March 11, 2019 | Abby Caviness
In 1996, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain (EDAB) founded Brain Awareness Week (BAW) to educate the public on the progress and benefits of brain research1. According to its website, BAW has evolved over the past 23 years into a “global initiative that has included the participation of more than 5,600 partners in 120 countries. During the 2018 campaign alone, more than 895 BAW events were held in 42 countries and 44 states.” That is 895 events dedicated just to celebrating the brain—how cool is that?
Taking a few minutes to educate yourself about how your brain functions can help you maintain your brain health.* If you think about it this way, learning more about your brain health is basically just your brain learning about how to protect itself—but thinking about it that way gets confusing fast, so we will move on.
Healthline2 provides us with a few fun facts about brains, some of which are just fun and interesting, while others help us to understand more about how our brain functions so we can take better care of it. Here are a few of them2:
- The brain is 75 percent water, so even small amounts of dehydration can have negative effects on brain function.
- The human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons.
- It is a myth that humans only use 10 percent of our brain—we even use more than 10 percent when we sleep!
- The brain gets smaller as we get older, starting some time after middle age.
- A brain freeze happens when you eat or drink a cold substance and it chills the blood vessels and arteries in the back of your throat, including the ones taking blood to your brain, which constrict when they are cold and cause the pain in your forehead.
Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed Brains
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, your brain changes naturally as you age, effecting your brain’s size, vasculature and cognition.3 However, there are a few ways you can maintain your brain health and keep your brain “young”:4
Get Mental Stimulation
Try taking a few minutes of your day and dedicate them to a mentally stimulating activity, such as reading, doing word puzzles or math problems, drawing, or any other activity requiring your mind to think.
Get Physical Exercise
Having an active lifestyle improves the health of your entire body, so this practice will not only help your brain health but other organs and processes you may be struggling with. Exercise is shown to spur the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells.
Improve Your Diet
Good nutrition goes hand-in-hand with exercise—it improves both your mind and body. Research even shows people who eat a diet emphasizing fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils and plant sources of proteins are less likely to develop cognitive impairment and dementia.
Care for Your Emotions
Studies show people who are anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived or exhausted tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. While these scores do not necessarily reflect increased risk of cognitive degeneration in old age, good mental health and restful sleep are beneficial for your overall health.
Protect Your Head
Possibly the most obvious tip is to keep your brain safe from head injuries, such as concussions. These incidents increase your risk of cognitive impairment, so it is best to exercise caution when participating in activities involving increased risk of head injury, such as contact sports and riding a bike or motorcycle.
Your brain is incredibly important to the function of your body, and your brain holds all the information that makes you, you. Taking the steps to keep your brain healthy means more than just saving yourself from brain diseases, it means preserving yourself so you can maximize your life’s potential. When you put it that way, does it not sound worth it?
*This material is provided by USHEALTH Group® for informational/educational purposes only and should not replace medical/clinical advice or direction from your health care provider.
- “Brain Awareness Week,” Dana.org, accessed February 22, 2019, http://www.dana.org/baw
- Wells, Diana, “Fun Facts About the Brain You Didn’t Know,” Healthline.com, written July 6, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/health/fun-facts-about-the-brain#1
- Peters, R., “Ageing and the brain,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, accessed February 22, 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596698/
- “12 ways to keep your brain young,” Harvard Health Publishing, modified January 16, 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young