Keep your brain working

I’m a bridge junkie and take every opportunity to play, especially with the computer.
No day is complete until I take on my computer partner before bedtime.
Sometimes, I take every random hand that is dealt to me. But other times, I hold out for only spectacular hands. That’s the advantage of playing with a computer.
Nevertheless, it’s always more fun to play with real people—even when I’m on the losing team.
I’ve never found a game that I do not love: Scrabble, Mah Jong, Upwords, Pinochle, Masterpiece, Clue, Rook, Uno, Flinch, Mastermind, Pit. You name it and I love it.
Many games seem to be games of luck. Take Scrabble, for instance. How can you possibly win when you get only “x’s” and “z’s” and “q’s” and no vowels?
But Joe Edley and John Williams Jr., the authors of “Everything Scrabble,” maintain that computer analysis shows the game is 85 percent skill. So it’s all in the play.
Never use an “s” tile unless doing so gives you at least eight more points than if you had not used it.
Be reluctant to part with the letters that are best for making words that could use all seven letters on our rack. That will net you 50 points and almost ensure your win.
Turn in your high-point letters. They can be disastrous to your score if you are stuck with them when the game ends.
Rearrange your hand frequently to see what creative words turn up. Have a dictionary handy, and especially, learn new two-letter and three-letter words.
Scrabble played well is wonderful exercise for your brain. But if words aren’t your thing, try Bingo.
Researchers from Great Britain’s University of Southampton found that Bingo requires a number of mental skills, including visual search and memory, rapid hand-eye co-ordination, and fast reaction.
And to their surprise, they found older Bingo players were decidedly more astute than younger, non-Bingo players.
Their conclusion? Games help people maintain brain function.
Dr. Carl Cotman, with the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the University of California-Irvine, reports that the human brain has the ability to grow and establish new synaptic connections even as we age.
Barring brain disease, says Cotman, a decline in intellect is not an inevitable part of aging.
Keeping your brain fit is the most important thing you can do for yourself. So follow these rules:
1. Use your brain. Learn new things, take classes, read, travel, and volunteer.
2. Eat well. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, and avoid toxins.
3. Stay in good physical shape. Researchers recently have discovered a connection between physical exercise and brain health, especially aerobic exercise.
“I call it neuronal aerobics. Neurons want to be up and firing,” says Cotman.
4. Feel empowered. A feeling of control seems to exert beneficial changes in brain chemicals.
5. Protect your head. Use seat belts, wear a helmet when biking, and be careful of falls.
You only have one brain. Please take care of it.
And remember one of the very best things you can do for your brain is to spend an evening playing games with your friends.
Write Marie Snider at