Are YOU sabotaging your brain?
Cognitive decline is a HUGE health concern as you age, as it can impair your ability to drive a car, pay bills, grocery shop, and basically live a full, independent life.
But here’s the sobering reality…
Two out of three Americans will experience some level of cognitive impairment by age 70.1 And women have a 37 percent lifetime risk of developing it, whereas men get off a little better with a 24 percent lifetime risk.
So, let’s talk about some of the WORST habits for your brain—and what you can do to FIX them, starting today…
BAD BRAIN HABIT No. 1:
You sit too much
“Sitting disease” increases your risk of developing any number of diseases—including cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Well, it’s also terrible for your brain.
In fact, one recent study found that cognitive decline is almost TWICE as common among inactive adults compared to those who are active.2
And a second study found a strong link between too much sitting and shrinkage in the brain’s medial temporal lobe (MTL)—the area of the brain that typically shows the earliest signs of cognitive decline.3
The Fix: I always recommend striving to achieve weekly, if not daily, activity targets. At the very least, this good habit will minimize periods of extended sitting.
And if you find yourself sitting for more than a 30-minute stretch, make sure to get up and take a brisk, five-minute walk. Set a timer if you need to! Research shows even shorts bursts of activity helps push much-needed oxygen and nutrients into the brain. As a result, cognitive function—including working memory—improves. Especially in sedentary adults.4
BAD BRAIN HABIT No. 2:
You stress over the little things
Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, skyrocketed during the pandemic. And I’m sorry to report those problems have only grown WORSE since.
In fact, in a 2022 study conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, nearly two out of every five Americans rated their mental health as fair or poor—a roughly 30 percent increase from one year earlier.5
Plus, more than one in four Americans said they expect to experience more stress at the start of 2023—a 20 percent increase from last year.
It’s important that we find ways to deal with all this stress—as it takes a HUGE toll on your cognitive health… especially as you get older.
Case in point: In a recent study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, researchers looked at the connection between cognition and repetitive negative thinking (RNT) in almost 300 adults, ages 55 and older.6
They found that those who dwelled on negative thoughts showed more signs of cognitive decline and memory problems than their positive-thinking peers. They also showed more physical signs of brain disease in high-resolution scans.
The Fix: Make mental health a priority. That starts with getting plenty of sleep and exercise to help refresh and rejuvenate your mindset. But for further support, you can try mind-body approaches, like acupuncture, massage, meditation, or cannabidiol (CBD).
In fact, CBD is quickly becoming my treatment of choice for anyone suffering from a stress-related condition—like anxiety, depression, or sleeplessness. That’s because clinical studies show it has a potent, positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain. All without the mood swings, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction that so often accompany prescription drug treatment for these conditions.
I like CBD oil because the dosing can be individualized. To find a dose that’s best for you, I recommend starting with a small amount and then working your way up until you hit a desired result—like feeling calm and relaxed throughout the day, or sleeping soundly through the night.
BAD BRAIN HABIT No. 3:
You eat ultra-processed foods
I often write about the dangers of diets loaded with ultra-processed foods—like sodas, cakes, candies, and chips.
But when it comes to your cognitive health, these convenience foods are downright disastrous… even in surprisingly small doses!
A recent study published in JAMA Neurology looked at the effect of ultra-processed food on cognitive function and executive function.7 (Executive function refers to the ability to process information and make decisions.)
It turns out, people who got just 20 percent of their daily caloric intake from ultra-processed foods had a much higher risk of suffering from cognitive decline overall. (That amount equates to just 400 calories a day—or one a big bowl of cereal—in a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet!)
Moreover, men and women who ate the MOST ultra-processed foods saw steep declines in their cognition, compared to their peers. More specifically, they had a 28 percent faster rate of cognitive decline and a 25 percent faster rate of executive function decline.
These findings do not bode for many of us here in the U.S., where the average adult gets a whopping 58 percent of their calories from ultra-processed foods! And it certainly explains why brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia are skyrocketing.
The Fix: As always, I recommend cutting out all the ultra-processed crud from your diet. Instead, fill your plate with a healthy, balanced Mediterranean-style diet full of lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. For more guidance on how to overhaul your diet, check out my A-List Diet book, available on my website, www.DrPescatore.com.
In the end, getting rid of these three bad habits will go a LONG way in protecting your mind against decline. And the payoff will be immense—with a long, healthy, independent life.
- “Cognitive impairment in the U.S.: Lifetime risk, age at onset, and years impaired.” SSM Popul Health. 2020 Mar 31;11:100577. doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100577.
- “Cross-sectional association between physical activity level and subjective cognitive decline among US adults aged ≥45 years, 2015.” Preventative Medicine, December 2020; 141: 106279. doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106279.
- “Prolonged Sitting Tied to Brain Atrophy.” Medscape, 4/17/18. (medscape.com/viewarticle/895272)
- “Does breaking up prolonged sitting improve cognitive function in sedentary adults?” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 3/12/21; 22(274). doi.org/10.1186/s12891-021-04136-5
- “Americans Anticipate Higher Stress at the Start of 2023 and Grade Their Mental Health Worse.” American Psychiatric Association, 12/21/22. (psychiatry.org/News-room/News-Releases/Americans-Anticipate-Higher-Stress-at-the-Start-of)
- “Repetitive negative thinking is associated with amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline.” Alzheimer’s Dement. 2020; 16: 1054– 1064. doi.org/10.1002/alz.12116
- “Dementia risk may increase if you’re eating these foods, study says.” CNN, 12/5/22. (cnn.com/2022/12/05/health/dementia-ultraprocessed-food-wellness/index.html)