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Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives.

 There has been plenty of speculation in the press over many years about useful ways to slow down brain degeneration in ageing and, particularly, how it might be possible to overcome Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

For example, it has been suggested that doing crosswords, and other puzzles or ‘brain-training’ that keep your brain active, might be helpful. However, neuroscientists are starting to suggest that this may not be the case.

Mens sana in corpore sano (or ‘mens sana in thingummy do-dah’, as Victoria Wood memorably put it) is an old saying meaning that a sound body is likely to lead to a sound mind. In other words, look after your body and your mind will also function well.

There is a certain amount of truth in that.

David Linden, Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, recently suggested in an interview that the most helpful thing that anyone could do for their mind was to take 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day.

He explained that doing puzzles uses only a small part of your brain, and does not do anything for the rest. Aerobic exercise, by contrast, has several effects.

Linden explained that we do not really understand what’s behind the beneficial effects of exercise. However, scientists have observed that exercise causes all the blood vessels in the body, including in your brain, to dilate. This changes the metabolic capacity of the brain. Exercise also makes the brain secrete certain chemicals which help keep neurons healthy and able to change.

All this sounds like a very good thing for the brain and the body.


The ‘Good’ Mind

But there is more to mental health and a ‘good’ mind than simply avoiding dementia.

The mind is shaped by all the experiences, ideas and thoughts to which it is exposed. To a certain extent, then, you can choose what you ‘feed’ your mind, just as you can choose what you feed your body.

What you choose to consume for your mind can be described as your ‘mind diet’. Your ‘mind diet’ can make your mind more or less ‘healthy’, and certainly more or less interesting.

 

Dr Joe Takon

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