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Dance, lift weights or get creative to help your Brain Health.

Evidence backed ways to help improve memory and brain function  

Latest research published this month has reviewed non medication options to help prevent memory loss and cognitive decline in the 50+ age group.

Aerobic exercise, resistance training, creative art, story telling and dancing all shown to have help brain health in a review of the evidence for those over 50. 

What the researchers found was this:

In people over 50 years with or without current memory problems: 

  • Over a 4 month period  those who took part in aerobic exercise twice weekly  were found to have improvements in their cognition (thinking and processing of information) and other aspects of brain function
  • Over a 2 year period those who took part in a programme that combined diet, exercise, cognitive training and social intervention also showed some improvements in brain functions

In people already experiencing changes with memory, or those diagnosed with ‘mild cognitive impairment’*

  • Tasks or hobbies that combined brain and physical challenges (such as dancing or using dumbbells) also had positive effects on the brain health 
  • Positive effects were also noted in those undertaking creative art or those who took up resistance training

What does this mean?

Yet more evidence that how we live impacts the health of our brain and how we think, feel and process information. Even in those who are beginning to notice changes in their memory or have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)*, undertaking aerobic exercise regularly or increasing physical activity in ways that requires increased thinking and co-ordination can help improve memory and thinking.

Keep Well,

Dr Clara Russell

*Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills.


5 ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimers disease

5 ways to reduce your risk of Alzheimers disease

Can a combination of every day lifestyle changes reduce your risk for Alzheimers dementia even when you are in an age group that is at most risk?

From all we’ve read and researched we at Noggin know that lifestyle matters for supporting your brain and mental health – that is why we are so passionate about brain health.

Recent research published by Neurology*has some more details on a study recently completed looking at some of these factors in more detail

Exercise, following a brain healthy Mediterranean style diet, moderating alcohol intake and keeping your brain active in activities you enjoy in all stages of like are key to supporting the health of your brain

Researchers looked at nearly 3000 people in their 60s and beyond, who did not have dementia at the start of the study, and followed their lifestyle and dietary behaviours for 6 years

They looked specifically at the following:

  • Not Smoking
  • Regular physical activity (moderate – intense)
  • Alcohol consumption (light – moderate intake)
  • Mediterranean Diet 
  • Brain engaging activities later in life

Comparing those who had 2-3 of these lifestyle habits to those who had 0-1, they was a 37% reduced risk for Alzheimers dementia.

Those who had 4-5 of these lifestyle habits had a 60% reduction in risk of diagnosis. 

The authors concluded that all 5 of these risk factors were changeable and the more we do of them, the better they work to reduce your risk. 

Learn more about Mediterranean Diets and why they are important for your brain health 

Keep Well 

Dr Clara Russell 


How does the New Normal feel for you?

As we slowly start to emerge from lockdown, how can we rebuild confidence, positivity and support our mental wellbeing ?

As a GP and a Mum and wife, I know only too well the anxiety we can face when we are about to take on the ‘new normal’.
It’s fair to say the global Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our life, the world over and  we’re all experiencing unprecedented challenges – both personal and professional. Our way of work, how we see our families,  shop, socialise, and go about our daily lives has been deconstructed as we’ve been forced into a new way of living.

It’s no surprise then that our confidence levels have taken a knock, whether its how you feel about you mental wellness, your body-image, social distancing with long overdue family, or rising to challenges if you’re back to work. 
It’s a very uncertain time for many, with research from BUPA Health clinics says 65 per cent of Brits are anxious about returning to the workplace.

Here are some tips if you’re anxious about the ’new normal’ :

Good habits

Confidence is a habit and like any habit, if we don’t keep it up we lose it. Add in the stress of coming out of lockdown with fears around what life is going to look like, and it makes sense that many of us will be feeling more than a little unsteady at the moment, and that is ok to feel this way.

Hark back to more confident times

Think back to a time when you felt most at ease – confident in your abilities and the person that you are. Ponder on what it was about this situation that made you feel this way. Was it surrounding yourself with supportive people, or getting lost in something you really care about? As you start to ease yourself back to normal, try to recreate these moments.

Positive Affirmations

Think about what it is that you want to achieve, or the qualities and things that you need to remind yourself about.

