Certain lifestyle choices can threaten the health of our brains significantly, even when the connection isn’t obvious. Habits that deny our brains important nutrients or rapidly kill brain cells put us at risk of mental disorders like depression or anxiety, as well physical ailments like Alzheimer’s, stroke, epilepsy, and even cancer. It’s easy to forget that even if your mind is at rest, your physical brain could still be suffering.
1. Skipping Breakfast
There is a reason that breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Skipping it can result in low blood sugar levels, and that is very damaging to the brain, especially if it happens a lot. Your brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body, and takes up to 20% of the total available glucose in your system each day. Regularly denying your brain enough nourishment causes a deficit in that energy budget, and you’ll find that your brain becomes less responsive to stimuli.
2. Sleep Deprivation
It’s probably no surprise to you that not getting enough sleep will make you feel sluggish and forgetful the next day. The reason is that insufficient sleep robs your neurons of the ability to function properly. That leads to mental lapses that can affect your work and relationships. But more than that, your senses and reflexes are dulled, making it more likely that you’ll have a dangerous accident.
Studies reveal a surprising connection between obesity and dementia. The reasons are unclear, but researchers suspect that obesity occurs when the food we eat lacks nutrition, leading to the desire to overeat in order to meet the body’s need for vitamins and minerals. So even if you eat a lot, you could still be starving your brain.
Smoking clearly damages cell membranes and neural viability in the areas of the brain that manage balance, coordination, and both fine and gross motor skill. It also thins the cortex, where processes including language, memory, and perception occur.
Our bodies are made up of 70% water, so it is critical to every bodily function, including brain function. The effect on your brain of dehydration happens really quickly, too, with researchers determining that even just two hours of heavy exercise without water can cause cognitive decline. In studies, it was found that dehydration impacted functions like complex problem-solving, coordination, and attention the most.
6. Too Much Sugar
Our bodies and our brains need sugar in order to function, but our modern diets include way too much of it. When you eat too much sugar on a regular basis, your cells, including brain cells, are in a state of chronic inflammation. That impacts the ability of your body to absorb important nutrients from food and begins to starve the brain of what it needs for optimal cognition.
Chronic stress can have a negative effect all over the body. Situational stress is actually a good thing that prepares the body to fight or flee in the face of danger, but when your lifestyle includes chronic stress, the hormone cortisol builds up in the brain and causes lasting damage. Not only can it kill brain cells, it actually causes the brain to shrink.