World Brain Day: Brain Health and DisabilityJuly 21, 2023
July 22 is World Brain Day. As the body’s most complex organ, our brains work as our seat of intelligence, interpreter of our senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior. This fascinating and incredibly vital organ is the source of many of the qualities that define our humanity. Your unique body and brain have differed from everyone else's from the moment of your birth. These differences only increase as time goes on, and our bodies and brains integrate our individual experiences in the world.
Established in 2014 by the World Federation of Neurology (WFN), World Brain day marks a way to bring public awareness to a different topic in neurological health each year. The annual celebration takes place on July 22 as homage to the day WFN was founded in 1957. This year, the theme for World Brain Day is brain health and disability. Join us as we discuss the basics of neurological disabilities, relay some tips for better brain health, and address the social determinants of health surrounding brain health and disability.
A disability is a functional disadvantage experienced by a person affected by the condition of an organ, organ system, or the body in general. Neurology is the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of conditions and disease involving the nervous system, which comprises the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. The word “neuro” means nerve or nervous system.
Neurological disabilities include a wide range of disorders, such as:
- learning disabilities
- neuromuscular disorders
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
- brain tumors
- cerebral palsy
Some neurological conditions are congenital, appearing before birth. Other conditions may be caused by tumors, age-related degeneration, trauma, infections or structural differences. Regardless of the cause, all neurological disabilities result from damage to the nervous system. Depending on where the damage takes place, communication, vision, hearing, movement and cognition can be impacted to varying degrees. Mental disorders, on the other hand, are "psychiatric illnesses" or diseases which appear primarily as abnormalities of thought, feeling or behavior, producing either distress or impairment of function. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are more than 600 neurologic diseases. The specific causes of neurological problems vary, but can include:
- genetic disorders
- congenital abnormalities or disorders
- lifestyle or environmental health problems including malnutrition
- brain, spinal cord, or nerve injury
A disorder is a medical condition that may or may not give rise to disability depending on its severity. Neurological disorders are medically defined as disorders that affect the brain as well as the nerves found throughout the human body and the spinal cord. Structural, biochemical or electrical abnormalities in the brain, spinal cord or other nerves can result in a range of symptoms. Examples of symptoms include: paralysis, muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of sensation, seizures, confusion, pain and altered levels of consciousness.
The Brain and Social determinants of Health
Brain health is the state of how our brain functions across the cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioral, and motor areas. This is what allows a person to realize their full potential over the life course, disregarding the presence or absence of disorders. Different social factors that influence the way our brains grow, adapt and respond to stress include:
- physical health
- The health of one’s environment
- safety and security
- life-long learning and social connection
- access to quality services
Neural plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity or brain plasticity, can be defined as the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to inner or outer (intrinsic or extrinsic) stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections. Plasticity combined with these determinants of health helps create strategies for promotion and prevention across the life course.
Optimizing brain health by addressing these determinants not only improves mental and physical health but also creates positive social and economic impacts that contribute to the well-being and advancement of society. However, conditions that affect the brain and nervous system in general can happen throughout the life course and are marked by disruptions in brain growth, damage to brain structure and/or impaired brain functioning. These include hereditary conditions as well as neurological disorders across the life.
Health and social care for these conditions goes beyond individualized care. There is still a societal lack of consideration for the disabled community. A person-centered approach focused on promotion, prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation are the recommended approach for supporting those living with neurological disorders and other brain health impairments.
Tips to boost Brain Health:
- Get plenty of sleep: Getting restful sleep is one of the most important things you can do for brain health. Sleep can also play a pivotal role in recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). You can improve your sleep regimen with these healthy sleep tips:
- Aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and energy drinks within six hours of your usual bedtime
- Exercise regularly, preferably finishing at least two hours before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol within two hours of bedtime
- Promote a sleep friendly environment; minimize noise and light and maintain a cool but comfortable room temperature
- Avoid use of smartphones or reading devices that give off blue light for two or more hours before bedtime. You can also wear blue light-blocking glasses!
- Protect your head: Limit the risk of experiencing a TBI by wearing a helmet or other protective equipment when training, playing sports, or riding a bike or motorcycle. Some safety tips when using a helmet include:
- Never wear a cracked or broken helmet
- Never alter a helmet yourself
- Regardless of wear and tear, always replace a helmet five years past the manufacturer's date to be sure it has the latest safety features
- Take care of your mental health: The brain affects how we think, feel, and act. Damage to the brain, including from brain injury, can affect physical function, thinking ability, behavior, mental health, and more. Severe brain injuries increase the risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as sleeping problems. Remember to seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, especially if you have recently experienced a brain injury.
- Build your social networks: The ability to engage in productive personal and professional relationships, and positively interact with unit and command networks, is important to overall well-being and brain health. When you experience a TBI, changes to your personal and professional relationships are common. Some TBI symptoms, like mood swings and personality changes, can stress relationships. Friends, families, and coworkers who notice these changes, and are aware of a possible head injury, should encourage medical attention. Seeking medical attention for a potential TBI is a sign of strength, not weakness.
- Get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet: Physical exercise is very beneficial for maintaining brain health. You can make a major difference in terms of how your body is functioning and, as a result, how your brain is functioning, through regular exercise. Good nutrition is also essential to everyone's good health and wellness. The right diet incorporating omega 3 fatty acids can improve physical and cognitive performance, positively impact your mental health, lower your risk of many chronic diseases, and even help with recovery from some injuries. Some foods that support brain health include:
- Leafy greens: kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli
- Fatty fish: salmon, cod, light tuna, and pollack
Summing it up:
World Brain Day promotes awareness around the complexity of issues that individuals with neurological disabilities often face and emphasizes the importance of prioritizing efforts to make the world more accessible and equitable for everyone. Some of the goals of World Brain Day are to raise global brain health awareness, to reduce the global burden of disability associated with brain disorders, to work to achieve universal access to care, treatment and rehab; to educate others to increase equity for those living with brain disabilities, and to advocate for health as a human right that applies to everyone.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a neurological disability, or have questions about next steps regarding brain health, True Care is happy to answer any questions and discuss possible forms of care. Feel free to visit our website, send us an email, or give us a call at (718) 854-8783. Happy World Brain Day from your friends at True Care!
DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.No comments found.
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