Daily habits that hurt your brain. You walk into the kitchen but forget what you were planning to do there. You can’t remember your debit card PIN number when you’re checking out at the grocery store. In the middle of conversations, you struggle to recall the word you really want to use.
These “senior moments”, “brain farts”, or whatever else you choose to call them can be an unsettling experience.
Americans fear Alzheimer’s disease almost as much as cancer, says a MetLife survey. Today, 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and that number will escalate rapidly as the baby boomer generation ages. (1)
Americans are living longer than ever before. A fit, healthy brain is essential to enjoying and getting the most out of a long life.
How healthy is your brain? Sadly, most of us engage in daily habits that damage our brain without even realizing it.
5 Daily Habits That Hurt Your Brain
What did you do today that hurt your brain? If you’re like most people, you have no idea.
We worry about eating too much junk food because we don’t want belly fat. We worry about protecting our skin from the sun because we don’t want wrinkles or skin cancer.
But what about your brain?
You might be surprised at how your brain takes a beating as you go about your daily business.
You’ll DEFINITELY want to know the simple changes you can make to improve your brain health starting right now.
This article shows you both. PLUS, you’ll discover three brain-healthy foods that are as good for your noggin as they are delicious.
Let’s get started.
Bad Brain Habit #1: Too Much Stress
Your brain on stress is not a pretty picture.
Studies show that too much of the stress hormone cortisol can kill cells in the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for episodic memory.
A huge body of evidence suggests that chronic stress causes premature brain aging.
Related content: Is your brain YEARS older than your true age?
It’s likely you’re stressed out — even if you don’t realize it.
The average full-time worker in the United States spends 52 minutes commuting to work every day. If you’ve ever battled your way through bumper-to-bumper traffic in a rush to make it to work on time, you don’t need me to tell you how stressful that is. (2)
Speaking of work, fears about job stability are on the rise: 44 percent of Americans report their job-related stress has increased in the last 5 years. (3)
Add to that worries about money, health and relationships and most folks have lots of reasons to be stressed out… and their brain health could be suffering as a result.
Quick fix: The best way to relieve stress is to learn healthy coping strategies. Here are three of my favorites courtesy WebMD:
- Keep a journal: Writing about stressful events can give you a new perspective on how to manage them. Just getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a page can be therapeutic.
- Start a hobby: Doing something you enjoy like reading, gardening, or painting can help you relax. Obvious, right? But many of us get so busy with life and serving others that we neglect to take care of ourselves.
- Let it out: Talk, laugh, sing, shout, cry, and verbalize your stress. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or religious leader is a healthy way to relieve stress.
Bad Brain Habit #2: Not Enough Exercise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of American adults don’t get enough exercise. (4)
This lack of physical activity doesn’t just lead to expanding waistlines; it can lead to diminished brain function, too.
Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills, says a Harvard Medical School report. (5)
Researchers found that aerobic exercise like walking and jogging, can actually boost the size of the hippocampus, the part of your brain devoted to verbal memory and learning!
This is potentially life-saving information. Researchers say a new case of dementia is detected every four seconds. And by 2050, as many as 115 million people worldwide will be afflicted with this condition.
Quick fix: Want a healthier, younger brain? Start exercising!
How much exercise do you need? Participants in this brain health study walked briskly for one hour, twice per week.
That’s just 120 minutes of exercise per week. About as much time as you’d spend watching a movie.
Would you agree that’s a small price to pay for a healthier brain? (Not to mention a treasure trove of other health benefits including weight loss, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and stronger muscles and bones.)
If you need help starting an exercise program and sticking with it, here are some suggestions:
- Make it fun! Exercise can and SHOULD be fun! Have a dog? Take it for a walk in the park. Like to shop? Hit the mall and combine your walk with window shopping.
- Bring a friend. Exercising with a friend is fun AND it will help keep you accountable. Win-win!
- Track your progress. Keep a journal of when and how much you exercise. The act of writing down the amount of time you spent exercising is a powerful way to keep yourself consistent.
Bad Brain Habit #3: Not Enough Sleep
Have you ever stayed up way past your bedtime and felt like a coffee-fueled zombie the next morning? You’re not alone.
As many as 70 million U.S. adults aren’t getting enough shuteye. The situation is so bad that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep a “public health problem”. (6)
And for good reason.
Sleep insufficiency has been linked to motor vehicle crashes and industrial accidents, as well as increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity. A lack of sleep is also torture for your brain.
Scientists still aren’t sure why our brains need sleep. What they do know is that sleep deprivation (typically defined as fewer than 6 hours of rest per night) leads to lower alertness and concentration, impaired memory, and increased risk of depression. (7)
Quick fix: Don’t take sleep for granted. If you’re not getting the precious zzz’s you need, then it’s time to establish a nightly sleep routine.
Start by setting a nightly bedtime and shutting off all electronic devices like your computer, phone, and tablet at least one hour before that time. It might be tough, but it’ll be worth it.
Studies have found that the blue light emitted by our devices can contribute to insomnia and other sleep problems.
Create a routine of bedtime habits you stick with each night. This could include a warm cup of tea, a few minutes of prayer or quiet time, and gentle stretching.
By establishing a sleep routine you’ll get more and better quality sleep each night. You’ll feel more energetic and productive the next morning, and you’ll be supporting long-term brain health.
Bad Brain Habit #4: No Social Life
How long has it been since you got together with your girlfriends and spent the evening laughing so hard your sides hurt the next morning?
