Unhealthy lifestyle habits have a serious impact on brain health. Unhealthy brain function can lead to memory troubles, stress, anxiety, depression, and brain degeneration, but if we're aware of the day-to-day practices that have a negative impact, we can make changes, adopting healthy habits that will make your brain healthier and boost overall health, too.

The Western Diet

The Western diet is based on an excess of sugar and unhealthy fats from processed foods. It is high in calories, yet often empty in essential nutrients. This dietary pattern is associated with excess weight, as well as altered brain function and behavior. Low-quality dietary choices increase the risk for cognitive impairment, stress, anxiety, and depression.

In turn, chronic stress leads to unhealthy eating behaviors, creating a vicious cycle. The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has a positive impact on cognition and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet includes nutrient-rich foods like omega 3s, which support brain health.

Variety Dishes of Western Food Ceinny Kusuma / Shutterstock


A Sedentary Life

Humans are designed to move and interact with the environment by staying active. A sedentary life causes cognitive dysfunction and decreased memory and increases the risk for anxiety and depression.

Sedentarism is also associated with excess weight, which has a negative impact on brain health by increasing brain inflammation and degeneration. A combination of weight training and aerobic exercise is generally considered best for brain health.

Man sleeping on sofa Rob Lewine / Getty Images


Not Enough Sleep

Not getting enough sleep is a major risk factor for brain dysfunction. Sleep deprivation leads to cognitive impairment. The mood becomes more volatile, and intense reactions like excess irritability and anger are frequent in those who have trouble falling or staying asleep. Both the quality and quantity of sleep are important.

Woman awake in the night demaerre / Getty Images


Lots Of Stress

Stress is associated with poor sleep, increased risk of anxiety and depression, poor memory, and mental fatigue. Put simply: stress literally changes the brain. In case of severe stress associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, studies found these emotions can lead to changes in brain structure and the balance between white and gray matter.

Stressed man working at home office Tetiana Soares / Getty Images


Excess Drinking

Trouble walking, memory lapses, slurred speech, vision problems, delayed reaction times are all results of excessive alcohol use and confirm the negative impact on brain health. Those who drink excessively long-term experience serious and persistent changes in the brain.

Brain damage is the result of direct toxic effects on the brain and indirectly from poor general health, liver diseases, and other digestive problems that also stem from consuming too much alcohol.

Drunk man sleeping in bar while holding glass of beer skynesher / Getty Images



Tobacco smoke contains thousands of compounds including heavy metals, which are toxic to the brain, and nicotine, which creates addiction. Tobacco use is associated with early cognitive decline and inflammation and premature aging of the brain.

Cannabis can have a negative effect on attention, memory, learning, ability to make decisions, and emotions. The impact of this herb on the brain depends on various factors, including how often it is used, the age of the user, and whether it is used in combination with tobacco and alcohol. If cannabis is used for medicinal purposes, it should be used as per the doctor's recommendations.

Woman smoking cigarette Peter Zelei Images / Getty Images


Lack Of Social Support

Strong social ties correlate with a decreased risk of dementia, depression, and anxiety, an overall sense of well-being, and even a longer life expectancy. Furthermore, having a good support system may help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, another risk factor for certain brain conditions. According to experts from Harvard, hypertension in midlife raises the risk of cognitive decline later on.

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Digital Technology

Digital technology can have both negative and positive effects on brain function and behavior. Too much time spent in front of the screen can aggravate symptoms of ADHD, cause negative emotions, decrease social intelligence, disrupt sleep, and create social isolation.

However, some video games and apps with brain exercises are created to boost memory, multitasking, and cognition, and help manage ADHD, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Appropriate use of digital products can also ease stress.

Man looking in front of blank monitor in dark room eranicle / Getty Images


Cluttered home

Living in clutter at home or at the office causes stress, decreased ability to focus and concentrate, and poorer mental health. In addition, living in a chaotic environment increases stress and emotional eating, particularly overconsuming cookies and snacks.

A clean, uncluttered environment is essential for “mental hygiene.” It helps improve productivity and the sense of well-being. Aim to keep your whole house — including the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom — clutter-free.

Woman standing in front of cluttered room with cleaning supplies Motortion / Getty Images


Simple Solutions

The solutions are very simple, though they can feel like a lot when taken together. Strive to implement the necessary changes progressively and take note of the positive benefits that result!

  • Switch from a Western-style diet filled with fast food and candy bars to nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and omega-3-rich fish, and oils.
  • Move your body most days of the week for 40 to 60 minutes.
  • Get 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep each night.
  • Avoid too much time spent in front of the screen.
  • Declutter your home and workspace.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation for stress reduction.
  • Avoid smoking, excess drinking.
  • Find time to spend with loved ones or seek to build your support structure.

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