4 Lifestyle Choices That Hurt Your Brain
You are probably hearing a lot about the brain these days – books, movies, TV and radio shows, charities, it seems like people are talking about the brain and the role it plays in our lives. It makes sense that anything we can do to help our brains work better is probably a good and worthwhile thing to do.
But without realizing it, many of us have developed habits that are actually stressful or even harmful for the brain – it’s as important to avoid hurting your brain as it is to do good things to help it.
So here are four common lifestyle choices that hurt your brain.
- Not getting enough sleep
We live in a very busy society, where many of us are over programmed, arising earlier and earlier and staying up later and later to “get it all done” and still have a life.
The problem is, something must give, and often it’s sleep – staying up late and getting up early leaves less quality sleeping time. Slamming down extra coffee can only keep your brain firing for so long before it starts to fatigue – most people need at least seven hours of sleep, eight is better still.
Why is losing sleep bad for your brain? The latest research shows that your brain cleans, maintains and replenishes itself while you sleep, and that process takes about seven hours each night. So, missing sleep doesn’t only make you force the gears of wakefulness, it also makes your brain less healthy.
Get enough sleep, and it will be one important thing you do to make your brain healthier.
- Not drinking enough water
Your body is about 60% water, except your brain and your heart, which are about 73% water – so you can imagine that not getting enough water puts your health in jeopardy.
Everyone knows that extreme dehydration is bad for the whole body, brain included. When there is so little water in the body, it goes into starvation mode, conserving water any way it can – if it lasts too long, it can create delirium, dizziness, serious cognitive impairment, even unconsciousness, and at its worst it can be fatal.
But most people don’t realize that your brain doesn’t have to be severely dehydrated for it to suffer from not getting enough water. While the effects may not be as harsh, even mild dehydration causes mood changes, concentration and focus issues, or decreased energy. And since water helps your brain make hormones and neurotransmitters, lack of water compromises brain function itself.
Drink enough water to keep your brain happy – roughly half your body weight in ounces.
- Eating too much sugar and not enough fat
Not that long ago, experts thought that fat was bad for you and sugar was brain food. But the latest research shows the opposite to be true – sugar is bad for you and fat is brain food.
When you eat sugar, it burns your energy hot, whereas if you get your energy from healthy fats, you’ll burn steady and not overheat your metabolism. Sugary drinks and snacks put your body into stress, and your brain into overdrive. If you change out sugars for healthy fats, your brain will have the building blocks it needs to function at peak efficiency.
Examples of high sugar foods are candy, cookies, cakes, and anything with high fructose corn syrup. Examples of foods with healthy fats are olive oil, avocadoes, oily fish, nuts, eggs, and dark chocolate.
Eat less sugar, and build your diet around protein and healthy fat.
- Not avoiding trauma
Your brain is the only organ entirely encased in bone, because nature knew that it needed to be protected at all costs for the person to be viable. Serious brain trauma, whether from accidents or repetitive impacts such as contact sports can have a devastating effect on brain function.
Yet sometimes, smaller traumas, not severe enough to cause overt disease, but harmful in their cumulative effect on normal brain physiology, can decrease the brain’s efficiency. The problem is compounded by not getting enough sleep, not getting enough water, and eating too much sugar and too little healthy fat.
Bumping your head, minor sports injuries, poor posture and slight whiplash from stopping short in your car or on your bicycle can produce microinjuries to your brain, spine and nerve system. The best thing you can do to keep your brain, spine and nerve system healthy is to get regular chiropractic care. If you are in the Bucks County or Montgomery County area, call to schedule an appointment to find out how much care you need to keep your brain working right!