Science journalist, author and TV presenter Dr Michael Mosley has shared his ten-point plan with the Daily Mail to keeping a youthful mind, and perhaps even staving off dementia.
1. Check how well your brain is ageing
Test yourself with Dr Michael Mosley’s own questionnaire to determine your “brain age”. Answer yes or no to following statements:
- I eat a mainly Mediterranean- style diet. This is one that is low in sugar and processed foods, but rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, oily fish – such as salmon or mackerel – and olive oil.
- I’ve been tested and I don’t have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- I don’t smoke.
- I drink 14 units of alcohol or less a week.
- I exercise most days.
- I do something sociable, with friends or family, at least once a week.
- None of my immediate relatives developed signs of significant memory loss or dementia before the age of 80.
- I’ve had my blood pressure tested and it is normal.
- I don’t have any obvious sleep disorders, such as snoring or sleep apnoea, and I get at least seven hours’ sleep every night.
- I don’t have a significant problem with stress or depression.
Now add up how the number of yes answers you gave, with Dr Mosley’s advice below:
0-3: You probably have a brain age that is about ten years more than your actual age. You are at increased risk of early memory loss and developing some form of dementia. You need to work on the sort of lifestyle changes I am about to recommend as soon as possible.
4-7: Not bad, but not great. There is still some way to go – and you will benefit from following my advice.
8-10: You are doing well, but do keep reading. This article contains further tips on ways to keep your brain young.
2. What is your blood sugar level?
Having persistently high blood sugar levels is bad for your brain, says Dr Mosely, adding that “being type 2 diabetic adds about ten years to your brain age and doubles your risk of developing dementia.”
3. Get some quality shut-eye
It’s no surprise getting some quality sleep helps rejuvenate the mind and body. “Scientists have recently discovered that during deep sleep channels open in the brain which flush the toxins out,” writes Dr Mosely.
Moving your body is a good way of boosting your brain power. A recent study found that regular walkers have brains that look two years younger than the brains of those who are sedentary.
5. Quit your vices
If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your brain is to quit. Cutting down on alcohol intake will also help with the guidelines recommending you not drink more than 14 units a week.
6. Change your diet
Get your brain in tip top shape by changing what you eat – and how you eat. Dr Mosely writes: “Numerous studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is also the ultimate brain diet – the version I advocate is low in starchy, easily digestible carbs, but packed full of disease-fighting vitamins and flavonoids found in olive oil, fish –especially oily varieties – nuts, fruit and vegetables.”
7. Test your hearing
Going deaf often leads to social isolation, a major risk factor for developing dementia. As humans are social creature, regular social interactions are good for our brains.
8. Take up a hobby
Learning a new skill does wonders for your brain. Click here for some great suggestions, but anything fun, sociable and a bit mentally demanding will work.
9. Feed your gut bacteria
Dr Mosely writes: “There is mounting evidence that the microbiome, the 2 lb to 3 lb of microbes that live in our guts, have a profound effect on our mental health. A recent study found that people with Alzheimer’s have much higher levels of bad bacteria that cause inflammation, a process that can lead to dementia, and lower levels of the ‘good guys’, the bacteria that reduce inflammation.”
10. Avoid air pollution
Researchers from Edinburgh University’s Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre recently reviewed dozens of studies that looked at potential environmental triggers and tentatively concluded that air pollution might be one of them.