug Brown from the Alzheimer’s Society is equally as cautious: “We know that keeping an active mind can help to reduce decline in thinking skills. This new research does reveal a link between word puzzles, like crosswords, and memory and thinking skills, but we can’t say definitively that regular ‘puzzling’ improves these skills.”

Picking up a pencil and doing the daily crossword might help boost your brain more than downloading the latest app though. A study in 2017 by the University of Pennsylvania called into question the power of commercial brain training apps, specifically Lumosity, in improving cognitive functions. The study monitored 64 healthy adults, who used the app for 30 minutes everyday, for five days a week, across a 10 week period and concluded that the training didn’t have any affect on brain functions or decision making.

What are the other brain boosting options for those who hate crosswords and puzzles?

Get your Zzz’s: It will come as no surprise that getting enough sleep is crucial for making sure your brain is performing at A-game level. A study in 2018 by the University of Illinois found that those with diabetes who slept badly had poorer brain power than those who regularly slept better. Making sure you get at least seven hours of shut-eye each night will ensure you’re more alert and focused.

Dabble in nootropics: You might have heard of the word ‘nootropics’, but still be unclear as to what they actually are. Essentially, nootropics help to stimulate your brain and you’ve probably used them already with the caffeine in your morning coffee. Natural nootropics, such as those formulated by Neubria, use ingredients such as ginkgo biloba and turmeric extract to help sharpen your memory and improve your focus and concentration levels. Whether you want to improve your word recall or just need a helping hand to get you through a long meeting at four o’clock, it’s definitely worth exploring the brand.

Stock up on blueberries: According to research by the University of Exeter, drinking concentrated blueberry juice everyday can boost the blood flow to your brain and improve cognitive functions.

Why You Should Take Micro Breaks Every 30 Minutes

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We all know that sitting for too long isn’t good for you. If you haven’t perfected your desk set-up and are hunched over your screen or slouched down in your chair it is even worse for you. However, a new study by Liverpool John Moores University revealed that we should be getting up and moving every half an hour.

The researchers discovered that sitting down for prolonged amounts of time can slow the blood flow around our body and to our brains. The study of a small group of men and women was split into three sessions to determine the best method for keeping the blood flow to the brain on an even keel. The first test was four hours of sitting and working at a computer screen, the second included a two and half minute walk on a treadmill every 30 minutes, the third session was an eight minute walk on a treadmill every two hours.

While taking an eight minute break every two hours did help increase blood flow to your brain, it wasn’t able to sustain it as well as taking a shorter break every half an hour.

The study didn’t look into the impact of low blood flow to your brain or whether it impacted productivity, but it did put more weight behind the theory that spending too much of your day sitting down isn’t good for you.

Previous studies have linked sitting too long with excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other serious diseases. According to the NHS, many adults in the UK spend over seven hours sitting each day and as a result, it recommends we do at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. One study recently revealed that doing an hour of exercise each day could help ward off the effects of prolonged sitting.

If that feels you with dread, making small tweaks such as requesting a standing-desk at work, choose to stand rather than sit on the train et cetera. It goes without saying that swapping watching TV for playing tennis after work will also help improve your health. Whichever tweaks to choose to make, it’s definitely worth setting a reminder to get up more at work.

How To Improve Your Focus

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If you had to guess, how long do you think you can focus on one task without getting distracted? With emails and Facebook notifications popping up on your screen, not to mention the temptation of checking What’s App messages or news alerts on your phone, it’s much harder than you think to stay focused.

Most of us check our phone at least 28 times a day and spend well over 60 minutes on it. Don’t believe me? Download Moment, a phone app that tracks your daily phone usage and highlights just how much you use it. Aside from avoiding your phone though, how else can we stay focused and boost our productivity levels? Read More…

How to boost your brain power

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Q: I’m 50-something, and want to keep my brain sharp, stop my memory fading, and prevent Alzheimer’s if possible. Can anything help?

A: Although there are no guarantees, there is increasing evidence that simple lifestyle shifts can help cut the risk of a fading memory, brain slowdown and even dementia, say nutritionist and mental health expert Patrick Holford and co-author Jerome Burne in their latest book The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing (Piatkus, £14.99*). It is‘a brilliant guide to making the right choices about ageing well’, according to Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance.

Take a vitamin B supplement. Research at Oxford University showed that reducing high levels of homocysteine, a protein in the brain linked to cognitive decline, dementia and heart disease, with high-dose B vitamins helped prevent mild age-related memory loss. Try Viridian High Twelve B Complex, £14.70.
Also take vitamin D. Low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ are linked to cognitive decline in the elderly; deficiency is common. Try D Lux 1000 Spray by Better You, £7.15. Read More…