“There are many ways to hone mental sharpness to keep your brain healthy, no matter what age you are. This includes doing certain brain exercises to help boost your memory, concentration, and focus to reduce your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Dr Adeline Ng, Senior Consultant from the Department of Neurology at National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), a member of the SingHealth group.

1. Read


Reading books and magazines is one way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older. Although research hasn’t proven conclusively that reading prevents brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies show that seniors who read and solve math problems every day are better at maintaining their cognitive functioning.

In fact, the earlier you start, the better. A 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center found that people who’ve engaged in mentally stimulating activities all their lives were less likely to develop the plaques, lesions, and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people with dementia.

2. Do puzzles


Like any muscle, you’ll need to use your brain often or risk losing it. There are many ways to keep your brain in shape, such as doing crossword puzzles or Sudoku, reading, playing cards or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Consider it like cross-training for your brain, by incorporating different activities to increase the effectiveness. Don’t watch too much television, as it is a passive activity and does little to stimulate the brain.

3. Play chess


It may come as no surprise that top chess players have strong memory skills. After all, the game involves memorising combinations of moves and their potential outcomes.

In fact, researchers have found that the complex mental flexibility chess demands can help protect older people from dementia. They also found evidence that the game, which challenges memory, calculation, visual-spatial skills, and critical thinking abilities, helps reduce cognitive decline and may even postpone the effects of dementia.

4. Play Mahjong


Mahjong is a great game for keeping the mind sharp. It requires players to stay alert throughout the duration of the game, trying to interpret clues from other players while constructing a winning hand. Furthermore, as mahjong requires four players, it is also a social activity, with regular playing being linked to reduced depression rates.

5. Play card games


Like chess, mahjong and puzzles, card games and board games are good mental stimuli and help promote brain health. The best card games are those that demand memory, strategy and attentiveness. Card games to consider playing are: Bridge (this game also involves at least four people so has a valuable social component), Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Poker, Black Jack and Solitaire.

Doing these activities are great, but don’t forget the basics…

6. Have a healthy diet

A healthy diet consists of eating low-fat, high-fibre foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting the intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat. But some fat are important, particularly unsaturated fat found in oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), nuts, seeds and avocados.

7. Exercise regularly

Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily, five times a week, is the recommended minimum. The activity has to be intense enough to raise your heart rate and get you a bit out of breath. You could walk, cycle, swim or join an exercise or dance group. Regular exercise makes your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, helping to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also great for mental well-being.

8. Get sufficient sleep

It is important that you try to get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Sleep apnea is often a reason for interrupted sleep and is harmful to the brain and heart, so be sure to consult a doctor if you or a family member suspects that you could be suffering from it.

Ref: K21

Check out other articles on dementia:

Dementia: What You Need to Know

Understanding Dementia Behaviours

Dementia and Depression: Is There a Link?

Dementia Caregiver Tips: Do's and Don'ts

Young Onset Dementia (YOD): Dementia That Affects the Young

Brain Diseases: Early Signs to Look Out For

4 Mind-Body Exercises for Brain Health