4 Ways You’re Killing Your Brain Cells

by | Apr 7, 2015 | Health

Lucky for us, our supply of brain cells are not limited.

Some areas of the brain continue to grow brain cells into adulthood and beyond — this is called neurogenesis. An important area of the brain known as the hippocampus is particularly forgiving, and plays a role in memory, emotion and learning. As we grow older, we indulge in activities that compete against neurogenesis and often win. You’re thinking…umm I don’t smoke weed…I don’t drink alcohol everyday…I should be fine?


Think again. Here are 4 common activities that dumb you down:


1.Losing Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, and for good reason. Our brains move through stages as we sleep. We move deeper and deeper into our sleep cycles until we reach REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This last stage is where memories are made concrete and energy levels are restored.


Another study found sleep deprivation could cause shrinkage in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, especially in adults over 60 years old, suggesting that sleep becomes ever more important as we age


2. Smoking

Each drag you take, over 7000 toxins are being inhaled, 69 of which have been shown to cause cancer. With all these toxins, there’s bound to be at least one that specifically affects the brain?


If you thought no, guess what? You’re wrong. Why would smoking be on this list if it didn’t directly affect brain function? It turns out there are several reasons why you should quit smoking for the sake of your brain. In a 2002 study from France’s National Institute for Health and Medical Research, scientists found nicotine-addicted rats generated 50 percent fewer neurons in the hippocampus’s dentate gyrus. Those that took higher doses of nicotine also experienced the most brain cell death. If that isn’t bad enough, another study from India found a compound in cigarettes, called NNK, could cause an exaggerated response in the brain’s white blood cells, forcing them to attack healthy brain cells as well.

Researchers from the rat study believe their findings could explain why smokers who try to quit experience short-term cognitive problems. “It could be that while they are smoking, the stimulant effect of nicotine masks the loss of neuronal plasticity,” study author Pier Piazza told New Scientist. “When they stop smoking, these deficiencies remain.”  


3. Dehydration

Considering 75 percent of the brain is made of water. It should not be unusual that we’re going to recommend that a glass of water should be in reaching distance at all times of the day. According to research, mild dehydration can occur after only four hours. Once it starts getting bad, it can cause the brain to swell (cerebral edema) the then body tries to pull more water into the cells — some of these may eventually rupture. All of this causes the brain to work harder to function properly, which in turn can cause it to shrink, a 2011 study found.


4. Stress

For most of us, stress is a normal part of our day. There are some benefits such as improved focus, and getting things done on time. However, there is a line that should not be crossed. Being extremely stressed can effect neuron production and communication. Which basically means that excessive stress; quite simply slows your brain function down.

Researchers have suggested that chronic stress contributes to a person’s risk of mental health illnesses like schizophrenia and anxiety disorder.


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