Although mental health awareness is rising in popularity, other aspects of brain health continue to be neglected. Brain health is covered by a wide range of topics and is influenced by a variety of factors.
Each individual human body is, in part, a culmination of what is put into it, and the same holds true for brain health. Julie Sanz, director of Stevenson’s Wellness Center, said, “I think many people don’t realize that the rationalization part of the young adult brain isn’t truly fully formed until around age 25. For that reason, many substances used by young adults such as alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs can lead to lasting effects on brain function and the ability to make rational decisions.”
Food is also very important, as certain foods will fuel the brain more than others. The Cleveland Clinic describes a diet rich in leafy greens (like kale), nuts, and whole grains as beneficial to fighting Alzheimer’s disease. Spices, dark chocolate, and food rich in antioxidants are also imperative to slowing brain aging.
Other aspects of brain health include various injuries to the brain. For example, the way a concussion affects the brain depends on the severity and the frequency.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine did a meta-analysis on concussions and found that, “Some former athletes have depression and cognitive deficits later in life, and there is an association between these deficits and multiple prior concussions.” This same analysis also found that repeated concussions increased the likelihood of future brain damage and mental health problems later in life.
Athletes are not the only people that can suffer from cognitive impairment. In fact, all people have steps that they can take to prevent complications later in life.
One easy thing to do is to always make sure that a foundation of safety is established. Sanz suggests to wear a seatbelt every car ride, and a properly fitted helmet during every bike ride. Those safety precautions will protect the brain if an accident occurred.
A better understanding of the importance of brain health is also crucial. Sanz, when asked about this importance, said, “Just like the rest of your body, you only get one brain. Different than many things, there is no such thing (yet) as regeneration of brain tissue or brain transplants. You only get one shot! Care for your most important organ. Without it you can lose so much.”
A useful way to fight illnesses is rest, and the same is true for improving brain health. The Cleveland Clinic recommends sleep as a good way take a break from the stressors of life. Meditation, positive thinking, and journal keeping also do wonders for improving one’s daily mental state.
Other aspects of brain health include mental exercise and social interaction. Healthybrains.org says, “A rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation.”
The growing movement known as stroke awareness is also part of brain health. Sanz recommends the acronym FAST (face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911) as an easy way to recognize symptoms of a stroke and make the appropriate decision to inform the authorities if necessary.
Although the term “brain health” is not mainstream, the various aspects of brain health and the techniques used to improve it certainly are. As brain health awareness increases, more people will recognize just how malleable the human mental state is.