Stop Doing These 5 Habits If You Want Better Brain Health

How do you keep your brain healthy? There is no shortage of mood trackers and puzzle-game apps that claim to improve your brain health, not to mention vitamin supplements specifically marketed toward aging. But when it comes to scientific support, a healthy brain doesn’t just come from solving a sudoku or taking a pill. Long-term habits have a huge effect on memory and dementia risk, so break these bad habits for a better future brain.


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If you prefer rapidly switching between emails, apps, errands, and chores, you may be hurting your brain. Multitasking increases your body’s production of cortisol and adrenaline to a point that your brain gets overstimulated and makes decision-making more difficult. Although it may seem more efficient to listen to a podcast while cooking, or send an email while waiting in line, there is a ‘switching cost’ that slows your speed at processing new information and limits your short-term memory. It can be so tempting to combat feeling overwhelmed by trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once, but you will actually end up less productive and more stressed than if you shut down distractions and tackle your to-do list items one by one.

Too Much Screen Time

The ding of your phone notification can be distracting, and even more so if you see that little red dot on the app urging you to check a new notification. It’s not just the dopamine hit from social media that makes it hard to ignore – having unread notifications actually lowers your effective IQ. Glenn Wilson, professor of psychology at Gresham College in London, found in his research that problem-solving was decreased by at least 10 IQ points while participants had multiple incomplete tasks. But don’t give into the dopamine hit of opening that app just one more time, which creates a feedback loop in your brain of wanting to check it again and again. The best way to clear the distraction is to turn off your phone or keep it in a drawer, where the notifications are out of sight so you can focus on other things.

Poor Sleep

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When it comes to your long-term brain health, good sleep is non-negotiable. Waking up ‘on the wrong side of the bed’ doesn’t just make you grumpy for one day, it actually increases your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s and can literally shrink your brain. From there, the bad effects domino from one into another. Poor sleep delays your processing speed, impairs healthy metabolism, and makes it more difficult for your body to balance hormones. Keep getting a healthy seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and your whole body will thank you.

Too Much Sugar

It’s common knowledge that sugar-heavy diets lead to expensive dentist visits and increased diabetes risk. But if we know it’s bad for us, why is it so hard to cut out? Giving into sugar cravings affects dopamine. Over the long-term, consuming too much sugar can lead to damaged dopamine transmitters and receptors in the brain, aka a chemical dependency on sugar, like an addiction. This damage leads to memory loss and difficulty learning new things. Cutting out sugar is already hard enough any time of year, but with Halloween around the corner it can be especially tough!

Sitting Too Much

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If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your office space with a standing desk, don’t delay any longer. A sedentary lifestyle is correlated with increased atrophy in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), which means that part of your brain gets smaller over time. That atrophy is a normal part of aging that everyone experiences, eventually triggering issues like dementia. But sitting too much every day can make it happen even faster! To boost your brain health and delay that aging, make sure your daily routine includes some aerobic exercise throughout the day. Although sitting for seven hours straight and then exercising for one hour is better than no exercise at all, the best way to make sure you have healthy blood flow to your brain is to break up the chunks of time spent sitting with a little exercise. Even just a few jumping jacks each hour can have a big impact over time.


Have you done any of these habits before? Are you going to stop now? Comment below!

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