Most of the healthy lifestyle we heard today focuses more on physical fitness and diet, but there’s one aspect in yourself that should be given equal importance too in terms of health: your brain.
Having a healthy brain should be at the top of your list because mental health equates physical health. While it’s true that having a healthy body is also good for your brain, there might be some habits that you’re not doing right and are threatening your brain to age faster than it should.
If you often doubt whether you’ve locked the door when you go out or not, it’s one signal that says, oops, your brain is no longer as active as it used to be. Our biological makeup says forgetting things often is a sign of aging. But should you accept it just that? No, don’t.
No matter how young or old you are, your brain is still able to function at its best when you know how to use it properly.
Recent studies show that our brain has the ability to recover and restructure itself. Scientists say you have the capacity to alter your brain’s organization at some levels.
Neuroscientists call this neuroplasticity, which refers to the capacity of your brain to change and rewire itself as a response to the stimulation of learning and experience over a period of time.
What this means for you is that the brain goes past the traditional belief that it degrades as you get older. Brain plasticity gives you the understanding that you can slow down the aging process by training your brain.
This is good news. But before you can do this, you have to give up first the habits that accelerate your brain to age faster. These are the following:
6 Habits That Speed Up Your Brain’s Aging Process
Lack of physical activity.
Exercise or any physical activity gets your blood circulating. A proper blood flow to your brain helps the brain to function much better. Activities, like sitting for long hours or lying down, is harmful to your brain.
A study published in the journal Neurology showed a correlation between physical fitness and the brain. The women subjects who performed cardiovascular exercises regularly were found to have a reduced risk of having dementia by as much as 88 percent compared to women with a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers found that a lack of physical activity can shrink some regions of the brain.
A reduced blood flow to the brain also means that your brain can’t get enough supply of the essential nutrients it needs for proper functioning. Without proper nourishment, your brain can be susceptible to inflammation and the development of chronic diseases such as depression and addiction.
Lack of mental stimulation.
If you’re doing crossword puzzles and board games, congratulations! You’re on the right track. You must be among those who have active brain cells. Experts said that engaging brain games boost your brain’s defense against dementia.
Mental exercises should be a part of your good habits. But you should also don’t have to overdo it. Sitting for long hours while engaging in brain games is also not good for your body. Moreover, games found in your gadgets are found to be not as effective as the real world brain game activities.
You may be busy, but that’s not enough reason to spend time with family, friends, and other people. There’s also a link between brain aging and social connections.
One study shows that aged people who regularly spend time with their family and friends have more than 50 percent chance of reducing the risk of cognitive decline compared to those who don’t. It’s because your brain is better able to cope with emotional and life challenges when you’re surrounded by supportive people.
Having a healthy support system makes you feel less isolated and lonely, thereby decreasing your chances of depression and dementia. Aside from this, being around with friends and engaging in fun activities with them also improve your longevity.
Lack of rest and downtime.
It’s been a common belief that if you want to be successful, you need to work hard. By working hard, it means not taking the time for relaxation and even working till the wee hours of the night. Many successful people have trodded through this path. They’ve enjoyed the financial gains but tremendously suffered from exhaustion in the long run. It’s only then that they’ve paused and started to reconsider.
You don’t have to follow this path. Chasing your dreams doesn’t have to put your physical and mental health at risk. You need to incorporate rest and downtime in your schedule and to-do list if you want to prevent your brain from aging faster. Take the needed vacation time. Delegate the task to others.
Some people may depend on you but you should be wise enough to consider that you will cause more harm to others and yourself when you deprive yourself of the proper rest your body needs.
Stress due to lack of rest can result in anxiety, which will ultimately lead to exhaustion and nervous breakdown.
If you have noticed, when you’re too busy and unrested, you start to forget things. This memory lapse is a sign that your brain is being overworked and needing a break. And worse, this can speed up your brain’s aging process.
Giving your brain at least seven hours of sleep is the best way to keep it in good condition according to experts.
Eating unhealthy food.
Unhealthy foods such as junk and processed foods, red meat, high fatty foods, cheese, fried foods, and sweets are not only bad for your health but bad for your brain as well.
These foods not only lack the vital nutrition that your body and mind need, but also increase your risk of having chronic health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.
Health experts have been telling us over and over again to follow a healthy diet. It’s nature’s way of preventing us from acquiring diseases while increasing longevity too.
The best diet for the brain that experts recommend is the MIND diet or the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet, which is a combination of the famous Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
The purpose of this diet is to protect you from debilitating diseases while protecting your heart and boosting your brain health. This diet recommends eating only ten types of food including the microgreens or leafy veggies and other vegetables, poultry, beans, nuts, wine, olive oil, whole grains, fish, and berries.
Heavy alcohol consumption and smoking.
Indulging in vices such as drinking too much alcohol and smoking are the easiest ways to speed up the aging of your brain.
In a study that involved subjects ranging from the age of nine months to 105, experts found evidence of brain age acceleration with people who indulged in alcohol and cannabis abuse. Too much alcohol consumption can damage the hippocampus, that area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Another study found that people who smoked doubled their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
After you have gotten rid of those bad habits, it’s now time for you to train your brain to engage in stimulating activities and improving your learning experience. As we have mentioned earlier, this is the best way to slow down your brain’s aging.
Learning new skills like playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, photography, and even meditation have been found to improve your brain’s plasticity. Your brain will thank you more if you will find a buddy who also shares the same interests as you.
Aging is a normal part of being human. But you can age more gracefully when you avoid things that hasten your brain’s aging, feed it with the right food and engage in activities that are fun and stimulating. This way, you are reducing the mental discomfort that inevitably comes with age.