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World | Aug 11, 2022

Five brain health determinants: Do you have a healthy brain?

Tamoy Ashman

Tamoy Ashman / Our Today

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The human brain is one of the most important organs in the body. As such, maintaining brain health is an important task.

If our brains are not properly taken care of, we can develop diseases that affect our health, and to a wider extent, global productivity and development.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , brain health is “the state of brain functioning across cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioral and motor domains”.

This means that physical health as well as our behaviours and emotional wellbeing can affect brain health.

The brain and the central nervous system are responsible for controlling our conscious and unconscious body functions, influencing every aspect of our lives.

The WHO states that there are five factors that can be used to determine brain health. These include: physical health, a healthy environment, access to quality service, learning and social connections and , safety and security.

Physical health

Since the brain is a part of the body, physical health is an important determinant for brain health.

As such, it is important to get good, quality sleep, engage in physical activity, and provide your body with the right nutrients.

If good physical health is not maintained, this can affect brain health. Some instances of this include substance abuse, traumatic injury and diseases.

Healthy environment

The developmental stages of life are very important in optimising brain health. These stages include early childhood, adolescence and even older.

According to the WHO, research over the years states that factors such as pollution or chemical spills can affect brain health.

In addition, natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions contribute to ambient air pollution and increased risk of wildfires threatening the brain health of individuals.

As such, to optimise brain health, persons should reside in an environment free from pollution.

Access to quality service

An ambulance arrives at the emergency entrance outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 13, 2020. (File Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)

In managing the risk factors for brain health, it is important to have access to quality healthcare. Despite our best efforts to remain healthy, there is only so much and no more that we can do.

So, to ensure brain health, there needs to be access to medical facilities that can provide equitable access to diagnosis and treatment.

In addition, frequent check ups should be made to ensure brain health.

Learning and social connections

Access to options for learning and social connections are also important for brain health. Through learning and social connections, the brain is cognitively stimulated in the early stages of development.

Cognitive stimulation refers to any activity that keeps the brain active and improves how it functions.

While cognitive stimulation occurs in the schools for children, adult brain stimulation is associated with work or social connections.

Thus, social interactions, reading or learning, is good for brain health.

Safety and security

Brain health is preserved when we ensure that we do not engage in harmful activities.

According to the WHO, “physical safety is the absence of actual physical harm (including abuse, maltreatment and neglect) and the threat of physical harm. It requires stable and safe housing, and safety within the home and broader community.

“In addition to physical safety, financial security can also impact brain health. Financial security is the absence of stress or strain when it comes to cost of living. When we have financial security, we experience less stress which is good for brain health.”

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