Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (2023)

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (1)

Not Sleeping Enough

We all have some bad habits, but some of these bad habits can harm your brain. Skimping on sleep is one of those bad habits. Poor sleep has been linked with dementia; those who do not get enough Zzzs are more likely to get dementia and Alzheimer's compared to those who get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep in older adults increases the risk of excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and problems with attention and memory. Adults who don't get enough sleep are also more likely to fall at night and rely on more sleep aids (both over-the-counter and prescription kinds). People who have trouble falling asleep at night should avoid:

  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • watching TV or using the computer or cell phone in the evening

If you have trouble sleeping, practice a soothing bedtime routine in the evening to help you wind down and get to sleep.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (2)

Being Socially Isolated

Humans are social creatures. We need human contact to survive and thrive. It is also vital for healthy brain function. Lack of friendly interactions has been linked with cognitive decline. Perceived social isolation and loneliness are risk factors for poorer cognitive performance, depression, and faster cognitive decline. People who have friends, even a few close friends, are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and brain decline. They are also happier and more productive. If you would like to meet new people, take up some social hobbies where you can meet others. Dancing, tennis, and bridge are a few examples of activities where you can get out and meet new people.

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Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (3)

Eating Junk Food

Humans are social creatures. We need human contact to survive and thrive. It is also vital for healthy brain function. Lack of friendly interactions has been linked with cognitive decline. Perceived social isolation and loneliness are risk factors for poorer cognitive performance, depression, and faster cognitive decline. People who have friends, even a few close friends, are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and brain decline. They are also happier and more productive. If you would like to meet new people, take up some social hobbies where you can meet others. Dancing, tennis, and bridge are a few examples of activities where you can get out and meet new people.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (4)

Listening to Loud Music

Hearing loss is linked to brain issues including brain shrinkage and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. One possibility is that the brain has to work harder to process what is being said and it is not able to store what was heard into memory. Protect against hearing loss by avoiding turning the volume up on your device up by more than 60% of the maximum volume. Do not listen to your device for more than a couple of hours at a time. Listening to a device that is too loud can permanently damage your hearing in as little as 30 minutes. Protect your hearing to protect your brain.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (5)

Being Sedentary

Physical inactivity is linked to a higher risk of dementia. It also increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which are linked to Alzheimer's disease. You do not need to overextend yourself. Gardening or walking for at least 30 minutes at least 3 times per week is enough to reduce the risk of dementia and other chronic conditions. Walking is one of the most effective and easiest types of exercise you can do. All you need to get started is a pair of sneakers. Physical activity positively affects the health of your blood vessels, including those in your brain. It also improves neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to form new connections in response to experience, learning, or an injury. Exercise has benefits for stress reduction, too. Physical activity increases oxygen delivery to your muscles and brain.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (6)

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Quit Smoking

Smokers have an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Smoking shrinks your brain and it causes memory loss. It damages blood vessels and puts you at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Many people try to quit smoking multiple times before succeeding. If you need help to quit smoking, talk to your doctor about nicotine patches and prescription medications. These are effective treatments that may help you accomplish your goal. There are quit smoking programs and other resources thatyour doctor can recommend for you.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (7)

Overeating

Overeating and consuming too many calories is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Overeating leads to weight gain and obesity which contributes to diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. All of these conditions increase the risk of brain conditions and Alzheimer's disease. Talk to your doctor about how best to control your weight and how to lose weight if you are overweight. Your doctor may recommend that you see a nutritionist to design a diet and nutrition plan that will work for you. If you believe overeating is a symptom of an eating disorder, a therapist can help youlearnstrategies to change unwanted patterns and behaviors that lead to you overeat.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (8)

Not Getting Enough Sunlight

Low sunlight has been linked with poor brain function. Researchers have discovered that we need natural light for optimal brain function and to combat depression. Adequate sun exposure is also necessary for you to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is necessary for healthy bones and to boost mood. Sun exposure alters levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, and the hormone, melatonin. Get adequate sun exposure to boost mental health and cognitive function and to protect against cognitive decline and dementia. Scientists have determined that exposure to natural sunlight is necessary for prevention of brain conditions. Research results from clinical studies suggests that fair-skinned people are able to make sufficient vitamin D levels with as little as 15 minutes of sun exposure per day while dark-skinned people may need up to several hours of sun exposure to manufacture adequate levels of vitamin D. Learn your safe limit for sun exposure. Be careful not to burn as sunburns are associated with higher rates of skin cancer and potentially deadly melanoma.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (9)

