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Top 9 Bad Habits That Slow Down Your Brain


By Joanne Richard / Toronto Sun

You’re worried about middle age spread?

That’s nothing! Try middle-age career death!

We’re killing our brain power and competitive edge by committing brain-aging sins. Overdosing on coffee, sitting all day, working way too long hours, and not exercising combine to undermine our work performance and knock us out of the game, says Marcel Daane, author of Headstrong Performance: Improve Your Mental Performance with Nutrition, Exercise, and Neuroscience.

“Mental sharpness and the ability to innovate, collaborate, and connect are the price of admission in today’s world,” says Danne.

But a litany of office offences along with relentless work demands brings on exhaustion and stress. Chronic fatigue ages us rapidly and shrinks brains, says Daane, “which means stressed executives have about the same brain capacity as people decades older.

“This deterioration of critical brain regions hinders memory processing, strategic planning, and the ability to manage anxiety, which are all crucial skills for the executive,” says the productivity and performance expert.

Being fit to lead and perform is critical to surviving the corporate jungle. Fitter brains equal greater energy and superior performance, says Daane, of headstrongperformance.net.

So kill the brain drain by cutting out these corporate crimes:

You head for the couch instead of out for a walk. Moving your body helps your brain recover better and faster. “Movement produces proteins and hormones in the brain that stimulate memory and make you more alert,” says Daane. Keep your brain awake with a walk. “Just 12 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise improves cognitive function and oxygenation and provides energy.”

You skip breakfast. A recipe for brain shrinkage. You need fuel for the brain to perform and recover from stress. “Without proper fuel, neurons in the brain die,” says Daane. “Just as an athlete’s muscles shrink without proper refuelling, so do the executive’s mental muscles.”

You skip lunch to catch up on your e-mail. Once again, not feeding your brain starves out your competitive edge. “The brain has a minimal capacity to store its own glucose, which is the primary brain fuel, so it relies on you to feed it regularly,” says Daane. Skipping meals greatly impacts the regions of your brain responsible for self-regulation, empathy and solution-based thinking. “You become hyper-responsive to stress and brain cells in your memory processing centres die and your brain ages more rapidly.”

Bad snack attacks: Processed foods like cookies, chips and sugary drinks further fuel brain inflammation, and devastation. “They speed up brain-cell destruction from stress, resulting in memory decline similar to what we see in Alzheimer’s patients,” says Daane.

You don’t add water. You may get a boost from coffee and pop but the crash will soon follow resulting in fatigue, says Daane. “The more caffeine you consume, the greater the impact of stress on your brain, and the more dehydrated you become. The best hydration is water, which transports nutrients and oxygen into your tissues and brain cells, resulting in sustained performance.”

Indulging in one too many to unwind. Drinking alcohol anaesthetizes and overstimulates our brain, which causes additional trauma to the hippocampus — our memory-processing centre — and compounds the damage already inflicted by a stressful day. “The brain can recover from the occasional trauma of drinking, but if it’s too much and too often, it loses its capacity to recover, resulting in accelerated aging.”

You sacrifice sleep on the altar of work. Sleep deprivation damages brain health and function. “One study showed a single 90-minute reduction in sleep decreased performance and alertness by a whopping 32%, and another study showed that a chronic lack of sleep caused significant decreases in brain volume and memory,” says Daane. Too few Zzzs can also contribute to body-fat gain, high blood-pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

You skip office chats and stay in your cubicle. Research suggests that more than 50% of employees suffer from feelings of isolation at work. “Humans need interaction and connectivity,” says Daane. Without it, we suffer reduced capacity for planning, communicating, impulse control, imagination and empathy. “Conversely, social interactions help us learn and see other perspectives. They help us relax and feel happier. They make us more effective when we do return to focusing on work.”

You sit all day. Count on increased brain stress and early mortality from sitting more than six to eight hours a day, reports research. “Every day, millions of executives and office workers suffer the ill effects of sitting too much,” says Daane. Besides bringing on an early death, sitting contributes to exhaustion, stiff necks, heavy limbs, aching backs and diminishes range of motion over time.





 

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