The 5 Worst Daily Habits for Your Brain as You Age
The most intricate organ in your body happens to be your brain. It's pretty fascinating that something that weighs all of three pounds dictates all of your senses, movements, and even how you behave, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Although a beautiful mind deserves much tender loving care, it's easy to neglect it as you get older. In fact, we're here to share five of the worst daily habits for your brain as you age. Read on to learn things you may want to change.
Why is your brain health so important as you age? Well, first and foremost, a sharp brain will keep you independent for longer as you move into new chapters of life, the National Institute on Aging reports. As you age, some portions of your brain will shrink, the blood flow in that area can be reduced, and some of the nerve cells in that area may not work as efficiently. All of these can contribute to difficulty remembering things like names or places, and also paying attention. Multitasking can become quite challenging. Sounds concerning, right? Don't fret, because there are so many things you do every single day that have a bearing on your brain. In fact, just about everything you do—and don't do—impacts your brain.
Eat This, Not That! reached out to Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, who sits on our Medical Expert Board, about caring for your brain. He shares, "This may sound like a broken record, but when it comes to brain health, there's no substitute for a healthy diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress." Consuming a healthy diet that consists of plant-based foods, lean proteins (such as fish and chicken), healthy fats, not smoking, limiting your alcohol intake, and getting in a minimum of 1 ½ hours of aerobic exercise each week are all important to preserve your brain health. Another important way to feed your brain is by socializing and exercising your mind. Games and crossword puzzles are excellent workouts for your brain.
In addition to adding healthy habits to your lifestyle to keep up with your cognitive abilities, it's just as important to stay away from some bad habits. Keep reading to learn about the five worst daily habits for your brain as you age.
You're not getting enough sleep.
It's vital to get enough sleep in order to maintain a healthy brain. After all, that's when your mind is able to recharge and restore. Dr. Bohl tells us, "Older adults tend to need slightly less sleep than younger adults (seven to eight hours instead of seven to nine hours), but it's important just the same."
If you're not getting enough restful Z's, you might feel forgetful, irritable, depressed, or suffer from more falls, the National Institute on Aging explains. That's why it's necessary to follow a consistent sleep schedule and try not to nap later on in the day. Not using blue light screens in your bedroom, keeping your sleeping space at just the right temperature, and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon can also promote good, healthy sleep.
You're not being social.
You may not already know this, but maintaining a good social circle is essential for your brain health! "You can be social in person, like going on a walk with a friend, or be social in other ways, like having a conversation with a family member on the phone," suggests Dr. Bohl.
According to Asbury senior living communities, if you want to remain in good health well into your older years, socializing is not a question—it's a necessity. Building up your network of friends and engaging in group activities is similar to giving your brain a workout! How so? Socializing keeps your brain sharp and boosts your cognitive function. In fact, a study published in PLOS One revealed that keeping up strong friend groups as you age is associated with a more gradual cognitive decline.
You're drinking too much alcohol.
Another one of the worst habits for your brain is consuming too much alcohol. Your brain can be compromised by drinking too much of your favorite beer, wine, or cocktails. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking alcohol makes it much more difficult for the areas of your brain that are in charge of memory, balance, and speech to effectively perform their jobs. This can increase your risk of suffering from an injury or other health risks.
Typically, males should drink no more than two drinks or less each day, Dr. Bohl says. Females should cap it off to one or less in a day.
Simply put, a sedentary lifestyle is not good for your overall wellness and brain health. Dr. Bohl recommends, "If you work at a desk job or otherwise spend a significant amount of time sitting and not moving around, try to find ways to get more activity into your daily life, such as doing chores or going on a walk during lunchtime."
You're not effectively addressing stress and other issues.
Constant stress and other medical ailments can negatively impact your brain. According to Premier Neurology Center, being in a constant state of stress will regularly activate your brain's fear center. Your levels of cortisol will be heightened on a regular basis, which can lead to other issues with sleeping, digestion, and your immune system. Stress can actually alter the structure of your brain, kill new cells in your brain, and put you at a greater risk of suffering from mental illness. That's why it's critical to take any prescribed medications and also to discuss any mental health concerns you have with your physician, Dr. Bohl explains.