The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Gran-of-eight Maggie Clayton’s weekly diary


million years of social structure has cemented that into the brain. We’re highly dependent for brain health on this social interactio­n for others.”

Goodwin 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. “Another 12-year study found that those who said they were lonely showed a 20% faster rate of decline in their brain.

“The sensation of loneliness is quite natural. It’s like a hunger or thirst – it’s the brain telling us you need to seek out some company, in the same way hunger tells that you need to eat food,” says Goodwin.

3 Have a healthy sex life

“Frequent sexual intercours­e with a close partner is beneficial to the brain too,” says 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.”

Essentiall­y, the older rats were reaching younger levels of brain rejuvenati­on, which Goodwin says is astonishin­g. But here’s the catch – he reckons it’s sex with familiar intimate partner that really has benefits. “Rats who got dumped in with a strange female were stressed out, and while they still eventually had sex, the brain benefits were much more profound in those regular partner rats.”

4 Eat well

“These days, we’ve got the choice of eating what we want, but that doesn’t mean we always eat what’s best for our brain,” says Goodwin. “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 diet. “For a start, most of people in the Northern Hemisphere, above 35 latitude, don’t get enough sunshine to get enough vitamin D for six months of the year. B12, meanwhile, is only found in a very few foods which are mostly animal products.”

It’s not just what you’re eating that matters, but the amount you’re eating too. “The Okinawa is a Blue Zone – one of the five lucky areas of the world where people regularly live to over 100 years,” says Goodwin. “They have this Japanese expression called ‘hara hachi bu’, which means ‘leave the table 80% full’.

“The result of that eating habit is they will live longer, and rates of Alzheimer’s in Okinawa are 75% less than everywhere else in the world.” Essentiall­y, those all-you-can-eat buffets and bottomless brunches might not be as good a deal as they seem.

Finally, and perhaps most importantl­y, brain care needs to be consistent. “I always say that it’s not what you do on a single day, it’s the single things you do every day,” states Goodwin. “You can’t just make a 12-week plan when it comes to your brain – it’s got to be a way of life.” Supercharg­e Your Brain: How To Maintain A Healthy Brain Throughout Your Life by Professor James Goodwin is published by Bantam Press and out now, priced £14.99

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