If you don’t want to experience cognitive decline in your 60s and beyond, say goodbye to these 8 habits

There’s a vast difference between growing old and growing old with cognitive decline.

This difference hinges on our lifestyle choices. Cognitive decline isn’t just about forgetting where you left your keys; it’s about how your brain health can impact your overall quality of life as you age.

Those who wish to maintain their cognitive health into their 60s and beyond know there are certain habits they need to kick to the curb.

In this article, I’ll be sharing eight habits you need to say goodbye to, if you want to keep your brain sharp as you age. These are habits that, while seemingly harmless now, can contribute to cognitive decline later in life.

So, if you’re ready to foster a healthier brain for a brighter future, read on.

1) Regularly skimping on sleep

Sleep is not just a luxury, it’s a necessity for our brain health.

Catching less than the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye regularly can do more harm than good. It’s not just about feeling groggy and lethargic during the day. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious cognitive issues down the line.

Think about it. Our brain uses sleep time for critical functions like memory consolidation and clearing out toxins. When we cut short our sleep, we are essentially denying our brain this crucial recovery time.

Research has shown a strong link between lack of sleep and cognitive decline. So if you’re frequently burning the midnight oil or binge-watching shows into the wee hours, it might be time to make some changes.

2) Living a sedentary lifestyle

We’ve all heard it before – physical activity is crucial for overall health. But did you know it plays a significant role in our brain health too?

I once led a fairly sedentary lifestyle. My job involved sitting at a desk for hours on end, and at the end of the day, I was too drained to do much else. It wasn’t until I started experiencing early signs of cognitive decline, such as a dip in my concentration levels and frequent forgetfulness, that I realized something needed to change.

So, I started incorporating regular exercise into my routine. Just half an hour of brisk walking every day made a noticeable difference. Not only did I start feeling more energetic, but my concentration levels improved, and I found myself being less forgetful.

Studies have shown that regular physical activity boosts brain health by improving blood flow and promoting the growth of new brain cells.

So if your day involves long periods of sitting or being inactive, it’s time to get moving. Trust me; your future self will thank you for it.

3) Consuming excessive alcohol

Drinking alcohol may seem like a harmless way to unwind after a long day, but did you know that excessive drinking can lead to cognitive decline?

Alcohol can interfere with the communication pathways in the brain, causing memory loss and difficulty with concentration. Over time, it can lead to the shrinking of the brain’s frontal lobes, which are crucial for functions such as planning, making decisions, and forming memories.

According to a study published in The BMJ, even moderate drinking can increase the risk of cognitive decline. The study found that middle-aged people who drank between 15 and 20 drinks per week were three times more likely to have hippocampal atrophy, a form of brain damage that affects memory and spatial navigation.

4) Overloading on stress

We all face stress in our lives. From work deadlines to personal issues, it’s almost impossible to avoid. However, constant high levels of stress can wreak havoc on your brain health.

Chronic stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which over time can damage the brain and lead to memory problems and cognitive decline. It’s not just about feeling frazzled; it’s about how sustained high-stress levels can impact your long-term brain health.

But don’t despair, managing stress is achievable. Whether it’s through meditation, yoga, deep-breathing exercises, or simply taking time out for yourself, finding effective ways to manage stress can help preserve your cognitive health.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember—it’s not just about easing your mind in the moment; it’s about protecting your cognitive health in the long run.

5) Neglecting social connections

We are social creatures by nature. Our relationships and connections with others play a significant role in our happiness and overall well-being. But did you know they also impact our cognitive health?

Isolation and lack of social engagement can lead to cognitive decline. It’s not just about feeling lonely; it’s about how our brain health is intertwined with our social interactions.

I’ve seen this firsthand with a dear friend of mine. She was always the life of the party, full of energy and laughter. But as she aged, she became more and more isolated. It wasn’t long before we started noticing changes in her cognitive abilities.

This serves as a poignant reminder that nurturing our relationships and staying socially active is not just good for our hearts—it’s good for our brains too.

6) Ignoring mental stimulation

Keeping your brain active and engaged is crucial for maintaining cognitive health. Just like our muscles, our brains need regular workouts too.

I’ve always been a fan of puzzles. From crosswords to Sudoku, I find them to be a great mental workout. But there was a time when life got in the way, and I stopped making time for them. I didn’t realize the impact until I started feeling a bit foggy and forgetful.

That was a wake-up call. I reintroduced puzzles into my daily routine, and the difference was noticeable. Not only did my forgetfulness improve, but I also felt sharper and more focused.

Engaging in activities that challenge your brain, like puzzles, reading, writing, or even learning a new skill or language can help keep your mind sharp and delay cognitive decline. So, find what interests you and make it a part of your routine. Your brain will thank you for it.

7) Eating a poor diet

We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”. But it’s not just about your physical health – your diet also significantly impacts your brain health.

Eating a diet high in processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats can contribute to cognitive decline. These foods can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which can damage brain cells over time.

On the flip side, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can enhance brain health. Foods like blueberries, turmeric, and fish are known to have brain-boosting properties.

So next time you’re reaching for that bag of chips or that extra slice of cake, think about the long-term impact on your brain health. A healthy diet is not just good for your body; it’s good for your brain too.

8) Smoking

If there’s one habit you should kick to the curb for the sake of your cognitive health, it’s smoking.

Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, including your brain. It increases the risk of cognitive decline and can even lead to dementia.

The damage from smoking is not just limited to smokers themselves; secondhand smoke can also impact cognitive health.

So if you’re a smoker, consider this another reason to quit. And if you’re not a smoker, steer clear of secondhand smoke whenever possible.

Quitting smoking can be challenging, but the benefits for your brain health are immense. It’s never too late to quit, and there are plenty of resources available to help you on your journey to a smoke-free life.

Final thoughts: It’s about the journey

The path to maintaining cognitive health as we age is not a destination, but a journey.

This journey is tied intimately with the choices we make every day. From the food we eat, to our sleep habits, to how we manage stress – each choice contributes to the state of our cognitive health as we age.

American author and biochemist Isaac Asimov once said, “The human brain, then, is the most complicated organization of matter that we know.” It’s a testament to how incredibly intricate and valuable our brains are.

So remember, protecting your cognitive health is not just about warding off decline. It’s about cherishing and nurturing the most complex organ in our bodies.

Whether you’re in your 20s or your 60s, it’s never too early or too late to start making changes. So take a moment to reflect on your habits. Which ones are serving your brain well? And which habits do you need to say goodbye to?

After all, the journey to a healthier brain starts with a single step. And that step begins with you.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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