I am passionate about brain health. True, as a neurologist my main concern is to identify, diagnose, and treat diseases of the brain. That’s how I was trained, and that is the main reason that patients come to me. However, as the years of experience have amassed, I have become more attuned to the importance of maintaining brain health – even when there is no disease to worry about. Here is why …
Let’s start by asking, “What is brain health?” We are used to hearing about heart health and general wellbeing, but we tend to take the brain for granted. Strangely enough, we give our brains little thought. I think that is largely because we understand so little about it.
However, neuroscience research has taught us a lot about the workings of the brain. We now understand that the brain is the organ that controls all the body’s functions. It not only controls your movement and speech, but also your hormones, cardiac rate, and even your stomach function. There are functions that you control consciously, and there are many others that your brain controls on auto-pilot. Even more importantly, your brain is the organ that serves your emotions, your personality, and your spiritual life. In short, your brain is what defines YOU.
So, if you are interested in being the best YOU, you must make sure that your brain is in best working order. If something is not optimal, you may feel symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, dizziness, or depressed mood. This is what often happens after a whiplash injury or minor concussion. On the flip side, if you proactively invest in your brain health, you may find that you can think faster, clearer, and be in a better mood than before. This is what happens when you exercise regularly.
But, you may ask, “I am doing just fine – Why should I care?”
There is now plenty of clinical data that suggests how the Mediterranean-style diet, regular physical and mental exercise, adequate sleep, and stress reduction can positively influence brain health. Some studies have linked these activities with decreased rates of Alzheimer’s disease, and others have shown better treatment of chronic pain, less depression, and better control of ADHD.
The news is that a healthy lifestyle is good for your brain. Working on your brain health can pay off with less stress, less anxiety, less pain, and less depression. When you are more relaxed and better able to focus, you are also more likely to be successful at work and can better manage your relationships at home. Basically, you are happier.
I like to conceptualize brain health as comprised of three essential elements. The first is “Healthy neurons”. It is important to seek medical attention when you suspect brain illness, so that it can be diagnosed and treated in the best way. That is the realm of physicians specializing in brain disease. The second element is “Healthy mind”. A healthy mind means a lot of things, including healthy emotions, healthy stress control, and healthy control of thoughts. That is the realm of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and life coaches. The third element is “Healthy lifestyle habits”. The main factors that relate to brain health are sleep, diet, physical exercise, and mental exercise. That is the realm of sleep coaches, dietitians, sports trainers, and cognitive exercise specialists. Other specialists, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, movement therapists, and therapists who utilize various mind-body techniques don’t fit neatly into these categories but are just as important.
What if all these professionals worked in a coordinated way to provide 360-degrees-care – Wouldn’t that be great?
We are at the dawn of a new era in brain medicine. Multi-specialty brain care is recognized as the ideal and is slowly becoming mainstream. A team of talented brain health professionals is working together to realize this ideal right here in Modiin. We will be offering lectures, workshops, and other events to introduce you to the wide world of brain-healthy activities. I urge you to participate. Come and learn.
Ely Simon, MD is an American board-certified neurologist and Director of the Brain Health Center. He is Clinical Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY and is the former Director of the Center for Memory and Attention Disorders at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. The Brain Health Center is a new initiative that brings professional services dealing with brain health under one (virtual) roof. It includes services delivered by neurologists, pain doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, life coaches, dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, cognitive trainers, personal sports trainers, sleep coaches, movement therapists, and mind-body therapists. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel (clinic) 072-2120666