The most complex organ in your body is your brain. It’s pretty cool that something that weighs three pounds dictates all of your senses, your movements, and even how you act, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Although a beautiful mind deserves lots of loving care, it is easy to neglect it as you get older. In fact, we’re here to share five of the worst daily habits for your brain as you age. Read on to find out what you might want to change.

Why is your brain health so important as you age? Well, first of all, a sharp brain will keep you sedentary for longer as you move into new chapters of life, reports the National Institute on Aging. As you get older, some parts of the brain will shrink, blood flow in that area can be reduced, and some neurons in that area may not work efficiently. All of this can contribute to difficulty remembering things like names or places, as well as paying attention. Multitasking can become quite a challenge. Sounds alarming, right? Don’t worry, because there are so many things you do every day that have an effect on your brain. In fact, everything you do — and don’t do — affects your brain.

Eat This, Not That! Arrived to Mike Ball, MD, MPH, ALM, a member of our medical expert board, is about taking care of your mind. “This may sound like a broken record,” he shares, “but when it comes to brain health, there is no substitute for a healthy diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress.” It’s important to eat a healthy diet consisting of plant foods, lean proteins (such as fish and chicken), healthy fats, not smoke, limit your alcohol intake, and get aerobic exercise at least every week. To keep your brain healthy. Another important way to fuel your brain is through socializing and exercising your mind. Crossword games and puzzles are excellent exercises for your brain.

In addition to adding healthy habits to your lifestyle to keep up with your cognitive abilities, it is also important to break away from some bad habits. Keep reading to learn the five worst daily habits for your brain as you age.

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It is essential to get enough sleep in order to maintain a healthy brain. After all, this is when your brain is most capable of recharging and restoring. “Older adults need slightly less sleep than younger adults (seven to eight hours instead of seven to nine), but it just matters,” Dr. Ball tells us.

The National Institute on Aging explains that if you’re not getting enough relaxing Z’s, you may feel forgetful, irritable, depressed, or experience more falls. This is why it is essential to follow a consistent sleep schedule and try not to take naps later in the day. Not using blue light screens in your bedroom, keeping your sleep space at just the right temperature, and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon can also promote good, healthy sleep.

Related: 5 Habits That Damage Your Body After 50

Mature woman holding a mug sitting alone in a coffee shop
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You may not already know this, but maintaining a good social circle is essential to your brain health! “You can be social in person, like going for a walk with a friend, or be social in other ways, like having a conversation with a family member over the phone,” suggests Dr. Buhl.

According to Asbury Senior Communities, if you want to stay healthy into your older years, socialization isn’t a matter — it’s a necessity. Building a network of friends and engaging in group activities is like giving your brain a workout! How is that? Social contact keeps your mind sharp and enhances your cognitive function. In fact, a study published in Plus one revealed that maintaining strong friend groups as you age is associated with progressive cognitive decline.

Open hand close up bottle of wine on the table with bread, the concept of alcohol is one of the worst habits for your brain
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One of the worst habits for your brain is drinking too much alcohol. Your brain can be compromised by drinking too much beer, wine or your favorite cocktails. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking alcohol makes it more difficult for the areas of the brain responsible for memory, balance and speech to function effectively. This can increase the risk of injury or other health risks.

Typically, Dr. Ball says, men should have no more than two drinks or less each day. Females have to cover it to one or less per day.

Related: Tea, fruits, and vegetables can keep your brain sharp, study says

A sedentary mature man in his 60s on the couch watching TV, the concept of the worst habits for your brain
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Simply put, a sedentary lifestyle is not good for your overall health and brain health. Dr. Pohl recommends, “If you work a desk job or spend a lot of time sitting and not moving, try finding ways to increase activity in your daily life, such as doing housework or walking during a lunchtime.”

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Constant stress and other medical illnesses can take a toll on your brain. According to Premier Neurology, being in constant tension will cause your brain’s fear center to be activated regularly. Your cortisol levels will rise on a regular basis, which can lead to other problems related to sleep, digestion, and the immune system. Stress can actually change the structure of your brain, kill off new cells in your brain, and put you at greater risk for mental illness. That’s why it’s so important to take any prescribed medications and also discuss any mental health concerns you have with your doctor, explains Dr. Buhl.

Alexa Melardo

Alexa is the deputy editor of Mind + Body at Eat This, Not That!, and oversees the M+B channel and introduces fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa

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