The human brain is a complex structure. It controls our bodies and decides our day to day behaviours and functioning. Together with the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves, the brain is responsible for our memory, thinking, decision-making abilities, sensations, and body movements including voluntary and involuntary movements. Take some time to check this Recent Updates on Brain Diseases.
As a consequence, any disease or injury that affect our brain can result in adverse changes to any of its controlling functions. As the structure of the brain, the resulting damage is quite complex as well. Unfortunately, a major part of the world population is affected by some types of brain diseases. And due to the complexity of their nature, treatment methods are not very effective for the majority of them.
Although there are a hundred of neurological illnesses, here we have gathered some major brain disorders that are affecting a large number of people around the globe and their possible causes.
Dementia or memory loss is one of the most prevalent brain conditions worldwide. According to a survey, in 2010, 35.6 million people were affected by it globally, and the numbers were expected to be double every 20 years.
Dementia is not a disease itself, but it is a syndrome (a group of symptoms) that can result from many other brain disorders. It is characterized by progressive memory loss, deterioration of cognitive (reasoning and decision making) abilities, language problems, communication impairments, altered sense of orientation, mood and behavioural changes, and disturbed social life among others. Although it is more common in the elderly, it is not a normal part of ageing.
Dementia results from the damage or insults to the different regions of the brain. The presentation of the symptoms also differs from patient to patient depending upon the part of their brain being affected.
Dementia can be caused by:
- Alzheimer’s disease (most common cause)
- Vascular damage
- Injury to the head
- Brain tumours
- Brain infections
- Alcohol abuse
Alzheimer’s disease is another very common brain disorder. According to a study, 24.3 million people were affected by it in 2005.
It is associated with ageing and is more prevalent in people older than 65 years of age.
It affects the part of the brain primarily associated with learning. An early and most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is dementia or inability to remember especially the newly gained information. Over the years symptoms can progress to more serious outcomes like a more severe memory loss, abnormal behavioural changes, loss of sense of time and space, communication problems, hallucinations, inability to socialise, mood swings, and difficulty in carrying out self-care tasks.
Although care is available for treating its symptoms, the cure for this debilitating condition still needs to be found.
Even though there are some theories present to define the possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease, but scientists are still unable to determine the exact cause of the disease.
Possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Family history
- Brain injuries
- Sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle
- Cardiovascular (heart) conditions
Epilepsy is another common, chronic brain condition which can affect people of any age, race, ethnicity, and gender. It is characterized by seizures, abnormal behaviour, or lack of consciousness. To diagnose this condition one must have had two seizures without any provoking factor. There is always some electrical activity going on in a normal human brain. Seizures occur when a sudden and excessive electrical activity occurs in the brain or a part of the brain.
The epileptic seizure has a different presentation in different patients and sometimes in the same patient. For some, it can only be a short period of staring blankly into space, but for others, it could be characterized by sudden jerky movements of hands and feet, loss of consciousness, and muscle spasm that can last for a few seconds to a few minutes.
It is mainly divided into two types, depending upon the part of the brain generating excessive electrical signals:
Focal seizures: In this type, only a part of the brain becomes hyperactive.
Generalized seizure: It is caused by hyperactivity of the whole brain.
In the majority of the cases, the cause of epilepsy cannot be determined. Some of the causes associated with epilepsy include:
- Brain damage (either before birth or during birth)
- Head injuries and post-traumatic scarring
- Brain tumours
- Brain infection
- Other brain conditions (like stroke and vascular diseases)
- Developmental disorders
- Genetic conditions
Parkinson’s disease is another common brain disease. It is a degenerative brain disease. It causes a reduction in the production of dopamine in the brain, which is responsible for coordinated muscle movements. It progresses over the period of years with three most common symptoms including; resting tremors, rigidity in muscles, and slowed movements. As the disease progresses patient suffers from increased coordination difficulties, troubled walking, irregular blood pressure, speech problems, sleep disorders, depression, memory loss, fatigue, and negative behavioural changes.
Unfortunately, no cure has been found for the Parkinsonism, but symptoms can be managed using medications and sometimes surgery. Diagnosing the disease at early stages is helpful for the better management of the symptoms.
It is well known that Parkinson’s disease is caused by degeneration of the part (substantia nigra) of a brain that is responsible for dopamine production. But what causes these brain cells to die still remains an unanswered question.
The possible risk factors that can have a role in triggering this the Parkinson’s disease include:
- Ageing (more common in people above 60 years of age)
- Gender (male are at more risk than females)
- Family history
- Environmental insults (e.g. exposure to certain harmful toxins)
Stroke, also known as cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or brain attack, occurs when nutrients and oxygen supply to a brain area is suddenly disrupted, either due to the rupture or blockage of one of the blood vessels, causing damage and ultimately the death (ischemia) of the brain cells. Stroke is considered a medical emergency and could be fatal if not handled promptly.
