I write often about the benefits the brain gets from exercise and how we should make regular exercise a priority as much for our mental health as physical. That is a good positive target.
It turns out that WebMD also has some excellent suggestions for keeping our brains clicking on all cylinders, but they approach from the negative side. Not doing harmful things is also an important consideration in getting to old age with a fully functional brain.
Here is their list of bad habits:
Missing out on sleep. WebMD notes, “… lack of sleep may be a cause of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. It’s best to have regular sleeping hours. If you have trouble with sleep, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and electronics in the evening, and start a soothing bedtime ritual.”
I would like to interject here that my Page on How important is a good night’s sleep could be worth checking into.
Too much time alone. “Humans are wired for social contact. It’s not about how many Facebook friends you have — what matters is a real sense of connection. People who have that with even just a few close friends are happier and more productive. They’re also less likely to suffer from brain decline and Alzheimer’s. If you feel alone, call some friends or start something new — salsa dancing, tennis, bridge — that involves other people.”
You eat too much junk food. “Parts of the brain linked to learning, memory, and mental health are smaller in people who have lots of hamburgers, fries, potato chips, and soft drinks in their diet. Berries, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, on the other hand, preserve brain function and slow mental decline. So next time you start to reach for a bag of chips, grab a handful of nuts instead.”
You blast your headphones. “With your earbuds at full volume, you can permanently damage your hearing in only 30 minutes. But it’s not just your ears: Hearing loss in older adults is linked to brain problems, such as Alzheimer’s and loss of brain tissue. This may be because your brain has to work so hard to understand what’s being said around you that it can’t store what you’ve heard into memory. So turn it down — no louder than 60% of your device’s maximum volume — and try not to listen for more than a couple of hours at a time.”
I have to consider myself lucky considering this one. I was a teen age rocker in the 1950’s. Can’t tell you how many times my parents ordered me to “TURN DOWN THE MUSIC.” That was one of the reasons I finally moved out and lived on my own from my senior year in college. As I am going to turn 77 years old next month and remain able to negotiate producing this blog, I think my brain has survived. Fingers crossed.
You don’t move enough. “The longer you go without regular exercise, the more likely you are to have dementia. You’re also more likely to get diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure — all of which may be linked to Alzheimer’s. You don’t have to start running marathons — a half-hour in the garden or a brisk walk around the neighborhood will work. The important thing is to do it at least 3 days a week.”
While this may seem like a subtle notion, keeping moving is critical to our mental and physical health. I would again like to suggest that you check out one of those ‘wearables’ that tracks your steps or activities each day. I have the Apple Watch (which has come down a lot in price) and use it daily to track my movements and also to remind me to stand every hour. Check out my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting? for more details on this.
You still smoke. “It can shrink your brain — and that’s not a good thing. It makes your memory worse and makes you twice as likely to get dementia, including Alzheimer’s. It also causes heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure.”
While I can’t understand how anyone able to read will still choose to smoke, it remains a fact. If you smoke, please read my Page –How many ways does smoking harm you?
You overeat. “If you eat too much food — even the right kind of food — your brain may not be able to build the strong network of connections that help you think and remember. Overeat for too long and you may get dangerously overweight, which can cause heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure — all linked to brain problems and Alzheimer’s.”
You stay in the dark too much. “If you don’t get enough natural light, you may get depressed, and that can slow your brain. Research also shows that sunlight helps keep your brain working well.”