Is Binge-Watching TV Bad for Your Brain?
August 10, 2022
When the pandemic began, many of us found ourselves locked in the house, bored and binge-watching hours upon hours of television. It was a good way to kill time, but watching too much TV too often has the potential to become a very unhealthy habit.
While much research has been done on television’s effects on children, adults have often been left out of these data collections. It’s no surprise that the sedentary behavior of binge-watching TV can negatively impact our physical health, but recent studies show it’s also a bad habit for long-term brain health and function.
TV’s Effect on Cognitive Impairment
“Researchers have found that moderate to high television viewing during midlife is associated with increased memory loss and decreased fine motor skills,” explains Manisha Parulekar, M.D., director, division of Geriatrics, and co-director, Center for Memory Loss and Brain Health at Hackensack University Medical Center. Studies have also found a link between high television consumption and the onset of depression.
As life expectancy in the United States continues to rise, experts believe the population’s risk of developing cognitive impairment or dementia will rise, too. Making a few healthy changes today can help prevent the development of dementia down the line. The neurobiology of dementia begins between the ages 45 and 64. Modifying your behaviors and lifestyle during middle-age years can help preserve cognition as you age and decrease your risk of dementia.
“Being more active and avoiding sedentary behaviors, such as binge-watching television, is a necessary lifestyle change for adults to make to maintain their brain health,” says Dr. Parulekar, an associate professor at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.
4 Ms of Mental Fitness
Dr. Parulekar suggests that middle-aged adults remember the 4 Ms of mental fitness: what matters, mobility, mental stimulation and medication. These serve as reminders of simple ways to tend to your mental and cognitive health while minimizing sedentary behaviors.
- What Matters: Focus on the healthy and beneficial things that matter to you and have a positive impact on your life, like socializing, sleeping well, eating healthy and not smoking or using other substances.
- Mobility: Get up and get active. A lifestyle that incorporates plenty of exercise will lead to better health outcomes and help you preserve mobility as you age.
- Mental Stimulation: Find a fun new hobby that will help fill your free time. Engage in activities that encourage creative thinking, teach you something new or help you relax.
- Medication: Be careful with the use of high-risk medications, such as sedatives (including over-the-counter sleep medications) and hypnotics. They can increase your risk of dementia.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Manisha Parulekar, M.D.
- To make an appointment with Dr. Parulekar or a geriatric and memory loss specialist near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn how geriatric medicine addresses the unique needs of older adults
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