Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are growing concerns as the U.S. population ages, bringing the importance of keeping your brain healthy to the forefront of many medical journals. While we all know to wear a helmet and protect your head when engaging in risky activities, there are more potential dangers to your brain’s health than you may realize. Below are five common habits that can damage your brain that many partake in every day.
Five habits that harm your brain
Poor sleep habits. Sleep is important for your overall health as it allows your body and mind to recover after a long day. However, many of us do not get the recommended six to eight hours of sleep a night and this chronic sleep deprivation may be causing damage to our brains. Studies in mice have found that chronic sleep loss may cause permanent damage and loss of brain cells that cannot be reversed by getting more sleep later on. Bottom line—it is impossible to truly catch up on sleep, and while a cat nap may help restore your energy, it cannot undo the brain damage that may have occurred.
Isolation. While some enjoy alone time and find peace in isolation, studies have shown that socialization—especially when it is face to face—can be as beneficial to your brain as completing a daily crossword. Talking and socializing in a cooperative manner with friends, family members, and neighbors for as little as ten minutes a day can help boost brain activity and better memory function. This isn’t to say you need to be a social butterfly and spend all of your time constantly surrounded by others, but merely that mixing in a bit of socialization daily can help preserve your brain health.
Bad diet. Just as eating well is good for your body, it’s also good for your mind. Indulging in fast food like burgers, fries, sodas, and chips too often can increase your risk of having declined brain function—especially if you are over 50. The good news is that it is possible to feed your brain by incorporating foods rich in vitamins and minerals into your daily diet. Patients with Alzheimer’s who eat a healthy, balanced diet have been found to experience less brain volume loss than their peers who eat mostly junk food, meaning that eating right can help preserve brain health and cognitive function.
Loud music. You may enjoy cranking the volume while listening to your favorite songs, but studies have shown that those with hearing loss are at a higher risk for developing conditions like Alzheimer’s and brain shrinkage. In as little as 30 minutes, blaring music through your earbuds can cause irreversible damage to your hearing that may increase your risk of brain decline later in life. Turn it down to save your hearing and preserve your brain health.
Smoking. The majority of people are aware of the link between smoking cigarettes and developing serious conditions including cancers and emphysema, but did you know that smoking can also harm your brain? Those who smoke are at a 50 percent higher risk for suffering a stroke, which can cause extensive brain damage and even death. Smoking has also been tied to brain aneurysms, in which the bursting of a blood vessel can trigger a subarachnoid hemorrhage that often results in death. Finally, smoking also raises your risk of cardiovascular disease which in turn almost doubles the likelihood that you will develop dementia.
Brain health has become an increasingly more prevalent concern as the number of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases rises, and many are unaware of the everyday activities that may be damaging their minds and predisposing them to these disorders. Protect your brain by getting enough sleep, socializing a little bit every day, eating a healthy diet, protecting your hearing, and finally, avoiding smoking.
Related: 9 steps for better brain health