If it’s been a while, here’s a great reason to call an emergency Girl’s (or Guy’s) Night Out:
Many scientists are convinced that an active social life is critical to maintaining a healthy brain and warding off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that older women who maintain a large social circle were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia than those with a smaller social group. (8)
Quick fix: You don’t have to unleash your inner party animal in order to enjoy the brain health benefits of a robust social life.
Schedule a time to meet with old friends for lunch, a walk at the park, or a game of bridge.
Is your current group of friends swamped with hectic schedules? Stretch yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and make new friends.
Check your local community center, place of worship, and even social media like Facebook for clubs that spark your curiosity. Sign up for a group class and make it a point to introduce yourself to at least 3 new people.
Don’t be shy. Your new best friend is waiting to meet you!
Bad Brain Habit #5: Your Diet Is SAD
Nutritionists and doctors call what most Americans eat the “Standard American Diet”, or, SAD for short. It’s an appropriate acronym.
The Standard American Diet is heavy in grains, oils, animal products like meat and dairy, and processed “Frankenfoods” served to you in a paper bag as you pull up to a drive-through window.
These foods have contributed to the explosion of obesity we’ve seen over the past 30 years as well as increased cases of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, digestive problems, allergies and skin conditions, and metabolic syndrome.
Worse: A SAD diet is like sending your brain through a hamburger grinder.
Revealed: 3 so-called health foods that fry your brain. If you worry about brain health, please watch now.
SAD foods can trigger chronic high glucose and insulin levels that disrupt healthy brain function in a number of ways.
First, too much insulin in your system has been associated with impaired ability to clear amyloid beta proteins — the main components of the brain plaque that typifies Alzheimer’s disease.
Second, as amyloid beta proteins pile up in your brain it can slow down signaling between brain cells and accelerate brain aging.
Quick fix: One of the best things you can do for your brain is to feast on delicious anti-inflammatory foods like fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
You’ll also do your brain and whole-body health a world of good by limiting your intake of greasy, salty processed foods to just one or two times per month.
3 Delicious Brain-Fitness Foods
Cutting back on fast food and processed junk is important, but… how about some brain-healthy foods that taste AMAZING?
Here are three of my research-supported favorites:
1. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers rejoice!
Researchers have linked certain compounds in dark chocolate, called cocoa flavanols, with improved thinking skills.
An Italian study tested how the effects of cocoa flavanols in 90 healthy 61- to 85-year-olds who had healthy memories and thinking skills for their age.
Participants were divided into three groups. One group was given a drink with 48 milligrams [mg] of cocoa flavanols a day, another group received a drink with 520 mg cocoa flavanols, and a third drank a daily concoction 993 mg.
At the end of the eight week study, people who consumed medium and high amounts of cocoa flavanols every day “made significant improvements on tests that measured attention, executive function, and memory”. (9)
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Lots of us can’t get our day started without that first sip of java.
Turns out there’s more reasons to love coffee than its yummy taste and caffeine kick:
Research from the National Institute of Aging found that the caffeine in coffee can potentially improve mental performance and slow age-related mental decline. (10)
Caffeine blocks receptors for a chemical called adenosine, which normally blocks the release of excitatory chemicals in the brain. Without adenosine out of the picture, your brain is able to fire on all of its mental cylinders.
The American Heart Association recommends eating salmon and other types of fish at least twice a week for heart health. Salmon is definitely one of the best things you can eat for heart health, but it’s a winner for your brain, too.
Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Omega-3s are essential for life. Because our bodies can’t make omega-3s on their own, we need to get them from dietary sources and supplements.
Approximately 8% of the brain’s total weight is comprised of omega-3s — the building block for an estimated 100 billion neurons. Omega-3s are one of, if not THE, most important nutrients for brain health. (11)
Research shows that people who consume sufficient amounts of omega-3s have bigger, more functional brains. Omega-3s may also help to reverse many aspects of neurologic aging.
WARNING: Omega-3 deficiency is now the sixth leading cause of death in America. Are you deficient in this vital nutrient? Click here to find out.
A word of caution about eating fish:
While I’m a big fan of salmon and other types of fish, you need to be very careful to only buy and eat wild-caught sources.
Farm-raised fish are what you’ll often find at the grocery store and restaurants, and these fish can be soaked with cancer-causing PCBs and other toxins. Stay far away.
Get your omega-3s from wild-caught fish or a medical-grade supplement to avoid unwanted health complications.
Here’s To Better Brain Health!
As with every part of your body, you need to take care of your brain.
However, for a lot of folks, brain health plays second fiddle to more obvious desires like losing belly fat or erasing wrinkles.
That’s a costly mistake.
Think about this:
- Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen and blood in your body even though it weighs just three pounds!
- When you learn something new the physical structure of your brain changes!
- In 2015, the most powerful supercomputer in the world took 40 minutes to simulate just one second of human brain activity!
- You have about 70,000 thoughts per day!
What I’m trying to say is: Your brain is AMAZING!
Don’t you agree it deserves a little TLC?
Use the tips and strategies revealed in this article to keep your brain happy and healthy for years to come!
And if you found the information I shared with you today useful, would you please share this article?
Sharing is as simple as tapping or clicking one of the social share icons (Facebook, Google+, etc.) you see at the bottom of your screen. Thanks!
Your turn: Do you have any brain health habits you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below!