I am strong and confident

I am worthy of love

 I am worthy of respect

I am capable of overcoming the challenges that come my way

I believe in my ability to achieve my personal and professional goals

I am enough

Dress the part

What makes you feel good? Is there an item of clothing that has the power to make you feel confident and strong?friends and family? Maybe there’s a colour or print that perfectly captures your energy, and the energy that you want to give out into the world. Find what it is, and strut your stuff.

Go easy on yourself

Don’t push too hard or have too high expectations to begin with. This is new territory for most of us and setting unrealistic goals won’t help.Keep your intentions positive and be mindful when you can – thinking neither of the past or the future, try to just be in the moment and accepting of what is right now.

You’ve got this.

Good luck and Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell

Brain Food

What we eat makes a difference to both how we feel and the health of our brain. This is something that I hadn’t realised was as important as it is until I started researching brain health a few years ago.

Why does what we eat matter so much for our brain?

Nerve Cells

Our Gut and our Brain both have their own ‘nervous system’ which are in communication with each other. The Nervous system is a huge complex network of cells and connections that influence how our  bodies operate. The nervous system in our brain- known as the central nervous system – is linked to the nervous system with in our gut (known as the enteric nervous system).


The nerve cells that line our gut are important for digestion of our food and also for the release of a very important neurotransmitter serotonin. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that communicate between brain and nerve cells. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is directly linked to our mood, hunger and also plays a role in sleep. 

Gut Bacteria

Good bacteria within our gut helps with regulating how we digest food, improves how we absorb what we need from what we eat and also has a role with inflammation within the gut. Foods that support the growth of good bacteria help with these functions. Fibre is absolutely vital to the way our gut and gut bacteria works. Kefir, sauerkraut and live yoghurt are other ways to support the growth of these good guys. 


Supporting healthy bacteria in our gut is an important way to reduce inflammation. Omega 3 fatty acids within fish and other sources of healthy fats have been shown to be anti inflammatory. 

Nutritional Psychiatry

What we eat and its role in brain health is so important there is a specialised field of medicine looking at this in more detail to further understand this area.

What we do know is this- eating whole, unprocessed foods with lots of fruit, vegetables, natural fibre and beneficial fats is important for our brain health

Brain Health Nutritional Stars

B vitamins are involved in many aspects of energy production as well as neurotransmitters. B vitamins are found in meat, whole grains, eggs, legumes and green veg. As we get older we are more likely to become deficient in some of the B vitamins often due to the way our body absorbs these from our diet. B12 deficiency is more common in the elderly population and those following vegan or vegetarian diet. 

Vitamin D is essential to the normal production of our body’s hormones – chemical messengers. For brain health, enough vitamin D is vital for the production of neurotransmitters. Hard to obtain from out diet, ensuring we have exposure to sunshine and supplementing with Vitamin D is recommended by WHO and NHS. 

Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell 



Why a Taste of the Med is Important for your Brain Health

Brain function and the Mediterranean Diet: tackling depression, dementia and weight loss

We’ve talked before about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet ( https://nogginbrain.co.uk/add-a-taste-of-the-mediterranean-to-your-plate/ ) and it’s worth noting the science behind the recommendations on what to eat as part of a diet designed for health and wellbeing.

Scientific research shows that polyphenols may be beneficial for brain health, specifically when it comes to depression, since polyphenols influence neurotransmitters in the brain that possess anti-depression activities.

In addition to regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, the World Health Organisation also specifically recommends following a Mediterranean diet to decrease your risk of developing dementia as it is “the most extensively studied dietary approach in relation to cognitive function”.

When it comes to weight loss the study of more than 10,000 Spanish women and men over a 5-year period, researchers found that those who had adhered the most high to the Mediterranean diet gained the least amount of weight annually compared to those who didn’t stick with it as closely.

In addition, when compared with a low-fat diet in another study, the Mediterranean diet resulted in almost double the amount of weight loss, thanks to a higher intake of satiating fats and fibre which tend to stabilise your blood sugar, the researchers note.

