BY Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha

At a party recently, I was having a pre-dinner drink with the other men while the women were in another corner of the room chatting among themselves. This archaic Sri Lankan custom is good, I imagine, for the livers of those who drink alcohol and the stomach ulcers of those who have to wait until late in the night to eat.

Anyway, I was holding forth a little louder than usual when I made the mistake of saying for all around me to hear: “So I beat my wife again, yesterday.”

There was pin drop silence, I’m told, among the chatting ladies who heard me loud and clear. I guess they were waiting for me to continue on this subject of domestic violence.

Fortunately, oblivious to the interest generated by my statement, I went on: “Yes, since I got this new Scrabble app, I no longer lose to her every time I play. I manage to win the occasional game myself.”

My wife, who was with a group of ladies at the time, felt a collective sigh of relief emanate from the other females as they returned to their interrupted conversations, no doubt relieved that I wasn’t unleashing domestic violence on her.

Even though Colombo society doesn’t talk about it, domestic violence isn’t uncommon in our country as the 2019 Women’s Wellbeing Survey – published last year by the Department of Census and Statistics – revealed. But that’s a topic for another day.

The focus this month is on preserving brain function and the effect that activities such as Scrabble, bridge, crossword puzzles, sudoku and so on have on helping us keep our brains young as we age.

One of the best ways of preserving our brain function – the ability to remember, reason and think – is to keep that organ well supplied with oxygenated blood.

Anything that narrows and damages the arteries supplying blood to the brain – such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels – can reduce blood flow to the brain.

Moreover, activities such as regular physical exercise, yoga and tai chi – all of which ensure that your blood circulation functions well – also help maintain brain cell function.

But in order to keep your brain sharp as you grow older, there are a few practical techniques that you can use.

Aim to remain mentally active. Challenging your brain with mental exercise serves to activate processes that nurture individual neurones in the brain and stimulate communication along nerve pathways.

Even if you continue to work in a job that keeps you mentally active, try learning a new skill or developing a fresh hobby, which encourages you to use neural pathways that you previously didn’t. Learning another language or playing a new musical instrument is also a great way to sharpen your brain.

Having played Scrabble when I was a lot younger, taking it up again was a good way to activate the inadequately utilised neural pathways in my brain and sharpen its function as I grow older.

You too will probably find that taking on a brain exercising hobby such as playing Scrabble with your spouse makes it more enjoyable. It will be good for you… even if she beats you more often than you beat her!