Want to Protect Your Mental Health? Play More Computer Games

By: Bel Marra Health | Anti-Aging | Monday, July 08, 2013 - 12:49 PM

154057898Traditionally, it was believed that memory decline wasn’t something people had to worry about until the age of 60. However, recent studies suggest that it could actually begin as early as 45 years old. The Harvard Medical School has been doing extensive research in the area of memory and mental health for many years, boasting many studies that recommend taking the good ol’ fashioned approaches when it comes to mental health in seniors, such as exercise, social activities, etc. But recently, UCLA researchers began exploring some more “new-age” and technological strategies for protecting our memories and mental health as we age, and have found a strong link between the use of computer games and better brain fitness and memory.

Computers and Your Mental Health

Close to 40 percent of older adults experience age-related memory problems. However, it was not until recently that research began exploring the effect of computer games on our brains. The UCLA researchers worked with 69 people who had an average age of 82. They were all dementia-free but living in retirement communities. The study monitored the seniors playing a computer brain-fitness program that consisted of both short and long term memory exercises. These exercises involved language, visual processing, spatial processing, reasoning, math, as well as problem solving. Over a six month period, 52 people who completed at least 40 sessions demonstrated stronger memory skills. The study showed that the more people played the brain-fitness computer  games, the more improvement their memories demonstrated.

While it is true that the participants in the UCLA study were in relatively good mental health to begin with, the researchers believe that computer fitness programs could help protect individuals who are at risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As one researcher pointed out, while people may not be able to completely protect their mental health from such diseases, it may be possible to delay the onset of symptoms, which the researchers believe can be accomplished with regular use of these sorts of specialized brain-fitness computer games.

A New-Age Way to Ensure Better Memory

Before the technology age, geriatric specialists and physiotherapists were quick to promote regular exercise as people aged. Countless studies showed a relationship between being physically active and having a healthy mind. Today, exercise – whether it is walking, swimming or playing tennis – may not be enough, according to the experts. To maintain good mental health, the brain needs more stimulation. And it seems as though technology can help and supplement your regular exercise routine. According to the Mayo Clinic, a study conducted in Minnesota in 2012 showed that general computer use along with moderate exercise can go a long way in protecting brain function. Over 900 people between the ages of 70 and 90 took part in the study, reporting their physical activity, as well as their computer use. Close to 20 percent of those who used computers showed better memory, while almost 40 percent of people in the same age range who did not use a computer showed some cognitive impairment.

Mental Health Tips

This latest information about computerized brain-fitness and better memory will lead to more studies on mental health and technology use. In the meantime, health experts suggest the following is a good overall strategy to preserve your memory at any age:

  • When possible, walk instead of driving your car
  • Use stairs instead of elevators
  • Participate in a sport that involves moderate exercise
  • Continue to learn new things, such as keeping up with the news
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Consider taking vitamins
  • Don’t forget to socialize
  • Get a computer or other new technical gadgets
  • Learn a new computer program or game

While more research is needed to know exactly how much brain exercise is needed for good mental health, researchers reveal it could be different for each person. What they do know is that it doesn’t have to be extreme exercise; that it can be moderate, as long as it is regular. And exercise should also be supplemented with mind-stimulating activities.


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