Improve your Mental Sharpness. Bridge and other activities help to boost brainpower

Improve your Mental Sharpness. Bridge and other activities help to boost brainpower

- in Aging Answers, February 2016

Exercising the brain can have some important health and disease-prevention benefits.

In fact, a 2014 study conducted by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center found that participants who reported playing memory games at least every other day performed better on standard memory tests compared to those who played less frequently. The study assessed 329 older adults who were free of dementia, but at increased risk of Alzheimer’s based on family history.


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of people with the disease may nearly triple to 16 million by 2050, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease. For older individuals, getting involved in social and cognitively stimulating activities, such as the game of bridge, is more important than ever.

“In our study, we found that individuals who participated more frequently in activities such as card games, checkers and crossword puzzles have increased brain volume in areas that stimulate memory and affect the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


The card game of bridge is one of the most popular games of skill and memory, involving math and social skills as the players deal the cards, auction, play the hand and score the results.

According to the American Contract Bridge League, Bridge is played with four people sitting at a card table using a standard deck of 52 cards (no jokers). The players across from each other form partnerships. Each deal consists of three parts—the auction, where the four players bid in a clockwise rotation describing their hands, the play, where the side that wins the bidding auction tries to take the tricks necessary to fulfill their contract, and scoring.

The aim is for each partnership to win (or take) as many tricks as possible.

Many American Contract Bridge League members have been playing at local bridge clubs for most of their lives, such as 103-year-old Lily Hansen of Ludington, Mich.

Hansen, who serves as a director of her club, recently told AARP Bulletin that playing twice a week helps her stay sharp and active. She has been playing bridge for nearly nine decades.

“Duplicate (the most popular form of bridge) is competitive,” she says. “It keeps your brain working. I honestly believe that.”


In addition to card games, research shows there are a number of other activities that help boost brainpower.

For example, a game of checkers or a crossword puzzle can offer plenty of mental exercise, forcing the brain to be curious and engaged. Remember to mix up these mental exercises often, which will call on different parts of the brain.

Whether you prefer a rousing game of cards with friends or a peaceful crossword puzzle alone, engaging in such activities can help sharpen your mind, which can help you to better enjoy life for many years.

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