A University of Pennsylvania alumnus, Jonathan Z. Maltzman was ordained as a rabbi in 1980 after his graduation from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He currently leads the Conservative Jewish congregation Kol Shalom in Rockville, Maryland. When not busy with his duties at the synagogue, Jonathan Z. Maltzman enjoys quiet, cerebral activities such as doing crossword puzzles.
Considered to be one of the most popular games in the world, crossword puzzles only started appearing in newspapers in 1913. The puzzles have since become a newspaper staple, developing into a serious recreational activity for millions of adults.
Adults usually do crossword puzzles just to pass the time, so it’s not surprising that they would be unaware of the positive effects working on them has on brain health. Recently, one of the most-discussed reasons for doing crossword puzzles regularly is that they might help alleviate or prevent Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD is the most common type of dementia among older adults, and it is frequently the cause of many serious behavior, thinking, and memory problems. In order to prevent this disease, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends a daily dose of crossword puzzles in order to exercise the brain, keeping it active and sharp, especially for those of advanced age.
So far, no clear link between heightened brain activity and a reduced risk for AD has conclusively been shown. However, what scientists do know is that focused mental activities establish a cognitive reserve, thus protecting the brain and helping it operate effectively even when there is injury or disease. Moreover, mental activities can train the brain to become more adaptable in certain mental functions. In case a person develops AD, these heightened mental functions can compensate to some degree for the decline in other functions.