Playing brain games before surgery can help you recover better

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In a new study, researchers found that exercising your brain with “neurobics” before surgery can help prevent post-surgery delirium.

Essentially, your brain can be prepared for surgery, just as the body can, by keeping your mind active and challenged.

The research was conducted by a team at Ohio State University.

In recent years, doctors have embraced “pre-habilitation” for patients leading up to surgery, which may include exercise, a healthy diet and controlling any chronic conditions.

However, none of those interventions address postoperative delirium, a complication that is especially common in older patients and causes mental confusion leading to longer hospital stays, slower recoveries, and even an increased risk of death.

To study the effects of neurobics to prevent delirium, researchers gave 268 patients over the age of 60 an electronic tablet loaded with a brain game app.

Patients were asked to play one hour of games per day in the days leading up to a major surgery requiring general anesthesia.

The electronic tablet-based brain game targeted memory, speed, attention, flexibility, and problem-solving functions.

The team found those who played five to 10 hours cut their risk by more than half, and those who played the prescribed 10 hours or more had a 61% reduction in delirium rates compared to the control group.

They say that using the app was ideal for this study because they could easily track how long and how often patients were playing.

But things like reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles, or anything you enjoy to challenge your mind for an hour each day may improve your mental fitness and help prevent delirium as well.

One author of the study is Dr. Michelle Humeidan, an associate professor of anesthesiology.

The study is published in JAMA Surgery.

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