Being Dehydrated

Dehydration affects your brain and contributes to cognitive dysfunction. People who are dehydrated have difficulties with executive function, which are cognitive processes you need to control behavior. Dehydration also negatively affects the ability to pay attention and it increases reaction times for motor tasks. Drink plenty of fluids and replace electrolytes lost during hot weather and exercise. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Your urine should be a pale yellow color. If it is darker, you are likely dehydrated. If it is clear, you may be taking in too many fluids.

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Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (10)

Eating Too Much Sugar

Eating a diet high in sugar impairs brain function by altering the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. One study found that mice that ate a diet high in sucrose had difficulty with spatial memory and cognitive flexibility. Sugar feeds harmful gut bugs, like Clostridiales (Clostridium spp), that are associated with decreased cognitive flexibility. Sugar consumption is also associated with decreased Bacteroidales (Bacteroides spp) population levels, which, when reduced, also inhibits gut function. High-sugar foods include orange juice, fruit juice, honey, pastries, cakes, candy, and ice cream.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (11)

Sustaining Head Injuries

Withstanding repeated head injuries while playing contact sports or being physically active is associated with traumatic brain injury that increases the risk of cognitive problems, mood disorders, headaches, speech problems, and aggressive behavior. Participation in contact sports like football, baseball, softball, and basketball contributes to many head injuries every year in the U.S. Participating in solo activities like cycling, scuba diving, surfing, and driving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) leads to thousands of head injuries every year as well. Take precautions to protect yourself when playing sports and engaging in physical activity. Seek help right away if you suffer a head injury.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (12)

Living in a Polluted Environment

One study found that people who lived close to roads or highways that experienced heavy traffic had a higher incidence of dementia. Being exposed to pollution from cars may negatively affected cognition, too. Live away from highways and roads with heavy traffic, if you can. Invest in an air cleaner that removes pollutants from indoor air.

Dementia and Alzheimer's: 13 Bad Brain Health Habits (13)

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Eating Too Much Salt

High blood pressure, especially during midlife, is associated with a higher risk of cognitive deficits and stroke. The systolic number, which represents the blood pressure when the heart is contracting, seems to be more important to the later risk of cognitive decline than the diastolic number. The latter represents the blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. Most Americans consume too much salt and not enough potassium, both of which negatively affect blood pressure. Avoid salty foods, don't add salt to your food, and monitor your blood pressure. See your doctor for treatment if it starts creeping up.

Sources:

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REFERENCES:

  • Alzheimer's & Dementia: "MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer's Disease."
  • Environmental Health Perspectives: "Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health."
  • International Journal of Biometeorology: "The Relationship Between Long-Term Sunlight Radiation and Cognitive Decline in the REGARDS Cohort Study."
  • JAMA Neurology: "Midlife Hypertension and 20-Year Cognitive Change: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study," "Self-Reported Sleep and β-Amyloid Deposition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults."
  • The Lancet: "Living Near Major Roads and the Incidence of Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis: A Population-Based Cohort Study."
  • Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology: "Hearing Loss as a Risk Factor for Dementia: A Systematic Review."
  • Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "Physical Exercise as a Preventive or Disease-Modifying Treatment of Dementia and Brain Aging."
  • Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "Dehydration Impairs Cognitive Performance: A Meta-Analysis."
  • National Institute on Aging: "Brain Health as You Age: Key Facts and Resources."
  • Neurology: "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy and athletes."
  • Neuroscience: "Relationships Between Diet-Related Changes in the Gut Microbiome and Cognitive Flexibility."
  • Physiology & Behavior: "Human Cognitive Function and the Obesogenic Environment."
  • PLoS One: "Smoking Is Associated with an Increased Risk of Dementia: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies with Investigation of Potential Effect Modifiers."
  • Trends in Cognitive Sciences: "Perceived Social Isolation and Cognition."
  • Vitamin D Council: "How Do I Get the Vitamin D My Body Needs?"

WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information

© 2005-2022 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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FAQs

What morning habits cause dementia? ›

One of the habits that can increase your risk of developing dementia by four times is the habit of skipping your breakfast. Breakfast: The most important meal of the day Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

What habits can cause Alzheimer's? ›

Things That Can Increase Dementia Risk
  • You Skimp on Sleep. ...
  • Your Diet Could Use Some Improvement. ...
  • You're in Isolation. ...
  • You're Not Stimulating Your Brain. ...
  • You Lead a Sedentary Lifestyle. ...
  • You Drink Alcohol in Excess. ...
  • You're a Woman.
2 Jun 2021

What are the 12 risk factors for dementia? ›

It has been estimated that around 40% of dementia cases may be the result of twelve key modifiable risk factors.
  • High blood pressure. ...
  • Smoking. ...
  • Diabetes. ...
  • Obesity. ...
  • Lack of physical activity. ...
  • Poor diet. ...
  • High alcohol consumption. ...
  • Low levels of cognitive engagement.

What habits damage the brain? ›

Many habits contribute to poor brain health, but four areas can have the most influence. They are too much sitting, lack of socializing, inadequate sleep, and chronic stress.

What 7 Things Activate Alzheimer's in your brain? ›

Here are the factors researchers identified – and why they're associated with a higher risk.
  • Education level. A lower education level is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. ...
  • Cognitive activity. ...
  • Hypertension in mid-life. ...
  • Orthostatic hypotension. ...
  • Diabetes. ...
  • BMI. ...
  • Head trauma. ...
  • Hyperhomocysteinaemia.
22 Jul 2020

What household product triggers dementia? ›

5 Household Items That Could Be Dangerous with Alzheimer's
  • #1: Laundry Detergent Pods.
  • #2: Unlocked Doors.
  • #3: Household Cleaners.
  • #4: Locks on Inside Doors.
  • #5: Food Shaped Decorations.
29 Jan 2019

What foods make Alzheimer's worse? ›

Many foods in the Western diet have been identified as risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer's, including red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets, and desserts. Excess alcohol intake, saturated fatty acids, and foods with a high number of calories are also risk factors for Alzheimer's.

What sleep position is linked to dementia? ›

A 2019 study published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, showed among 165 participants (45 with diagnosed neurodegenerative disease, 120 controls) a supine sleep position (on back, head at body level) for more than 2 hours per night increased the risk of dementia by almost four times (3.7 times greater).

Does sugar make dementia worse? ›

Well, the chilling answer is YES. According to research, an unhealthy diet makes a senior like you vulnerable to the cognitive impairment brought by dementia. In fact, a well-established study about diet implicates sugar as the major culprit in increasing your risk to develop the disease.

Is ice cream good for people with dementia? ›

Ice cream brings people with dementia to happier, warmer times when the treat was shared with friends and loved ones at special, joyous occa- sions. Ice cream has the power to immediately elicit soothing feelings at the very first taste of a single spoon-full.

What is the most common cause of death in dementia patients? ›

One of the most common causes of death for people with dementia is pneumonia caused by an infection. A person in the later stages of dementia may have symptoms that suggest that they are close to death, but can sometimes live with these symptoms for many months.

What is the strongest risk factor for dementia? ›

The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's and other dementias is increasing age, but these disorders are not a normal part of aging. While age increases risk, it is not a direct cause of Alzheimer's. Most individuals with the disease are 65 and older. After age 65, the risk of Alzheimer's doubles every five years.

What does the Bible say about dementia? ›

Scripture assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even a dementia that may strip a person of her awareness of God's presence (Romans 8:38-29).

Are introverts more likely to get dementia? ›

A study published in 2014 in Neurology Online studied 800 women over the course of 38 years and found that women who tested as introverts and highly neurotic were more likely to develop Alzheimer's than other women in the study.

Can certain foods stave off dementia? ›

Evidence shows that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and cereals, and low in red meat and sugar could help reduce dementia risks.

Are eggs good for Alzheimer's? ›

Eggs provide bioactive compounds, such as lutein, choline, zeaxanthin, and high-value proteins, that may have a protective role against dementia due to their beneficial effects on inflammation (22, 23).

Why does protein build up in the brain? ›

Aβ is a protein that the brain constantly clears. However, when someone has a stroke, the brain is injured. This prevents the brain from clearing the Aβ, allowing for a gradual buildup of this protein.

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