Just like our bodies, our brains change as we age. The older we get, the harder it is to remember information, like the name of the restaurant we went to or where we left our keys. Or it may take longer to learn something new.

A healthcare professional analyzes brain scan images on a computer monitor

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But the good news is that we actually have a lot of control in keeping our brains healthy and avoiding premature aging, and it all starts with daily habits. In particular, the behaviors that avoid could have a positive impact on our cognition.

We talked to experts about seemingly harmless habits we might be doing every day that could be aging our brains, and what we can do instead. These are the errors you should fix as soon as possible:

1. You don’t have enough social interaction.

Three friends sharing a laugh while having coffee at an outdoor cafe

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From working remotely to having a new baby and retiring, there are many situations that life throws at us that can make it more difficult to get out and socialize.

“It’s very common in our culture to slowly lose our social network as we go through life,” said Dr. Zaldy Tan, director of the Memory and Healthy Aging Program at Cedars-Sinai. “We need to have some kind of social network that we can turn to when we need it, or even if we think we don’t need it.”

So how does socialization affect the brain? “Every time we meet someone new… we make a new connection within our brain between brain cells,” Tan explained. Additionally, a strong social network has been shown to improve mood, which is linked to health of our brain. (Depression is one of the risk factors for dementia.)

While in-person interactions appear to be most beneficial for brain health, online socializing and virtual conversations can also help, said Dr. Glen Finney, a member of the American Academy of Neurology and director of the Memory and Cognition Program. from Geisinger Health.

“There are certain people who are literally physically isolated… or who may not have friends and family in their local area, (and) their online community becomes their lifeline and can have some real benefit,” Finney said.

2. You keep your brain active, but only by doing the same things over and over again.

Not only do you want to engage your brain while preserving the skills it already has, but you also want to take it out of its comfort zone, Finney explained.

“If you say, ‘I’m not a child anymore.’ I’m not going to worry about learning anything’… (It) can actually sabotage brain health and cause premature brain aging,” she said.

Just like meeting someone new, learning something new forms connections between our brain cells and helps keep the brain young.

“You should always broaden your mental horizons,” he said. “If you have never learned to play a musical instrument, learn to play a musical instrument. If you have never read a foreign language, learn a foreign language.”

3. You discard the chronic stress you carry.

Man in a brown shirt working intensively on a computer in an office

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Stress is a part of daily life, and our bodies are usually able to recover quickly from a specific stressful event or situation. The problem is when this stress becomes chronic and we don’t address it.

“We’re really adept at keeping the stress response all day long, at a moderate level that we may not even notice,” said Dr. Elissa Epel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco and author of “The Stress.” Prescription.” “Even when nothing stressful is happening, we may be carrying around unconscious stress.”

He said it’s important to be aware of this stress and release it throughout the day, such as being aware of our thoughts and slowing our breathing. Creating “brief states of acute stress in our body” can actually help relieve stress, she added, like using a sauna, taking a cold shower, or trying high-intensity exercise. This provides us with more states of relaxation during the day and better quality of sleep at night.

“When we are able to have deeper states of rest, both during the day and while we sleep, we give our neurons the opportunity to restore themselves and slow brain aging,” he explained.

4. You rely too much on takeout.

        Oscar Wong via Getty Images

Oscar Wong via Getty Images

“When we are… busy with our professional and social lives, it’s a natural tendency to choose something that’s quick (that) you can pop in the microwave or go to a drive-thru,” Tan said. “(But) in the long run, it can that’s not the best for our brains.

Fast foods are often highly processed and full of saturated fats and added sugars. Studies have shown that a diet rich in these types of foods over the years can lead to an increased risk of dementia.

“We know that this can prematurely age the brain and lead to health conditions that are very hard on brain health,” Finney said. (For example, studies suggest that uncontrolled diabetes can cause brain shrinkage.)

There’s nothing wrong with eating fast food or takeout from time to time – it’s delicious, it can be the cheapest option, and sometimes we just need it. As much as possible, try to also focus on a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as leafy green vegetables, fish, olive oil and nuts. Omega 3s have been shown to increase memory, learning, and blood flow in the brain.

5. Your goal is to get enough sleep each night, but the quality is not good.

Even if your goal is to sleep the recommended seven to nine hours per night, if your sleep quality is poor, you’ll likely wake up tired the next day. And both the quantity and quality of sleep are essential for brain health.

“During sleep, the day’s memories are sorted and put in the right place so we can access them in the future… (Also) beta-amyloid, the sticky protein that wreaks havoc on people’s brains with Alzheimer’s, it is eliminated during sleep,” Tan explained. “When sleep is too short or of poor quality… these processes are interrupted.”

The next day, you may have difficulty concentrating or remembering information. But over the years, poor sleep can increase the risk of the brain aging prematurely and developing dementia.

To improve sleep quality, Tan recommends setting a consistent bedtime, minimizing alcohol consumption, reducing fluid intake before bed, avoiding sedatives and sleep medications, and limiting the bed to primarily sleeping (without moving around). nor watch television in bed).

6. You do not incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle.

Woman in swimsuit with swimming cap and glasses, smiling, holding on to a pool ladder

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“Physical exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, but also muscle-building exercise, is important for keeping the brain… young,” Finney said. “It can actually increase growth hormones in the brain, like neural factors that promote brain health and well-being.”

Beyond exercising, Tan recommends making physical activity part of your lifestyle. “Whether it’s… gardening or… going for a walk, there are some things we could incorporate into our daily lives that, in the long run, are probably more sustainable and beneficial than spending an hour at the gym once a week” .

When physical activity becomes a lifelong habit, there are multiple benefits, from decreasing stress and increasing blood flow to the brain.

Remember: we have a lot of control over the health of our brain.

The worst thing we can do for our brains is to simply give up as we age.

“Don’t think everything has to happen that way because you’re getting older. Take care of your brain, take care of your body,” Finney said. “And if you do that, you’ll be able to age successfully and not have as many changes as you might think.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

By Sam