Maintaining brain health
Dr. Sachin Kandhari
The human brain and spinal cord together make up the Central Nervous System, which regulates almost every element of our existence. Every single physical or mental activity—from speech to creativity, memory to messaging, breathing to balance, sleep to sensory processing, digestion to restraint—is begun and carried out by the brain. It goes without saying that having a healthy brain is essential for living well at any age.
The brain is much like other parts of your body, if one doesn’t use it, one can lose it. Fitness extends beyond physical health. The maintenance of mental fitness is equally crucial. The goal of brain fitness is to maintain brain health while avoiding or combating cognitive diseases. One should have the power to encourage healthy brain growth through mental exercise, physical activity, social engagement, and self-defence. No matter your starting point—early in life or later—following certain fundamental activities might help with mental health.
Age-related changes in the brain, traumas like strokes or traumatic brain injuries, mood disorders like depression, drug use disorders like addiction, and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease can all have a long-lasting impact on the brain health. While there are various disorders that cannot be changed right away but awareness about the disease, timely diagnosis and prompt action can help in improving the overall quality of life. Apart from this numerous lifestyle improvements and modifications also help in having a positive impact on the brain health in the long run.
1. Exercise regularly – Physical activity is very much important in this rapidly paced digital era, and as said physical activity boosts the blood flow providing ample oxygen and nutrients to keep the brain active and healthy. Various studies have also demonstrated the impact of physical activity in improving the brain functions and sustaining the impact for a longer time than those who are physically inactive.
2. Challenge your brain – Always think positive and try to learn new abilities. Practice memorising and play memory games which will help the brain to perform better. Additionally, such practices strengthen the brain connections and impacts the short-term memory by keeping it engaged. To break the everyday monotony and routine, make slight improvements in the daily routines.
3. Make social connections – In the digital era, where social media has captured the minds of all, it is important to establish social connections physically. Find ways to participate in the neighbourhood, or if one is an animal lover, try volunteering a shelter. Maintaining relationships with loved ones is shown to elevate mood, enhance memory, and develop cognitive capabilities.
4. Reduce stress levels – While stress is known to cause a plethora of health ailments, the daily life stress potentially affects the brain and its cognitive abilities. Controlling stress is a wonderful step to begin when trying to improve mental health. Higher stress levels triggers release of sugar in the body, allows the heart to beat faster, slows down the digestion process, and stiffens the muscles, ultimately causing severe mental issues like anxiety and depression. Thus, stress management techniques like yoga or meditation helps in protecting the brain from the severe impacts of stress.
5. Eat healthy and have a sound sleep – A healthy diet has a significant effect on the brain functioning with age and lasts life-long. Factors like lifestyle, nutrition and pollutants has a pronounced & damaging impact on the brain thus having a healthy diet, rich in anti-oxidants should be consumed on regular basis. It is strictly advised to curb down or stop tobacco and alcohol use. Brain needs time to efficiently develop and retain memories, which is provided by uninterrupted & blissful sleep. It is recommended to have a sound sleep of 7 to 9 hours during night. Inadequate sleep has a major impact, both on physical and mental health and is linked to slower thinking and elevated risk of developing dementia.
While a healthy routine is essential to keep the brain healthy in the long run, and not done on emergency basis. One has to start inheriting the above-mentioned tips on regular basis. Strat early by making little adjustments to the daily schedule, make time to obtain more sleep, reduce stress, and exercise daily.
(The author is a Senior Neurosurgeon and Managing Director, IBS Hospital, New Delhi)