Aging is a natural, inevitable part of life that we cannot escape. However, that doesn’t mean that we need to go out of our way to accelerate the process. In fact, a lot of time and energy is spent in preventing any sort of premature aging in our skin. That said, it’s also important to take the same precautionary measures when it comes to the health of your brain.
As brain health does decline with age, it’s important to be conscious of habits that may cause the brain to age faster. This results in weaker neuron communication, loss of blood flow to the brain as well as inflammation – factors that can results in cognitive decline, particularly increasing your risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Therefore, if you want to ensure the health of your brain, and maintain cognitive function for the years to come, then be sure that you’re not partaking in any of the following habits.
Habits That Are Aging Your Brain
1. You’re not exercising
Exercising is important for your overall health and in addition to its various health benefits, protecting your brain health is one of them. In fact, research has found that a sedentary lifestyle can be quite detrimental to your brain health (1). It appears that living an inactive lifestyle may cause your medial temporal lobe, which is responsible for memory as well as cognitive function, to thin.
Additionally, a separate study published in the journal Neurology found that women who led active lifestyles faced an 88% reduced risk of developing dementia when compared to women who did not exercise.
If you really want to protect your brain health, it’s important that you prioritize getting more active over sitting in front of a screen, watching Netflix.
2. You’re eating a horrible diet
You are what you eat, and that includes your brain health. If you weren’t already aware, a diet rich in processed foods and refined grains is not the best option for your health as it increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Now imagine what it can do for your brain health.
The wrong foods can trigger inflammation, which can then cause the brain to age faster than normal. However, the right food can help to prevent any form of premature again. In fact, research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association found that the MIND diet can help to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
The MIND diet refers to the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention diet, which is an eating plan that incorporates both aspects of the Mediterranean and DASH diet. As a result, the diet includes whole grains, berries, leafy green vegetables, olive oil, poultry, and fish. These food groups are each rich in antioxidants, fatty acids, and other essential nutrients that will help to protect your brain health. As a result, the study found that following the mind diet would help to reduce the risk of both Alzheimer’s and dementia by 53%.
3. Excessive drinking
Now, while a glass of red wine does provide health benefits, it’s important not to over-consume alcohol.
The hippocampus refers to the area of the brain that helps to regulate both learning and memory. However, according to research published in the journal Neuroscience, excessive drinking can reduce the hippocampus’s functionality by at least 40%. So if you are looking to enjoy a drink, it’s important to try to stick to a glass a day – preferably of organic red wine.
4. You stop learning
If you really want to prevent your brain from prematurely aging, then it’s important that you keep exercising it so that it doesn’t lose its sharp thinking skills.
In fact, research has found that keeping your brain active through brain games like crossword puzzles can help to reduce the risk of dementia (2).
However, if you are not a fan of crossword puzzles and other brain games, there are other ways in which you can keep your brain active. These can include learning a new language or learning a new skill, such as how to play an instrument.
5. You have a poor social life
Blue Zones are five areas around the world that are inhabited by healthy individuals who go on to live to age 100 and beyond. Additionally, these areas are also virtually free of disease. One of the most notable characteristics of these Blue Zones are the close community bonds that they each have in their respective areas.
According to research, having strong social connections may help to delay your brain from aging. In fact, a study published in the Journal of International Neuropsychology Society found that strong social bonds may help to reduce your risk of cognitive decline by over 50%.
Now while some solitude can provide us with an opportunity to get a better perspective on where we are in life, don’t shy away from calling up a friend for a Saturday lunch.
6. You don’t sleep enough
The body needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep as this gives it ample opportunity to fully recharge and to ensure that it is in proper working order. Unfortunately, many of us are guilty of not even getting six hours of sleep, let alone seven. This can then cause the brain to decline faster with age.
In fact, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that losing even one night of sleep caused an increase of beta-amyloid – a protein in the brain that has been closely linked to cognitive decline as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re battling with getting enough sleep at night, there are methods you can use to help alleviate this problem. Such methods include the use of essential oils, rearranging your bedroom, or even sleeping on the floor.
7. You smoke
Smoking can literally damage every aspect of your body, which is why it’s important to quit the habit as soon as possible, especially if you want to both improve and protect your health.
In fact, research from the University of California San Francisco found that smoking is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease as the habit doubles the risk of one developing the neurodegenerative disorder (3).
8. You stress too much
Unfortunately, in the fast-paced lives that we live, stress is something that we can’t exactly avoid – which is fair enough. However, the concern starts when that stress becomes chronic.
Chronic stress can take quite a toll on your health – including that of your brain. In fact, research has found that chronic stress can result in poor memory, shrinking brain, as well as cause brain damage.
Additionally, chronic stress can also increase your risk of both depression and anxiety. That said, research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that even having mild anxiety can increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
If you are battling chronic stress and you feel that it is beginning to take a toll on your mental health, it’s important to immediately seek out a mental health professional.
Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs to be taken care of. Now while you can’t prevent aging in any way or form, there’s no reason as to why you need to accelerate the process – especially when it comes to your brain health.