How To Keep Your Brain Healthy | Finding Help in ABQ
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – What comes to mind when you hear “brain health?” Alzheimer’s may have crossed your mind. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a neurological disorder typically in older adults. Whether you are predisposed to have it or not, you may develop it someday.
The Alzheimer’s Association released a 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures special report. It projects that the number of New Mexicans with Alzheimer’s can balloon to 53,000 by 2025. It’s a 23.3% surge from 2020’s peak of 43,000 cases.
AD is just one of several neurological problems that affect its health. Though often interchanged with mental health, here’s how to discern one from another. And here’s how you can keep healthy in Albuquerque.
- Importance of Brain Health
- Brain health vs. mental health
- Effects of neurological problems
- How to keep the brain healthy
- Where to seek help in Albuquerque
Importance of Brain Health
Brain health has no standard definition. But it is like a computer with billions of nerve cells. It’s your central processing unit that generates all commands for the different functions of your body.
It triggers the following activities:
- interpretation of senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch)
- emotional processing
It is crucial for all these functions to work correctly. Thus, a study defines it as the “preservation of optimal integrity and mental and cognitive function at a given age in the absence of overt disease that affects normal function (Wang et al., 2020).”
Factors that affect its normal function include your risks, diet, and lifestyle. It goes through changes as we grow older. Aging increases the risk of developing problems.
Think of the human brain like a sponge. You absorb or gain information and experiences in your lifetime. However, the sponge gets “holey” or less absorbent as time passes. When this happens, you become forgetful. You may also find it hard to learn new things or become less mentally sharp.
Another risk factor is family history. For instance, if someone's biological mother or father carries the genetic mutation, the child has a 50/50 chance of inheriting it (per the national institute of aging). Aging and genetic risks cannot be changed, but other factors can be managed. For example, diet and lifestyle play a role in maintaining a healthy brain.
Like AD, chronic diseases are prevalent in New Mexico. Learn more about Chronic Disease Management
Brain Health vs. Mental Health
Brain health is somewhat synonymous with mental health. The distinction between the two terms can be vague. For example, not all brain disorders are considered mental health issues.
Brain disorders like AD, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s disease are neurological and not mental. It relates to the nerves or areas of the brain rather than the mind, mood, or thinking. In contrast, examples of mental health issues are depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or schizophrenia.
However, researchers continue to study mental health. As a result, they gradually understand the nature of mental illnesses to be similar to brain disorders.
Moreover, there is growing advocacy to replace “mental health” with “brain health.” An example is the Brain Health Bootcamp, featured in a news article by the Yale School of Medicine.
Co-founder of the Bootcamp, Bryce Bjork, said the change in terminology aims to remove the stigma on mental health and people with mental illnesses. Brain health also emphasizes mental illnesses as treatable conditions.
The two terms can be interchanged. But there are many brain and mental health conditions. Likewise, there are varied causes, symptoms, diagnoses, and medical interventions for each disease.
Mental health matters for everyone, especially employees.
Effects of Neurological Problems on Brain Health
Neurological problems cause brain dysfunction. They are classified into three types according to a study.
- Structural brain disorders are due to an injured brain structure. Examples are stroke, brain tumor, or sensory disturbances.
- Functional brain disorders are caused by damage to brain connections. It includes AD, Parkinson’s Disease, or mental disorders.
- It can also be neither structural nor functional brain disorders. Examples are sleep problems and migraines.
AD is a neurological disorder that negatively affects brain health and physical wellbeing. It’s also degenerative, which means your brain’s function declines.
You can have trouble with cognitive functions such as:
- Language and learning
Another example is mood disorders. These disorders can lead to difficulty in regulating emotions and processing rewards. Likewise, they can affect physical functions, balance, and gait.
These brain and mental disorders can impact the cognitive, physical, and social aspects of life. Thus, it is crucial to find the proper intervention before your condition worsens.
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How to Keep Your Brain Healthy
Now is the time to start caring for your brain health regardless of your age or current condition. There are three ways to have a healthy brain without medical intervention. Diet, lifestyle, and supplements boost your brain and improve your physical well-being.
There are many foods you can add to your diet. For example, fatty fish is an excellent source of Omega-3. Researchers found that Omega-3 plays a role in fighting inflammation that causes heart and brain diseases. In addition, a more recent study shows that eating fish improves mental functions even among healthy people.
Numerous studies reveal nuts, berries, dark chocolate, and coffee contribute to brain health. According to experts dark roasted coffee has the strongest effect on the brain whether regular or decaf. But that decaf is the type found to protect neurons.
In addition, some medical practitioners recommend the Mediterranean diet. It’s composed of seafood, whole wheat, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
While brain-healthy foods are abundant, there are also foods to avoid. For one, sugar is a culprit to many several diseases. It needs glucose to function. But too much sugar has been linked to memory problems. It also causes the brain to shrink, which leads to cognitive impairments, like dementia and AD.
“A sound mind in a sound body” or exercise benefits your body. Based on a study, physical activity improves mental abilities, learning, memory, and general wellbeing. Therefore, it’s highly recommended as a therapy for all ages.
At the same time, staying mentally active helps it to function properly. Examples of mental workouts are crossword puzzles and number games.
Sleep is another critical activity. Not getting enough of it can make it function slower. It also shortens your attention span and makes you cranky.
On the other hand, experts say about 7-8 hours of sleep boosts energy for the parts of the brain. Sleep restores neural cells and removes toxins you were exposed to during the day.
Part of lifestyle change is avoiding activities that damage it. For example, you may want to cut back on alcohol. Studies show it contributes to shrinking of the lobes of the brain more than non-alcohol drinkers. Heavy and chronic drinking also causes memory and learning problems.
A medical practitioner usually recommends vitamins for health only if you are vitamin deficient and at risk for AD. Vitamin B has been known to improve mental functions like focus and memory. But more studies have yet to validate this claim.
At the same time, Vitamin E protects neuro-cells from further damage. Unfortunately, a study shows it does not prevent AD or improve cognitive function. Vitamin E, though, may slow down the functional decline of AD without serious side effects.
Many over-the-counter supplements should be taken with caution. For instance, overdosage of Vitamin E has been linked to severe side effects such as bleeding in the brain. So it’s best to seek medical advice before taking any supplements for its health.
Where to Seek Help In Albuquerque
Alzheimer's Disease is one of its varied disorders. Aging, environment, genetics, and lifestyle contribute to its development. You can’t change your genes, but you can control factors to lessen your risks. Diet, lifestyle, and supplements are three practical ways to keep your brain healthy.
If you think you are at risk of AD or have cognitive difficulties, seek help immediately. A Direct Primary Care Provider, Well Life Family Practice, offers nutrition, lifestyle, and supplement counseling to keep your brain healthy.