When you were young, your mom always told you not to pick your nose. But as a disobedient child, you paid no attention to social conventions and picked away. Only a short time later, your most noticeable habit was, you guessed it, picking your nose. While disgusting, it’s not going to do any damage to your body, or your brain. However, there are certain bad habits many people develop that can be harmful to the brain.
Here are a few habits that you’ll want to avoid if you want to keep your brain going strong.
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Recreational Drugs and Alcohol
This is your brain on drugs. Egg cracks, fries. You get the point. Well, even though that PSA is from the 80s, it certainly reigns true today. Recreational drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine age your body and brain rapidly, mainly because of the high concentrations of toxic chemicals in them. And drugs such as ecstasy and crack cocaine can cause even more damage, including insomnia, anxiety, permanent mood disorders, and the risk for developing mental illnesses later in life. All not good for your brain.
Now, we all know there is nothing wrong with a beer or a glass of wine here and there, but when addiction comes into play, that’s when the brain may start to be affected. The most common issues found in alcoholics are deficiencies in vitamin B1 and magnesium. Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause confusion, memory loss, decreased mental alertness, and emotional instability. A deficiency in magnesium can cause depression, disorientation, and irritability. Add those together and you can see why being addicted to alcohol can transform your brain into a pile of mush.
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You may actually not want add fries with that. Or maybe just skip the fast food all together. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that people who ate junk food (foods high in sugar, fat, and cholesterol) for five days straight performed worse on cognitive tests measuring body movement and agility, attention, and mood than those who ate a normal diet. The researchers don’t specifically know what caused the problems, but they all agree that it may be inflammation of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that’s associated with memory and special recognition.
Not Reading Enough
Reading Harry Potter not only makes you want to pick up wizardry as a hobby – it’s also good for your brain. Reading stimulates multiple high functioning areas of the brain and also improves the connectivity between brain circuits that are responsible for reading language. So when you put off reading on a consecutive basis, you may be on the fast track to a decline in cognitive skills, especially verbal skills, later in life.
Reading can also help prevent dementia. Researchers at the French National Institute discovered that people who do not read on a regular basis have an 18 percent greater chance of developing the disease. And when dementia did occur, the symptoms were worse in those who didn’t read. So pick up those books, your brain will thank you.
Yes, there are more bad habits that can affect your brain. Here is just a quick rundown.
- Chronic lack of sleep
- Watching television in excess
- Lack of exercise
- Viewing pornography excessively
- Covering your head while sleeping (buildup of carbon dioxide can be harmful)
But, there is good news. Habits can be broken over time. If you find yourself engaging in more than a few of these patterns on a regular basis, talk to your doctor or therapist to see how you can wean yourself away from a potentially harmful habit.
The UPMC Department of Neurosurgery is the largest academic neurosurgical provider in the United States. We perform more than 11,000 procedures each year. We treat conditions of the brain, skull base, spine, and nerves, including the most complex disorders. Whether your condition requires surgery or not, we strive to provide the most advanced, complete care possible. Our surgeons are developing new techniques and tools, including minimally invasive treatments. U.S. News & World Report ranks neurology and neurosurgery at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the best in the country. We also rank among the top neurosurgery departments in the U.S. for National Institutes of Health funding, a benchmark in research excellence.