A 10-year study of 74- to 84-year-olds suggests that after just 14 hours of practice with a particular video game, dementia decreased by 48 percent and injury accidents decreased even more. This video game required just 10 hours of practice – an hour a week for 10 weeks, followed by two hours in each of the next two months. The randomized controlled trial included more than 2,800 people who were on average older than 74 at the start of the study.
What is this game I had such fun playing? It’s called “Double Decision,” and it’s available at brainhq.com, a “brain training” website. A car or truck appears in the middle of the screen and a “Route 66” sign appears in one of eight pie segments. Your first decision: car or truck? Your second: which segment? The on-screen appearances of the car/truck and Route 66 sign decrease in length in this speed training as you get better, and they adjust to you so you get 80-percent correct and can improve your brain’s speed of processing over time. The result: This is fun, you’ll have fewer accidents and you’ll reduce the risk of dementia by 48 percent in just 14 hours.
According to brainhq.com, “Double Decision is designed to improve the speed and accuracy with which the brain can process visual information, both at the center of gaze and the periphery.” Results of the advanced cognitive training in vital elderly, or ACTIVE, study, which included playing “Double Decision,” were revealed July 24 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto.
While the study gives reason for hope, there also are other ways to reduce the risks of dementia.
Let us review those risks and what you can do to change them; you can do a lot, even without these 14 hours playing “Double Decision” (OK, I did the 14 hours over three weeks – and the game really is fun).
To summarize – your brain functions decrease 5 percent every 10 years after age 30 measured by IQ (so if you started at an IQ of 130 at age 18, you typically would test lower, say at an IQ of 115, by age 62, which may be a reason to choose a younger, but experienced doctor), memory (you remember fewer words in a test) and processing speed (you need to drive more slowly to avoid accidents). These “decrements” add up: the statistics can be presented in a scary fashion (33 percent of women older than 85 exhibit signs of dementia) or in a more “realistic” way: If you are a woman of 85 you are at about an 18-percent risk of some degree of dementia, which increases to 33 percent in women aged 92; at 85, 12 percent of men show signs of dementia, increasing to about 18 percent of men at age 92.
But just as you can prevent more than 70 percent of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, as well as cancer, by your lifestyle choices, it appears you also can do so through such activities as doing 20 minutes of intense cardiovascular activity three times a week coupled with weight lifting and 10,000 steps a day, managing stress with meditation and/or deep breathing, and eating only foods you love that love you back, such as avocados, walnuts and salmon.
But all those brain and heart and immune system changes require continuity in getting enough sleep, managing stress, engaging in physical activity and making positive food choice decisions.