The Sunday Post (Newcastle)
Neurologist says mind the gap in health care
Simple steps to keep brain healthy
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.
Goodwin is special advisor to the Global Council on Brain Health, holds a chair at Exeter University Medical School and is a visiting professor of physiology at Loughborough University.
“If you were to ask people at a dinner party how to look after your heart, most people would be able talk about watching their cholesterol or doing exercise. But if you ask them about the brain? You’ll often be met with a blank stare,” Goodwin adds.
However, as cognitive decline continues to be a major long-term health concern, and the number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to 1,000,000 by 2025, perhaps we do need to know more about how to look after our brain health. Goodwin shares four easy ways to help keep your brain fighting fit at any age…
Make movement a part of your day
If your good intentions to complete a fitness plan in lockdown are flagging, here’s a good reason to set your alarm earlier and make sure you show up on the mat.
“In the past few years, researchers have found that exercise rejuvenates the brain,” says Goodwin. “It produces a chemical that stimulates new cells, and 30 minutes per day is all you need to reap the benefits – for five days a week at a moderate intensity.”
It could be something as gentle as brisk walking or moderate jogging, but the key is to make sure your chosen activity elevates your heart rate enough to get your blood pumping. Goodwin calls it a dose effect. “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
Social distancing rules have made it more difficult to catch up with friends, but being socially connected to others makes us feel safe and cared for, and this has big benefits for our brains.
“Humans would have never survived if we’d have been solitary animals,” stresses Goodwin. “We survived because we were in groups, and over 1.5