Think on! Four easy ways to boost your brain health
The brain is arguably the most important organ in our body. Not only does it control and coordinate our actions, it’s at the very centre of our human experience.
It allows us to think, feel and form memories, and shapes our personalities too. Yet many of us know nothing about how our brains actually work, let alone how to care for them. “There has been a dramatic switch in the science over the last couple of decades and we’ve completely lifted the lid on what we know about how to look after our brains,” says Professor James Goodwin, neurologist and author of new book Supercharge Your Brain: How To Maintain A Healthy Brain Throughout Your Life.
Here, Prof Goodwin shares four easy ways to help keep your brain fighting fit.
1. MOVE AROUND MORE
“In the past few years, researchers have found that exercise rejuvenates the brain,” says Prof Goodwin. “It produces a chemical that stimulates new cells, and 30 minutes per day is all you need to reap the benefits.” Make sure your chosen activity elevates your heart rate enough to get your blood pumping.
“The more you do, the better the effect – but you can ruin the effects of that exercise completely by sitting down for more than eight hours per day. The longer we sit, the faster we age, so make sure you’re getting up every 20 minutes.”
2. BE A SOCIAL BUTTERFLY
“Humans would have never survived if we’d have been solitary animals,” stresses Prof Goodwin. “We survived because we were in groups, and over 1.5 million years of social structure has cemented that into the brain.”
He claims loneliness is as bad for our health as 15 cigarettes per day or a bottle of vodka, and that those who are persistently lonely have a 50% greater chance of dying than those who are not.
3. HAVE A HEALTHY SEX LIFE
“Frequent sexual intercourse with a close partner is beneficial to the brain too,” says Prof Goodwin.
According to the neurologist, it can foster better memory, better verbal fluency, and even better numeracy skills.
“A study on male rats, who had between 14-28 days of daily access to a receptive female, found that the number of new cells in that brain increased massively - and it worked better on the older rats, where it had a reverse ageing effect.”
4. EAT WELL
“Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and omega three are what I call the ‘big five’. These are the nutrients we know people are short of in Western diets,” says Prof Goodwin.
Aside from eating a varied diet, Prof Goodwin has a couple of standout favourites.
“Spinach and flaxseed are two brain-benefiting foods packed full of Omega 3s that we need for our diet. If you’re sprinkling flaxseed on your porridge in the morning, you’re doing good.”
■ Supercharge Your Brain: How To Maintain A
Healthy Brain Throughout Your Life by Professor James Goodwin is published by Bantam Press, £14.99.