World Brain Day is celebrated across the world on July 22nd every year (since 2013) to raise awareness about brain health. This date was chosen by World Federation of Neurology (WFN), as WFN was established on this very day in 1957. The theme for this year’s World Brain Day is “Brain health for all”.
Brain is a vital organ, and it is responsible for the all-important cognitive abilities. In addition, brain has regulatory centres to control heart, lung, and gut functions. Sleep-wake cycle, feelings of hunger, satiety, thirst and emotions too are controlled by the brain. The nerves responsible for perception of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch have their final pathways in various parts of the brain. Pituitary gland, also called the master gland, is in brain and regulates growth, reproductive functions, lactation, and several other important functions.
Therefore, it is important to take care of brain. Brain can be kept healthy with proper sleep, healthy diet, and regular exercises and by leading a stress-free life.
One should ensure 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at nights. Good sleep energizes the brain and body. Adequate sleep elevates mood and reduces stress. Sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation and growth.
Certain foods are considered good for brain health. These include fatty fish such as salmons, tuna and sardines, which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Blueberries have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help improve memory and prevent dementia. Indian spice, especially turmeric (which contains cucurmin) improves memory, reduces depression symptoms and helps grow brain cells. Other foods that improve brain health include pumpkin & chia seeds, oranges, nuts (especially walnuts), broccoli, eggs & meat (rich source of vitamin B12).
Vigorous exercise (75 minutes or more per week) or moderate exercise (150 minutes or more per week) improves brain health. One can choose any form of exercise, such as running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, playing a sport, etc. The key is to be consistent over a long period of time to reap the benefits.
Finally, few words about common diseases that affect the brain. Stroke is among the top three leading causes of death and disability (along with cancer and heart attacks). It can cause paralysis or arm & leg, speech impairment, imbalance while walking, swallowing difficulty or vision impairment. Stroke risk can be reduced by keeping BP, body weight, blood sugar and cholesterol within normal limits.
Dementia refers to loss of memory along with other cognitive functions. It is more common in older people. The risk can be reduced by keeping the brain engaged (especially after retirement) in learning a new activity (for example, playing a musical instrument). Playing Sudoku or solving crossword puzzles also help. Adequate sleep, eating nutritious foods, and engaging in regular physical activity also reduce the risk of dementia.
Migraine is the commonest cause of headache, affecting mainly younger people (more common in women). Other than headache, it can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, intolerance to bright lights or noise, etc. Ensuring good sleep, reducing stress and eating food on time reduce the migraine attacks. Do not neglect if you develop symptoms related to brain disease. Consult a neurologist and seek timely treatment. Prompt medical attention is the best way to ensure maximum recovery in brain diseases.