FAST is a common mnemonic that can help you to recognize a person having a stroke attack.
Time to Call for Help
Multiple risk factors can hamper the blood supply to the brain and play a role in causing a stroke. These factors include:
- Thrombus (blood clot in an artery)
- Atherosclerosis (fat depositions in the arteries)
- Aneurysm(bursting of week blood vessels)
Other risk factors include:
- Unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Old age
- Family history
- Alcohol consumption
How to prevent brain diseases by eating well?:
“Prevention is better than cure”
This proverb goes for all the diseases, but it is held especially true when it comes to brain diseases. Brain diseases are complex, gets worsen with time, have a negative impact on all aspects of human life, and unfortunately, most of them are not curable. So, the best way to combat these diseases is to avoid to have them at all in the first place.
Here are a few lifestyle changes that you can adopt to ensure a healthy brain function and a strong memory.
For many years researchers have been working on finding an association between diet and brain health. A number of natural nutrients have been identified that can boost brain function, strengthen the memory, and prevent brain deterioration with the ageing. It is now a proven fact that MIND diet or MedDiet is linked with the better cognitive function of the brain.
MIND diet or MedDiet is based on the regular eating habits of people living in Mediterranean countries. It includes vegetables, fruits, fish, whole grains, nuts and olive oil. The MIND diet is considered to have oxidative properties that help protect the brain against damage and prevent memory loss.
Here are some of these food items with their added benefits that you can utilize daily and keep your brain cells healthy and fit
- Green leafy vegetables: Vegetables are good not only for your physical health but also for your mental health. Green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach, are packed with neuroprotective nutrients like phylloquinone, lutein, and folate that slows down age-related degeneration of the brain cells.
- Nuts: Nuts are a source of healthy fats and also have anti-inflammatory properties, all good for preserving an ageing brain.
- Fish: Adding seafood to your weekly diet plan is a very good option to boost your mental health. Salmon contains Omega 3 fats that are particularly good for your brain health.
- Eggs: Eggs are another important part of a healthy brain diet. Egg yolks have choline which is excellent to prevent progressive brain cells degeneration.
Just like the foods to boost your brain health, some foods might be causing the damage and must be avoided. Some of these include:
- Red meat
- Processed food
- Fast food
- Salty and spicy food
- Soda drinks
- Excessive alcohol
Aerobic exercises and good cardiac health has been associated with a better cognitive function. Exercise supplies extra blood and nutrients to the brain and improves its function. Exercising regularly not only work as a preventative measure for mental illnesses, but it is also important when it comes to their management.
Challenge Your Brain:
Just like muscles, your brain can also become stronger and more powerful when challenged beyond its capacity. Trying new activities and learning new skills can help stimulate your brain. Constant brain stimulation results in making new neural connections and creates extra brain cells reserve.
You can try activities like:
- Learning a new language
- Trying a new recipe
- Solving puzzles
- Playing cards
- Getting a new course
Get Quality Sleep:
Getting regular and quality sleep has many health benefits. An adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily for proper functioning. Sleep helps with the consolidation of the memories. There are theories suggesting that sleep also helps clear harmful beta-amyloid toxins from the brain, leading to healthy ageing of neurons.
Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Obesity and the consequent high blood pressure, high sugar and cholesterol levels are all deteriorating factors for brain health. If you have any of these conditions, it is advised to take your medications as prescribed and maintain a normal level of blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol. Keeping your weight within normal limits is an important aspect to consider when it comes to the efficient working of the brain.
Socialising with your friends and loved ones are one way to ward off daily stresses. Depression and stress can lead to poor mental health and weak memory. Instead of scrolling on social media all day long, try to meet up with your friends in person. Every person has something to teach. Different people bring diversity in your life and enhance your learning experience with the new set of information and interests they bring with them in the group. This is one way to keep your brain active and learn new things in a pleasant way.
Give Up on Bad Habits:
A healthy lifestyle is not just about opting positive habits. It is equally as important to give up on the habits that might be damaging for your body and brain.
Some of the habits that have a negative impact on your brain health and should be given up include:
- Drinking excessive alcohol
- Living in isolation
- Social media addiction
- Watching too much television
- Using headphones on a high volume
Age-related degeneration of the brain is inevitable, and there’s nothing much that could be done to stop it. It is a part of the physiological ageing process. But that does not mean, getting a degenerative disease is inevitable too. Having a brain illness does not mean the end of your life. There are many treatment options available from medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, to behavioural changes, and surgery that can help you live a near to normal life.