by Sir Muir Gray for springchicken.co.uk
Poor Natalie Bennett; whatever your politics you have to be sorry for her performance on LBC, which she attributed to Brain Fade. She was hammered in the Times, the Mail, the Guardian, the Independent, everywhere. But what does this mean? Nothing really, best summed up in the title of one of the great songs of our youth Not fade Away, first performed by the Crickets and later popularised by the Rolling Stones. In truth, the brain does not fade away.
It loses some of its powers due to the effects of the ageing process but these effects are relatively unimportant and it is possible to develop techniques to cope with and prevent the consequences of loss of short term memory and quick decision making.
Furthermore the effects of loss of short term memory have been over emphasized whereas the benefits of experience, the term, Oscar Wilde wisely said we give to our mistakes, have been under estimated. In actual fact our judgment is often better than the high speed decision making of some younger people.
Some of us will develop more serious loss of brain power but this too is not a fading away the result of disease. Alzheimer’s disease is currently not preventable but other causes of dementia are because they are the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. In her book: ‘Scientific American Healthy Aging Brain: The Neuroscience of Making the Most of Your Mature Mind’ Judith Horstman emphasises five steps to keep your mind active and healthy:
- Physical activity – any sort
- A good diet – try the Mediterranean and drink less alcohol
- Socialise – meet other people and help them
- Learn – new skills and new tricks
- Look after your souls – even if you are not religious be creative and reflective and positive
These are good tips, and here are two others from us:
- If you smoke, stop, try again even if you have tried before and seek help to do so
- Ask your pharmacist to check your medication if you are on two or more drugs
In the short term – if you had to do an LBC interview the day after tomorrow – there are techniques to help you not to panic, which is probably what happened to Natalie Bennett
- Get enough sleep
- Go teetotal
- Rehearse what you want to say, out loud
- Increase the amount you walk
- Do exercises to help you relax and focus, yoga for example or try this exercise from Sod70!
So, use it or lose it applies to mind as well as body, use it and, all together now, NOT FADE AWAY….
About the author: Professor Sir Muir Gray, CBE
He recently described himself (in a tweet) as the Don Quixote of the NHS: “tilting, always tilting.” As Chief Knowledge Officer of the NHS his job was defined by what he does—promoting improved care by the better use of evidence. Born, raised, and educated in Glasgow, he was a surgeon before he turned to public health in the 1970s. In the rest of his life he is developing Better Value Healthcare, whose mission is to publish handbooks and development programmes designed to get more value from health care resources in England, and worldwide.
Muir’s most recent book: Sod 70, the guide to living well is available here. He is also the Director of the National Campaign for Walking, is married with two daughters and lives in Oxford.