Daily habits that damage your brain

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By BEATRICE NAKIBUUKA

The brain is the most important organ in the human body. It controls, coordinates actions and reactions, allows us to think and feel, and enables us to have memories and feelings that make us human. According to Dr Edward Ssempiira, a psychologist at Hope and Beyond Rehabilitation Centre, you need to stop some of these habits for a healthy brain.

Alcoholism/smoking
Any amount of alcohol is harmful to your body, according to the most recent research. Drinking can lead to severe brain damage, including irreversible memory loss and wet brain that causes confusion, drowsiness and paralysis of eye movements.
“Smokers are at a high risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease because smoking shrinks the brain and causes memory loss,” Dr Ssempiira says.

Inadequate sleep
Lack of sleep in adults increases the risk of excessive daytime sleepiness, depression and problems with attention and memory.
“The area of the brain that suffers from sleep deprivation is the hippocampus. When you deprive yourself of sleep, even for one night, your ability to memorise new information drops significantly,” Dr Ssempiira warns. In the long run, you will suffer from depression, stress, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
People who have trouble falling asleep at night should avoid caffeine, alcohol, and watching TV or using the computer in the evening. They should rather practice a soothing bedtime routine in the evening to help wind down and get sleep.

Listening to loud music
Hearing loss is linked to brain issues such as brain shrinkage and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because the brain has to work harder to process what is being said and it is not able to store what was heard into memory.
Dr Ssempiira says, “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 by lowering the volume of your device and do not listen to your device for more than a couple of hours at a time.”

Sedentary lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle sets one up for several brain disorders, according to Dr Quraish Golooba, a physiotherapist at UMC Victoria Hospital, Bukoto. Physical inactivity is linked to a higher risk of dementia, increases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise has benefits for stress reduction, not to mention increasing oxygen delivery to your muscles and brain.

Being socially isolated
We need human contact to survive and thrive because humans are social creatures. It is also vital for healthy brain function.
Social isolation and loneliness are risk factors for poorer mental performance, depression, and faster cognitive decline. People who have friends, even a few close friends, are less likely to develop brain decline and depression. They are usually happier and more productive.

Others
• Parts of the brain linked to learning, memory, and mental health are smaller in people who have lots of hamburgers, fries, potato chips, and soft drinks in their diet. Berries, whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, on the other hand, preserve brain function and slow mental decline. So next time you start to reach for a bag of chips, grab a handful of nuts instead.

• If you do not get enough natural light, you may get depressed, and that can slow your brain. Research also shows that sunlight helps keep your brain working well.

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