The Brain “Matters”
The Brain Injury Association of America has designated March 15-21 as Brain Injury Awareness Week, a global campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of brain research.
Brain injuries can be acquired or traumatic. Examples of acquired brain injury are strokes, brain tumors and other disease processes that affect the brain. Traumatic brain injuries are those that are caused by trauma to the head – motor vehicle accidents, blast injuries, concussion, etc.
Our ability to remember information, pay attention, problem solve and make good judgments are all affected when the brain is injured or grows older. The brain does “matter.” Here are some ways to take care of your brain:
• Wear a helmet when riding bicycles or ATVs. According to safety statistics, this can reduce head injuries by 70%.
• Wear a seat belt when in a car. Statistics show this can reduce the risks for fatal injury by 45% and moderate-to-critical injury by 50%
• Control your risk for heart problems. According to Medical News Today, a person’s rate of cognitive decline can speed up if they experience heart-related events (heart attack or angina). This can be related to decreased blood flow to the brain.
• Manage your blood sugar levels. In a 2009 study in Diabetes Care, researchers found a link between memory/thinking and high blood sugar levels. It is believed that over time, diabetes can cause the blood vessels to shrink, which can lead to vascular dementia.
• Protect against hearing loss and social isolation. In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that even a mild hearing loss can double the risk for dementia and those with severe hearing impairment were up to five times more likely to experience dementia.
• Limit stress. Chronic stress can cause measurable brain shrinkage, which leads to decreased memory and thinking skills.
• Get adequate sleep. Studies show that chronic lack of sleep can impair memory and thinking function.
• Get regular exercise. Studies have shown that senior citizens who had been relatively sedentary showed significant improvement in cognitive function after participating in a moderate exercise program. In fact, some participants were beginning to demonstrate signs of mild cognitive impairment and dementia prior to beginning the exercise program.
• Drink plenty of water. Your brain is 73% water, and it takes only 2% dehydration to affect your attention, memory and other cognitive skills. Ninety minutes of sweating can temporarily shrink the brain as much as one year of aging does.
• Get some fresh air. Your brain needs a constant supply of oxygen in order to perform well, and it uses about 25% of your oxygen intake. The brain also uses about three times as much oxygen as your muscles.
• Eat well. Low levels of omega-3s can result in brain shrinkage equal to two years of brain aging. Brain cells will eat themselves as a last-ditch source of energy to ward off starvation.
If you notice changes in your own or a family member’s memory and thinking, please see your primary care physician.
Our ability to remember information, pay attention, problem solve and make good judgments are all affected when the brain is injured or grows older.