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  • Zuzia Boguslawska

What are the worst habits for the brain?

We all have one or maybe more habits that we know are bad for our health. Today, we are looking into the biggest brain-damaging routines to avoid if you want your cognitive function to stay intact for as long as possible.

1. Missing out on sleep

As you may have noticed after a sleepless night, your body needs a good night's rest to function properly. Sleep is essential for the neurons to regenerate and therefore keep your mind focused and productive. Adequate sleep also allows for consolidating your memory, both short and long-term. Once you start missing out on sleep, you slow down your reaction time and thinking processes. What’s more, your brain can't get rid of toxic waste like beta-amyloid protein which is normally eliminated in your sleep. Beta-amyloid is renowned for accumulating in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

2. Not enough physical activity

Nowadays, we know a lot about the benefits of exercise and physical activity. A low level of physical activity is a well-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise can change the brain at anatomic, cellular, and molecular levels by promoting neurogenesis and enhancing brain plasticity. Particularly in older adults exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation- a common feature of aging. The importance of an active lifestyle is highlighted not only in healthy individuals but also in those already developing Alzheimer’s symptoms. Physical activity can slow down the deterioration of mental functions in the disease.

3. Overeating

Occasional eating large meals doesn't harm your body in the long term, but when you start doing it on daily basis you raise the chances of future health problems such as heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. When you eat past the point of being full your stomach expands beyond its normal size making you feel uncomfortable and the stomach acid causes heartburn. Your metabolism speeds up and the organs work harder to break down the food. Fasting, on the other hand, produces a whole-body, altered metabolic state that optimizes neuron plasticity and resilience to stress. The research shows that going through periods of hunger will slow down neurodegeneration and improve cognition.

4. Spending too much time alone

Loneliness affects physical and mental health, cognitive performance and increases vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease. Studies on animals and humans show that several brain structures are affected by a lack of social interaction. For example, volumes of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are reduced which leads to poor decision making and impaired memory. The isolation we experienced during the pandemic has really shown that humans are social species that need others to survive.

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