Every day, we make choices that impact our brain health. Some of those choices are good, while others are bad. And yet, there’s always room to improve. Here are 7 worst habits for your brain health that prevent your mind from running at peak performance:
1. Drinking Alcohol
Drinking alcohol is a habit that has been around for thousands of years. It’s one of the most popular beverages in the world and can be found almost anywhere, from small town bars to classy cocktail lounges. However, drinking alcohol does more harm than good!
The effects that alcohol has on your body are well documented: it’s an addictive substance that can cause long term damage to your brain if you drink too much over time. If you’re concerned about your health or want to learn more about how alcohol affects your brain, there are many scientific studies available to read online (1).
2. Not Getting Enough Sleep
You’re probably aware that sleep is important for brain health. But did you know how important it is?
- Sleep deprivation can lead to a loss of brain cells. The hippocampus, which controls memory and learning, shrinks when you don’t get enough sleep. In fact, a study found that just one night of poor or interrupted sleep was enough to cause significant impairment in memory and attention tasks (2).
- Sleep deprivation can cause brain fog, memory loss, and other cognitive problems. Poor quality sleep affects mood and emotions as well as mental performance (3). A lack of shut eye can increase anxiety levels by disrupting the balance between stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These changes in stress levels may even result in depression.
3. Staying Sedentary
When it comes to your brain health, you don’t want to stay sedentary. That’s because staying sedentary—that is, being inactive—has been linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults.
Luckily, there are many ways you can incorporate more physical activity into your life. For example:
- Be active throughout the day by taking quick walks around your office building or neighborhood instead of using the elevator or escalator; this will help keep your heart rate up and improve circulation through out the body.
- Stand up while talking on the phone instead of sitting down; this helps keep blood flowing through the brain while reducing stress levels associated with sitting for long periods of time without getting up once in a while (which can lead to poor posture as well).
- Park farther away from where you need to go so that when leaving work every day (instead of rushing back home), take 10-15 minutes for a brisk walk outside before heading back home again. This is good practice not only for those who want extra exercise but also those who just want some fresh air after being cooped up inside all day long.
If possible, try incorporating these tips into daily habits. If these ideas sound like too much work then maybe consider finding other ways besides getting fit through online programs which offer support groups to increase accountability and keep you motivated.
4. Smoking Tobacco
Smoking is one of the worst habits that can be bad for your health. Tobacco smoking is associated with many serious health conditions like emphysema (a lung disease), COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) and gum disease. It has also been shown to speed up the rate at which your brain ages (4). The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain which is essential for memory and learning. This will naturally become thinner as someone ages and this rate is increased in smokers. But you don’t have to wait until you are older to start getting the benefits from quitting smoking; quitting at any age will help your body get healthier sooner.
Our bodies and brains need food for energy, but too much of it can cause a decline in cognitive function. If you have ever attended a large Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner you may be familiar with the tiredness associated with taking in excessive food.
The occasional large holiday meal likely won’t be a problem but if you find yourself eating more than your recommended daily calories consistently, be warned – it affects your cognitive abilities and upsets the brain’s reward system since you will need more food to activate it and feel satisfied (5).
6. Overdoing It On Caffeine
Caffeine can be a useful tool when your brain is feeling slow or you’re feeling tired. However, it’s important to remember that caffeine is a stimulant, meaning that while it may give you an energy boost, it will also make your heart race and make you feel nervous. This can lead to insomnia as well as interfere with restful sleep.
Caffeine can also cause anxiety and jitteriness for some people—and if this happens when you drink too much coffee or tea, the symptoms can include headaches, nausea or diarrhea. In addition to these side effects from consuming too much caffeine (which is found in all forms of coffee), this habit has been linked to increased blood pressure levels—which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease over time if left untreated—as well as bone loss due to osteoporosis.
7. Feeling Regularly Stressed
Stress can actually be helpful for your body. When your fight-or-flight instinct kicks in, It’s what gives you the adrenaline rush to run from dangerous situations. However, chronic stress can take a heavy toll on your body. Chronic stress can lead to health issues affecting the brain, including depression (1). It’s also been shown that it makes it harder to sleep, as well as makes people more likely to overeat or drink alcohol.
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