Our body's functions are managed by our brain. It is the main control center that manages a host of essential functions like processing sensory information, breathing, movement, heart rate, digestion, speech, thought, emotions, etc. Our brain is made up of both gray matter and white matter. Gray matter is involved in decision-making and problem-solving while white matter serves to connect and transmit information between brain regions.

An imbalance between white and gray matter by a host of harmful habits can play a role in the development of mental illness. The majority of people damage their brain health daily unconsciously without being aware of it. The brain is surprisingly delicate, and we need to stay careful of it hence we may end up damaging it. in this blog, we have highlighted seven common lifestyle habits that can damage our brain. Read on to understand the damage and ways to curb the aftereffects.

7 Habits That Can Damage Your Brain

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Your brain has an endless list of responsibilities and can be harmed by bad habits. Let’s carefully analyze the harmful habits that are deteriorating your brain:

1) Not Getting Enough Sleep


One of the worst things you can do to damage your brain is to not get enough sleep. Do you know that insufficient sleep prevents your brain from having time to unwind and replenish its energy? Yes, your brain functions at its peak when you get enough good-quality sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. During deep sleep, the body regenerates cells, grows and repairs tissues and bones, strengthens the body’s immune system, and replaces its energy.

Serious issues like mood swings, memory loss, confusion, and cognitive deterioration may result from constant sleep deprivation. Also, insufficient sleep may raise the chance of developing dementia. Make sure you consistently obtain at least seven hours of sleep every night if you want to safeguard your brain.

How much sleep do you really need?

For our lives, we require different amounts of sleep each day. It takes:

  • 14–17 hours for newborns
  • 12–15 hours for infants
  • 11–14 hours for toddlers
  • 10–13 hours for preschoolers
  • 9–11 hours for school-aged children
  • 8–10 hours for teenagers
  • 7–9 hours for adults
  • 7–8 hours for elderly persons

Here are some suggestions for improving your sleep habits:

  • Try to establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day, even on the weekends.
  • Maintain a comfortable, dark, and quiet environment in your bedroom.
  • Aim for seven hours of sleep every night.
  • Steer clear of heavy meals, drinks, caffeine, and alcohol right before bed.
  • Do not use electronics, including laptops, TVs, and smartphones right before sleeping.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Ask your doctor; if you still have trouble falling asleep, consult your physician.

2)  Too much sitting


Do you know that an adult's brain is negatively impacted if you spend more than six hours a day in a chair? According to a study, excessive sitting is associated with alterations in a region of the brain crucial for memory. When people between the ages of 45 and 75 had their medial temporal lobe (MTL), a part of the brain responsible for creating new memories, examined using MRI images. The result showed that the MTL areas were thinner in those who sat for the longest. MTL thinning may be a sign of dementia and cognitive decline.

Also, physical activity increases blood flow to the brain. A sedentary lifestyle like prolonged sitting can compromise blood flow to the brain, which may result in less oxygen and nutrients reaching the brain's cells. This can impact both general brain health and cognitive performance. 

What can you do?

  • It's recommended to engage in physical activity every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Incorporate more activity into your day like using stairs instead of an elevator, parking a car further from the office or walking while you talk, etc.
  • Do yoga and meditation.
  • Maintain good posture.

3) Lack of socializing


Loneliness and social isolation may also be detrimental to brain function. Social isolation and loneliness have been associated with reduced cognitive performance and an increased risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease. Also, a study shows that people who are less socially interactive lose more grey matter, the outer layer of the brain responsible for information processing.

Here are some ideas to help you stay connected with people around you:

  • Restart an old hobby or pick up a new skill in a class. You might meet others who share your interests and have fun.
  • Stay connected with your family and friends through communication mediums such as smart speakers, video calls, and social media.
  • Adopt a pet if you can take care of their needs. In addition to providing comfort, animals have been shown to reduce stress and blood pressure.
  • Join a swimming club, a gym, or a sports activity where, besides interacting with people, you can take care of your health.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors and stay connected with them. 

4) Chronic stress


Stress is a common and inevitable aspect of everyday life. It takes many different forms, ranging from the strain of balancing obligations to family, job, and education to managing concerns related to relationships, finances, and health. However, chronic stress has been associated with multiple chronic diseases of the brain and heart. 

Stress not only impairs memory and cognitive processes, including mood and anxiety but also increases inflammation in the body. Stress tends to kill brain cells and shrink brain volume. The hormones released during stress not only alter the structure of the brain but can also kill brain neurons.

Things you can do to combat stress:

  • Spend time with family and friends.
  • Take a yoga class or practice mindfulness.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Spend time with a pet.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake.
  • Eat a balanced diet and indulge in self-care.


5) Consuming sugary beverages or too much fast food


Fast food is not only high in calories, fat, and sugar but also low in nutrients and fiber. While eating fast food occasionally isn’t a problem, long-term consumption of a diet rich in excessive sugar and processed foods has been connected to memory issues, anxiety, and depression, among other emotional diseases. It can also lead to mood swings contrary to a balanced diet that can elevate your emotional state. A high-sugar diet can cause cognitive decline and increase your risk of dementia, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Try to distance yourself from the sugary cravings and fast food by doing the following:

  • Try chewing gum, taking a stroll, or having a shower to help you get away from the sweet craving.
  • Avoid lack of sleep, which can interfere with the hormones that regulate hunger, causing cravings and poor control over eating.
  • Drinking water before meals may reduce cravings and appetite, as well as help with weight loss. Many times, cravings for food or hunger are mistaken for thirst.
  • Eat proper meals that help prevent hunger and cravings.

6) Smoking


Another bad habit that damages your brain is smoking. It is among the worst things you can do for your overall health. Smoking causes chronic inflammation and blood vessel damage, both of which increase the risk of stroke and cognitive impairment. Additionally, dementia is twice as common in smokers. Smoking also increases tension and anxiety.

What should you do to quit smoking?

  • The best thing you can do for your brain (and your body) if you smoke is to give it up. 
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy to get your body off harmful sources of nicotine.
  • Breathing exercises and meditation can help you cope with daily stress.
  • Talk to a medical doctor to manage your withdrawal symptoms.


7) Disregarding Your Health Concerns


You must visit your physician and receive treatment for your health issues. Ignoring your health concerns might have major consequences in the future, including brain damage. For instance, dementia is more common in those with untreated hypertension. Diabetes and depression may potentially damage your brain if left untreated. In case you have any concerns related to your diabetes management, you can Ask a Diabetologist online.

If you want to maintain the health of your brain, make sure you consult your healthcare provider for regular checkups and any health issues.

Conclusion


We have learned so far that a few habits, like lack of sleep, chronic stress, smoking, loneliness, and a sedentary lifestyle can damage your brain. Be mindful of these habits and try to avoid them if you want to maintain the health of your brain. Keep in mind that your brain is a sensitive organ that requires careful attention. Also, timely consult your healthcare provider for ongoing medical issues.


If you have any questions related to mental and brain health, you can check with our doctors at Ask a Doctor, 24x7.


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Disclaimer: Information provided on this page is not intended to substitute for proper medical advice provided by your healthcare professional. This is only for informational purposes.

About the Author

Dr. Vaishalee Punj

Dr Vaishalee is a general physician with experience of more than 16 years. She has done MD in Clinical Pharmacology that equips her with better knowledge of medicines and how to apply this knowledge for a clinical case. She has satisfactorily assisted many people in her clinic and on www.healthcaremagic.com with better management of their health conditions. Dr Vaishalee is here to guide you and to help you you to live well with your health conditions.


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