A new large-scale study from the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London asked more than 17,000 healthy people over the age of 50 how frequently they played word puzzles such as crosswords. They found that the more people did word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks that assessed attention, reasoning, and memory. In fact, those who regularly dorked out with the New York Times crossword or a similar puzzle had speedier grammatical reasoning and more accurate short-term memory, with brain function equivalent to 10 years younger than their age.
While Alzheimer's researchers aren't quite ready to say crossword puzzles will prevent dementia, they are excited by the results that were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference today. While they await further study to see if crosswords can improve brain function, the Alzheimer's Society suggests staving off dementia by staying physically active, not smoking, and sticking to a healthy diet.