So eat plenty of these:

Fish and other types of seafood at least twice per week

Olive oil ( extra virgin olive oil if you can)

Nuts and seeds

Colourful fruits and vegetables- the more variety of colour of these you can eat the better variety of phytonutrients you will have in on your plate

Whole grains such as quinoa, and oats

Fresh herbs

Beans and legumes

And moderate these:


Processed carbohydrates

Processed meats

Refined sugars

There’s more information to be found on the NHS website.

Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell

Add a taste of the Mediterranean to your plate…

A Taste of the Mediterranean

We might not be able to head abroad this summer but with BBQ season here, it’s worth remembering fish when you’re prepping food for your family.

The Mediterranean diet, which has at its heart fresh fruit and vegetable produce, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats, continues to be celebrated for its benefits for consumers and the planet.

Now more than ever, it is important to maintain a healthy diet, as what we eat and drink can affect our ability to prevent as well as recover from infections

New evidence also suggests that access to healthy foods can lower obesity rates and in response to the pandemic this is increasingly important.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises adults to adhere to a Mediterranean diet to help them stay well.  Oily fish forms part of the world-renowned Mediterranean diet, which has been hailed for its brain health elements.

Fish has now been revealed as the most important part of the Mediterranean diet ; ahead of vegetables and nuts.
So whether its garlic prawns, soy salmon, seared swordfish or grilled mackerel or sizzling tuna steak there are lots of ways to cook super healthy food on your BBQ.And the BBC has lots of great recipes for your summer BBQ.

Keep Well,

Dr Clara Russell

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Can we teach ourselves to have a more positive outlook?  

Headlines last week gave us another possible clue into a risk factor for developing dementia.

Research in recent years has shown that lifestyle factors such as exercise, what we eat, our quality of sleep and how we manage stress over our lifetime are important to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimers dementia. Now we have some evidence looking at a possible psychological risk factor.

New research, from a small study in London of 360 participants over the age of 55 have found that ‘repetitive negative thinking’ was linked to cognitive decline and poorer memory***

What does that mean?

We naturally will have a more positive or negative outlook on things based on our genes, personality and circumstances. Thinking negatively and re living negative experiences or thoughts can be feature of some mental health disorders including depression depending on how much these symptoms recur and have an effect on your day to day life. In a negative thinking vicious cycle, this way of thinking can make your more likely to suffer with depression and can also be a symptom of this condition

This study linked these types of negative thought patterns to worsening memory over a 4 year period as well as cognitive decline. Imaging of the participants brains also showed a larger build up of 2 substances linked to an increased risk of Alzheimers dementia – 2 proteins know as Amyloid and Tau. 

Think Positive

Can we change how we think just like that? If we decide we want to see the silver lining in something can we find it? 

Research suggests yes, but it might take practice – whilst we will all have our own tendencies to seeing the glass half full or half empty we can make the conscious decision to look at things differently. The more we practice seeing things this way, the easier we find it to identify the positive way of viewing a situation

Your health benefits from a positive attitude. 

A positive outlook has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, an improved immune system, a better diet and even improved lung function**. Why? Amongst other theories are that people with an optimistic view point on life are more likely to adopt healthier behaviours such as exercise, a better diet and stop or avoid smoking.

The mental health benefits are clear – optimists are more likely to cope with difficult situations and see their way through problems therefore reducing their risk of depression. 

How to develop a positive outlook

  • Meditate– 30 minutes a day has been shown to have positive effects in just 2 weeks*
  • Express thanks– keeping a gratitude journal, noting down 3 things a day we are grateful for, can help us develop a positive outlook
  • Speak up about mental health– if you are finding it really hard to see the positive, maybe you  feel that when someone is talking positively about things it feels like they are talking a different language, it’s important to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Talking therapies can help with symptoms of depression, anxiety and help you understand your thought patterns.

Keep well,

Dr Clara Russell


** https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21949417/


Anyone for a Round?

“The more I practise, the luckier I get” Gary Player

With summer here and lockdown restrictions being lifted in outdoor sports, now might be a good time to head to your local golf course and play a round.Golf is good not only for your physical health but your mental and brain health too. 

