Aging, Brain Health, and TV

How much time did you spend watching television over the past 18 months or so? If you’re like most consumers, you spent a good deal of the pandemic watching more TV than usual. . However, if you’re middle aged and concerned about your brain health, you may want to put down the remote.

Three new studies add to the evidence that watching a lot of TV in your middle years can negatively affect your cognitive function in later years. These researchers found that “the more television you watch in your 40s, 50s, and 60s, the greater your risk of brain health issues in later years.”

During this same period, 61% of consumers reported that they watched more TV since the pandemic’s outbreak, according to a survey published in TVTech magazine. What’s important to note here is that this spike is likely to continue, with 86% of the respondents saying they plan to maintain or increase those rates.

How can you protect your brain health without giving up your favorite shows? Here are some practical ways to change your TV watching habits.

How to Make TV Time Better for Your Brain health:

1.     Be choosy.

Many brain health experts recommend two hours or less of TV a day for adults. To accomplish this goal, you need to be selective about what you are watching. Instead of channel surfing, decide in advance what you want to watch. An easy way to do this is to record your shows and watch them later. Not only will this help you fulfill your resolutions, but it will also remove you having to watch commercials.

2.    Make TV time a social event.  

Watching with others makes TV time less passive. Enjoy family movie nights or use an app to watch Netflix, Hulu, or Apple TV with your friends.

3.     Watch less news.

Not that long ago, the Fairness Doctrine required TV news stations to present opposing views of controversial issues. This was because TV news wasn’t seen as a form of entertainment but rather as a medium to keep us informed about current events.

Today, news is simply a money generating part of the many TV empires that compete for ad revenue. This means that they need to get as many eyeballs as possible watching and making the news controversial does just that. Many experts would argue that this is an integral part of why there is so much political extremism in the U.S. today.

All that aside, your brain health matters. If your news source seems to be trying to rile you up instead of informing you of what’s going on in the world, change your news sources.  Also, if you  usually watch crime drams, consider cooking shows and comedies. Choose to put more positive images into your mind.

4.     Make screen-free zones.

Ban electronic devices during certain hours and from specific spaces This may include meal and other times that you want to pay attention to the people you are with. Also consider banning devices at least two hours before going to bed.

5.     Want Better Brain Health? Keep snacks to a minimum.

t’s easy to consume a bag of chips or candy while you’re binging The Queen’s Gambit. Choose healthier snacks or at least snacks with less calories. Switch to plain popcorn or pita chips with hummus and make sure that you drink plenty of water.

6.     Take a break and walk around.

Every half hour to 45 minutes, press the pause button. Walk around your house and stretch. Do pushups and ab work during commercials.

7.     Write up an agreement with your family

Research shows that one of the best ways to stay on course is having social support. This includes family support. Sign an agreement about TV time and other screen practices for your home. Give yourself rewards when you follow through.

More Tips for Protecting Your Brain Health:

1.     Exercise.

Your physical health affects your brain health and functioning. Work out regularly with a balanced program of activities you enjoy and will want to stick with.

2.     Move.

Spend more time on your feet. Climb stairs instead of using the elevator. Do household chores manually. Start a vegetable garden.

3.     Choose healthy foods.

This one will make a big difference in your brain health. Choose foods that reduce inflammation and help protect your brain, heart, and other organs. Lay off the processed sugar. Some smart choices include leafy green vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts, and dark chocolate.

4.     Start a hobby.

Replace TV time with more active and enriching activities. Experiment with different crafts you can make for fun or profit. Play a musical instrument or join a softball league.

5.     Nurture your social contacts.

One of the things that will greatly affect your brain health is isolation. Stay in touch with family and friends. You can make new connections by volunteering in your community. Find places to out where others share your interests.

6.     Get enough sleep

Experts agree that seven to eight hours of sleep each night is essential for good brain health. Although you might like Stephen Colbert, instead of staying up and watching, record the show, turn off the TV and go to bed early enough that you get plenty of sleep and can wake up feeling refreshed.

Use These Tips to Improve Your Brain Health

It’s still an open question whether cognitive decline is caused by TV directly or by an overall sedentary lifestyle. However, you can help keep your brain healthier as you age by limiting screen time and staying mentally and physically engaged.

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