‘I’m a psychiatrist – here are five habits that could be destroying your brain’

The brain is arguably the most important organ in the human body. As well as controlling and coordinating actions and reactions, it allows us to think and feel – things that make us human.

So the brain should be protected at all costs. Psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist Dr Daniel Amen appeared on Steven Bartlett’s podcast, The Diary Of A CEO, to share the things to avoid that make our brain worse.

1. Sugar

Sugar is bad for the brain because it’s pro inflammatory and makes you diabetic, said Dr Amen.

He explained: “It’s ultimately going to give you high blood sugar levels, which erode your blood vessels, and you’re going to have lower blood flow to your brain. And that’s a bad thing.

“There are so many things about it, it’s addictive, it’s pro inflammatory, it makes you more likely to have diabetes and obesity.”

Dr Amen added: “I’ve published three studies on 35,000 people – as your weight goes up the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down. That should scare the fat off anyone.

“Sugar is the gateway drug to diabetes and obesity, not to mention inflammation, which is the cause of depression and dementia.”

2. Hitting a football with your head

Dr Amen was quick to say: “No, don’t do that.”

A study published last year found footballers are 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than the rest of the population.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, whose research was published in the Lancet Public Health journal, compared the health records of 6,000 elite footballers and more than 56,000 non-footballers between 1924 and 2019.

They found among male footballers playing in the Swedish top division, 9 percent were diagnosed with neurodegenerative disease, compared with 6 percent of the control sample.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine constricts blood flow to the brain, said Dr Amen, and a link has been made between caffeine consumption and a shrinking brain.

While no link has been made between caffeine and dementia, he said there’s a connection with caffeine and sleep problems, and there’s a connection with sleep problems and dementia.

He added: “If you have 100mg a day of caffeine it’s probably fine.”

4. Nicotine

Like caffeine, Dr Amen said nicotine can restrict blood flow to the brain.

According to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, cigarette smoking causes the brain to shrink.

Brain shrinkage is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Screen time

Screen time also shrinks the brain, said Dr Amen. He explained: “It’s sad. What it does is it wears out your pleasure centres.

“You have these two areas in your brain called the nucleus accumbens and they respond to dopamine, and they bring you happiness and they bring you pleasure and motivation and drive.

“When you’re hitting them, every buzz on your phone, every notification, every time you scroll and you like something, you just got a little hit of dopamine.

“The more you do it, pretty soon you thrill them to die, you begin to wear out those pleasure centres.

“When you allow that in your brain, the screen time, if it runs for three and half hours a day, you have an increased risk of anxiety, depression, addiction, obesity, ADHD.”

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