Playing games, craft activities, using a computer and engaging in social activities are associated with decreased risk of age-related mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to a recent study of cognitively normal adults 70 and over.
Concerning potential underlying mechanisms, it has been suggested that participation in cognitively stimulating leisure activities may delay onset of the memory decline in the preclinical stages of dementia, possibly via its effect on improving cognitive 'reserve'. This reserve reflects the brain's capacity to deal with insults such as protein deposition, accumulation of oxidants and other changes that occur across the lifespan. Cognitive reserve seems to be boosted via mentally stimulating activities including taking educational courses, otherintellectual activities (e.. crossword, Suduko, playing bridge, learning a new language or musical instrument) and socialising. The general notion is that, by boosting this reserve, when age-related changes to the brain occur these changes have less of a functional impact (as there is more 'spare capacity' for that person to draw upon).
In addition, the best current evidence indicates that as as well as staying physically and mentally active, eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking, drinking only within the recommended limits and keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check are all good ways to support a healthy brain as we age.