A Healthy Habits for a Healthy Life

Physical and mental health are both required for total overall well-being. These aspects of our lives influence our brain, and we can positively maximize our chances of staying mentally alert by maintaining a healthy brain and body.

When individuals do not sleep or eat well, they increasingly become at risk for many preventable health issues. Depression and substance abuse are just two of the many health problems exacerbated by stress and poor physical and mental hygiene practices. Not getting enough sleep seriously challenges our cognitive skills. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found both older men and women who get less than six hours of sleep per night (or more than nine) scored lower on cognitive tests than those who get six to nine hours. Eating poorly or overeating also affects cognitive skills over time. In a study published in Neurology, researchers followed over 6,000 adults for ten years. The study found overweight participants experienced a 22 percent decline on their cognitive test compared to those who maintained a healthy weight.

Research has found that clinical depression is highest in very obese participants (BMI over 35). In addition, obesity is commonly associated with problematic short and long sleep habits. About 20 percent of Americans with depression have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder and about 20 percent of those with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder have depression.

Certain foods like sweets, soda, and caffeine, as well as alcohol, can all negatively affect a person’s mental status, according to past scientific evidence. Drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet, staying away from processed or junk food and limiting late night extra-calories is a good beginning for change. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night on a regular schedule can help individuals feel more alert and enable better decision-making.

It is generally believed that all mental disorders are caused by a complex interaction and combination of biological, psychological and social factors. We have control over some of these risk factors. When a person is well rested, he or she is better able to resist overeating and fight depression. It is easier to be an active participant in our lives when we feel good and have a healthy lifestyle.