Are Your Habits Making You Dumber?

Any proper and complete workout regimen won’t just tell you what to do when you’re in the gym, but will also draw attention to practices outside the gym which could be sabotaging your efforts. As a complete workout regimen for the mind, Building Brain Power is no different. There are countless different lifestyle and environmental factors that can damage your cognition.

Reaching new peaks in mental performance is as much about avoiding harmful practices as it is about engaging in beneficial ones. Below are some common practices which hurt your mental performance and rapidly age your brain.

1) Stress

More and more research is pointing to chronic stress as having an extremely negative impact on both the body and mind. While chronic stress is debilitating, stress itself arose out of evolutionary necessity. When confronted with a predator, for example, an animal becomes stressed and its brain is flooded with specific hormones that improve its chances of escaping. One of these hormones, cortisol, is particularly damaging when present at high levels for extended periods of time. Its harmful effects include decreased activity in the hippocampus, impaired ability to retrieve memories, and weight gain.

In modern society, the stress response is triggered not just from real dangers, but things as simple as worrying about one’s performance on an exam or project at work. Humans are the only mammals that can become stressed solely from their own thoughts. When someone worries about an upcoming deadline (and probably about their performance afterward), their brain is subjected to far more cortisol than nature intended. This can have dramatic consequences over one’s life. It’s no wonder that people in highly stressful jobs seem to age at an accelerated rate.

Building Brain Power identifies common stressors and teaches a myriad of ways to help manage the stress in your life. Especially if you are in a competitive major or demanding job, performing at the highest levels will require good management of stress.

2) Having a Poor Diet

Just as proper nutrition is essential for any physical workout regimen to succeed, it is also crucial if you want to maximize your cognitive performance. You don’t have to completely change what you eat or adopt some gimmicky diet, but cutting out foods which directly damage the brain will go a long way in improving the health of your brain.

Trans-fats in particular, are something that should be avoided at all costs. You may be surprised to learn that a significant portion of our brain is made up of fatty acids. Fatty acids make up a large portion of the membranes and myelin sheaths that protect our neurons. When you eat trans-fats, they push out and replace the healthy fatty acids in your brain tissue. This causes problems because trans fats impair the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other, leading to reduced memory and cognitive performance.

Building Brain Power has an entire chapter on improving your diet in order to improve your cognitive performance. Even a few small changes can make a big difference, and the chapter includes a list of what types of foods to absolutely avoid, as well as what types have been shown to actually improve the health of the brain.

3) Smoking Tobacco

The link between cigarettes and physical ailments such as lung cancer and heart disease are well established, but it isn’t often you hear about the negative impact they have on the mind. Research has shown that smoking puts the brain into a state of oxidative stress which damages DNA and neurons. One study even found that the average IQ of smokes is almost 10 points lower than that of non-smokers!

Other Factors

The factors listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless other lifestyle choices which can have a devastating impact on your mental performance that is explored in Building Brain Power. For example, inside you can learn what types of common over-the-counter and prescription medications not only make you dumber, but can even reduce your life expectancy, the truth about how alcohol affects the brain, how your sleep schedule is related to your cognitive performance and much more!