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Staying young

Charles Dance’s swimming regime

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Charles Dance is a 74-year-old pin-up, says Guy Kelly in The Daily Telegraph. Last September the actor made headlines after paparazzi pictures surfaced of him topless in Venice. “‘Charles Dance shows off his impressive beach body at 73’, panted one… ‘Game of Thrones star shows off his buff physique’, heaved another.”

What is Dance’s secret? “My obsession is swimming,” he tells Kelly. For the past six years he has regularly taken a morning swim at the Parliament Hill lido, north London – “whatever [the] weather”. After a long, chilly dip, Dance suggests “a full cardiac-arrest breakfast”, then “you’re fit for the day”.

It’s a good routine, but not foolproof. The actor gained weight recently and has “‘love handles’, which are not nice”, he tells Kelly while prodding at the sides of his shirt. But it’s nothing drastic – “Either I go on a very strict diet or I have to change my swimming apparel.”

A daily stroll can beat the brain drain

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We talk about the wonders of AI, says Professor James Goodwin in Supercharge Your Brain, but no artificial intelligence is as complex and brilliant as our brains. They are our most vital organ and we must learn to look after them. “Science now shows us that not only are we able to protect our brains from the ageing process, but we can continue to grow new brain cells throughout our entire life.”

The best way to keep your brain young is exercise – even a half-hour walk every day can help. Physical activity triggers a process in the brain called neurogenesis, the growth of new cells. Since the Industrial Revolution we have been in a passionate “love affair with the chair”, causing inflammation in the body – and ageing of the brain.

Our love affair with food has had a similar effect. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, famous for the longevity of its inhabitants, the mantra is hara hachi bu: “Eat until you’re 80% full.” Our hunter-gatherer instinct to gorge on food while it is plentiful may be buried deep in our DNA, but “overeating fills the brain with free radicals”, says Goodwin. Variety is also key. Eat the same foods on rotation and you deprive your brain of vital nutrients. Goodwin recommends a spoonful of Marmite a day for vitamin B12, and sardines and salmon to keep up levels of omega-3 fatty acid.

Losing your mind is not inevitable. Nor is losing your memory. So the sooner you start to look after your brain, the better. “Somebody in their forties is at a much better starting point than somebody older,” Goodwin says. “But it’s never too late. There’s always time to get a better brain.”