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From A to Z

The benefits of word games for the mind.

Article Author: Kristi Tucker

Article Date:

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Every few years, a new word game becomes the trending "must do." This year, it's Wordle, a daily, online challenge to guess a word within six tries. It's fun and allows social media bragging rights for those who guess it in three or fewer attempts.

It turns out word games are not only fun but also good for the brain. Word games have been around a long time -- crosswords, word searches or Scrabble, anyone? -- but have evolved with online access and apps.

However you choose to play, on paper or online, you're giving your brain a workout. This, along with other healthy choices, could help with your cognitive health, especially as you age.

"Lifelong learning and engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, like a game of Wordle, are thought to promote cognitive reserve, making your brain more resilient to the effects of disease or neurodegenerative brain changes such as those seen in dementia," said Kayla Jones, MS, CCC, speech-language pathologist, AgeWell Center, Baptist Health.

Other benefits include:

  • Improving memory, attention and concentration

  • Increasing vocabulary and improving spelling

  • Increasing happiness when you get the right answer or complete the puzzle

  • Improving social interaction. "I have some patients who have made Wordle a family affair. They'll check in with each other daily to see who guessed the correct word in the least amount of tries," said Jones. "They've turned the game into a way to connect with other people."

Take it to the next level

Experts say the more you play, the more you benefit and recommend increasing the level of difficulty as you master a game.

"Ideally you want to struggle a little to challenge yourself," said Jones. "Doing the same thing repeatedly is going to improve your ability to complete that particular skill, but it's not enough to improve your brain function."

For instance, if Wordle is your game of choice, progress to other games such as Dordle (guess two words in seven tries) or Reversle, which is Wordle in reverse (the final five-letter answer is provided, and the player's role is to fill in the missing guesses).

A numbers game, or more

Word puzzles are only one activity that stimulates the brain. Jones recommends adding other activities to create a variety of challenges.

"It's like cross-training for your brain," she said. "Doing a word puzzle is going to stimulate one part of your brain while doing math calculations will stimulate another."

Additional activities could include number puzzles, computer or board games, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a new language, or reading, among others.

Never too early

Jones said it's never too early to begin your brain workouts.

"It's really making the choice to stay active, engaged and curious throughout your life," said Jones. "Actively seek opportunities to challenge yourself and your brain!"

Baptist Health offers a range of services to help you assess and maintain your memory health at any age. AgeWell's Mind Your Mind program offers cognitive assessment and advice about healthy lifestyle choices for seniors age 65+. To find the right provider for you, visit Baptist Neurology or Baptist AgeWell at 904.202.4AGE (4243).

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