By Victoria Allen Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail
Published: 05:00 BST, 16 May 2019 | Updated: 05:00 BST, 16 May 2019
Crosswords and Sudoku may keep your brain a decade younger in middle age.
Sitting down to do a puzzle once a day has a dramatic effect on memory, and could help to ward off dementia in later life.
The largest and most detailed joint study of how puzzles affect the over-50s asked people to do a battery of cognitive tests over a week.
Those who did daily word puzzles performed as well as people 10 years younger, the researchers found. Number puzzle enthusiasts had the thinking skills of people eight years younger.
The more regularly adults aged 50 and over attempted puzzles such as crosswords and Sudoku, the better their brain function, the research found
This suggests the puzzles may ward off declining memory in older age, providing a mental 'reserve' which experts believe can prevent or delay dementia.
Dr Anne Corbett, senior author of the two studies on word and number puzzles, from the University of Exeter, said: 'Most of the people involved in this research did crosswords or sudoku, which exercise the memory and improve problem-solving abilities and focus.
'the working theory behind this is that the brain is a muscle just like any other in the body, and continuing to use it will improve its capacity and adapatability.
'The brain is made up of lots of connections, which we need to regularly use in activities like puzzles so we don't lose them.'
More than 19,000 people were asked how often they completed word and number puzzles, with answers ranging from never to monthly, weekly, daily or more than once a day.
Participants, aged 50 to 93, then completed detailed online cognitive tests every day for a week.
Across all 10 tests, which included remembering number sequences or matching pictures after they disappeared, those who did daily number puzzles scored higher than everyone else.