Heart health Any form of physical exercise helps to get the blood pumping to your heart and whilst you’re golfing and walking, carrying your bag and swinging your clubs, this activity increases your heart rate and blood flow. This in turn can mean risk of a stroke and diabetes are reduced, and there can be positive effects on reducing blood pressure and harmful cholesterol, especially if you’re able to combine this with a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

Fresh Air One of the biggest health benefits of golfing comes from being out in the fresh air and green spaces. Fresh air increases the flow of oxygen in your body and this improves your health in many ways, for example, giving a boost to your digestive system. Fresh air and more oxygen can also aid your auto-immune system, giving your white blood cells the energy they need to help them fight germs and bacteria.

Vitamin D One of the most important vitamins in the body, vitamin D is produced by your skin when is exposed to strong sunlight. More vitamin D means helps regulate calcium, which in turn leads to healthier and stronger bones. 

Live longer A Swedish study by the Karolinska Institutet and headed up by Professor Anders Ahlbom, found that people who play golf have a 40% lower death rate, which corresponds to a 5-year increase in life expectancy. 

Brain stimulation Regular daily walks strengthens the brain’s memory circuits and by keeping active you make sure your brain has a good, strong blood supply, which is essential to help it function better now and in future.

Weight loss An 18-hole round easily exceeds 10 000 steps, especially when you walk and don’t use a golf cart, so helpful in managing weight loss when coupled with a healthy diet.

Reduces stress The feel good pleasure of walking in the fresh air, socialising with fellow golfers, with the added mental challenge of playing this kind of sport ensures the release of endorphins, the natural mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain, which make can make you feel happy and relaxed.

Improved sleep Exercise and fresh air are a powerful combination for improved sleep. Walking the course will give you a good workout. Regular exercise helps you sleep faster and remain in a deep sleep for longer. Sleep helps your muscles rest and repair

Keep well, Dr Clara Russell

5 Ways To Eat Your Way To A More Positive State Of Mind

5 Ways To Eat Your Way To A More Positive State Of Mind

More than 4 million people in England are on antidepressants  and a recent article in The Telegraph states there has been a 10-15% rise in antidepressant prescriptions. 

And as we emerge from COVID-19 lockdown, many people are even more stressed and anxious.Nutritional medicine has made developments in exploring the link between mental and physical health and research shows depression is more common in those with compromised immune function.

So what can we do?

It is possible to eat food to support our hormones, brain chemicals and our mood.

We’ve kept it super simple with 5 top recommendations.
Consider eating these foods on a regular basis. 

Eggs-Rich in zinc and tryptophan. eggs can boost serotonin levels.

Avocado-Rich in omega – fatty acids which have an array of benefits and these are healthy fats.

Fish, chicken and lamb-These proteins provide a complete mix of the amino acids we need for the building blocks of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.

Quinoa-Rich in protein, magnesium and B vitamins which we need to produce anti-anxiety brain chemicals including GABA.

Salmon-Full of healthy fatty acid to support our hormones and libido. 

Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell

Make sure your Spring Salad has this in it…..

Cucumbers – not just for salads or to put over puffy eyes

Now we’re experiencing summer weather and salads it’s worth pointing out that cucumber should be high up on your list of fruit to consume in the coming weeks.

The ubiquitous cucumber packs a punch when it comes to hydration – whether you’re eating it or drinking water infused with tt.
Though commonly thought to be a vegetable, cucumber is actually a fruit and scores high in beneficial nutrients.

Cucumbers are composed of about 96% water, they are especially effective at promoting hydration and can help you meet your daily fluid needs.
They are also low in calories, high in water and can be used as a low-calorie topping for many dishes. 

Add in the fact they’re low in calories and contain a good amount of water and soluble fibre, making them ideal for promoting hydration and aiding in weight loss.
To maximise the nutrient content, cucumbers should be eaten unpeeled as peeling them reduces the amount of fibre, as well as certain vitamins and minerals.
Cucumbers contain antioxidants, including flavonoids and tannins, which prevent the accumulation of harmful free radicals and may reduce the risk of chronic disease.

High in water they also and promote hydration. Moreover, cucumbers contain pectin a type of soluble fibre which helps regulate bowel movements.Staying hydrated can improve stool consistency, prevent constipation and help maintain regular bowel movements.

In our home we drink cucumber water and snack on cucumber and carrots with hummus. 
Low cost, low calories and a myriad of uses and here is the science behind why we should all be eating more of the humble cucumber.