5 Everyday habits that are hurting your brain health

In cognitive wellbeing, Dr Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist, sheds light on five everyday habits that may silently harm your brain health. 

Contrary to widespread knowledge, these practices undermine your cognitive functions. Let’s look into these habits and understand how they impact the most vital organ in your body [1]:

Excessive caffeine intake

While a morning cup of coffee is a routine for many, Dr Amen advises caution regarding caffeine intake. 

Caffeine, known for constricting blood vessels, has been linked to a shrinking brain [2]. Although no direct link to dementia has been established, Dr Amen points to the connection between caffeine, sleep problems and the subsequent association with dementia risk.

Moderate consumption, around 100mg per day, is deemed acceptable.

Too much sugar

One of the culprits assaulting your brain health is sugar. Dr Amen highlights its pro-inflammatory nature and role in fostering diabetes [3].

Elevated sugar levels lead to compromised blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the brain. Dr Amen emphasizes the addictive quality of sugar and its association with diabetes and obesity.

Endless screen scrolling

The ubiquitous screen time, an integral part of modern life, threatens brain health. Dr Amen highlights how excessive screen exposure wears out pleasure centers in the brain, specifically the nucleus accumbens.

These pleasure centers respond to dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with happiness. The constant barrage of notifications and scrolling can lead to overstimulation, contributing to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, addiction, obesity and ADHD [4].

Heading footballs

Engaging in the popular sport may seem harmless, but Dr Amen warns against heading the ball. A study from the Karolinska Institutet revealed that footballers are 50% more likely to develop dementia than the general population [5].

The impact of repeated head trauma in football is evident in the higher prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases among elite players compared to the non-footballing population [6].

Smoking

Nicotine, akin to caffeine, has the potential to restrict blood flow to the brain. 

Research from Washington University School of Medicine has shown that smoking leads to brain shrinkage, elevating the risks of cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease [7]. Quitting smoking emerges as a crucial step in preserving cognitive wellbeing.

Seemingly harmless daily habits can profoundly affect your brain health. From the insidious impact of sugar on blood vessels to the dangers of repetitive head trauma in sports, it’s crucial to recognize and address these practices for the sake of cognitive longevity.

[1] https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/1858373/habits-destroy-brain-dr-daniel-amen
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748160/
[3] https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/do-you-know-the-45-negative-health-effects-of-sugar/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9638701/
[5] https://www.bmj.com/content/380/bmj.p641
[6] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301737179_Perfusion_Neuroimaging_Abnormalities_Alone_Distinguish_National_Football_League_Players_from_a_Healthy_Population?_tp=eyJjb250ZXh0Ijp7ImZpcnN0UGFnZSI6Il9kaXJlY3QiLCJwYWdlIjoiX2RpcmVjdCJ9fQ
[7] https://medicine.wustl.edu/news/smoking-causes-brain-shrinkage/

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