All You Need to Know about Brain Health

What can go wrong with the human brain? What are the most common afflictions plaguing it? What about the most unusual ones? What should we eat and supplement our diets, if we want to keep our brain health at maximum levels? All this and plenty more about the brain, in the following post!

The Most Common Brain Disease List

Since the brain is such a complex organ, it should come as no surprise there are plenty of things that can go wrong with it. This list includes the most frequently encountered neurological conditions, including infections, seizures, trauma-induced disorders, tumors and other types of masses, but also more rare auto-immune afflictions, degenerative brain disorders, and conditions caused by vascular problems within the brain.

Heart and Brain Health Comic

Image source: Pinterest.com

· Brain infections

The most frequently encountered infections of the brain, include meningitis, encephalitis, and brain abscesses. Encephalitis and meningitis often go together, under the name of meningoencephalitis. They are viral, as opposed to brain abscesses, which are caused by bacteria.

· Cerebral seizures

The best-known type of cerebral seizure disorder is epilepsy. Sufferers often experience seizures, due to irregular electrical activity in their brains. Epilepsy can be caused by a wide range of factors, including infections of the brain, injuries to the head, and various types of strokes.

· Brain trauma

Brain trauma ranges in intensity and seriousness from a concussion, to a traumatic injury, to intracerebral hemorrhage, where the brain is literally bleeding on the inside. Such bleeding can occur after a violent trauma, but is also often the result of a stroke, or hypertension. Concussions only typically cause temporary brain function problems, such as memory loss, whereas brain trauma will often result in long-term, or even permanent damage, causing personality changes.

· Masses, tumors, and high pressure

Brain tumors can be benign, case in which they only add extra pressure to the brain, or malignant, i.e. cancerous. One type of cancerous tumor of the brain is the glioblastoma, which is often incurable due to the rapid pace at which it grows. When too much cerebrospinal (brain) fluid accumulates within the skull, this results in hydrocephalus; more often than not, this causes extra pressure, but there’s also a type of normal pressure hydrocephalus, which can cause dementia, and urinary incontinence, among other issues.

Brain Tumor

Image source: CancerFactsCentral.org

·Brain blood vessel conditions of the brain

Strokes and ischemic strokes are often difficult to predict. Whereas the former happens within the brain, the latter forms a clot on an artery outside the cerebral area. The clot travels to the brain, causes the vessels there to block, and ultimately provokes a stroke. Affected tissue within the brain can remain permanently damaged, or even die. Other types of conditions caused by poor blood flow to and/or within the brain include transient ischemic attacks, aneurysms (balloon-like swellings in brain blood vessels), hematomas (subdural and epidural), and intracerebral hemorrhages.

·Autoimmune brain disorders

One such disorder is called vasculitis and it is caused by inflamed vessels; its symptoms are usually mild and include headaches and confusion, but can also end in seizures and unconsciousness. Multiple sclerosis, known as MS in brief, is an attack of the immune system on the body’s nerve system. It causes weakness, fatigue, and muscle spasms. It can either come and go periodically, or progress at a steady pace.

·Degenerative brain conditions

Neurodegenerative disorders are always heartbreaking, because they result in very poor quality of life for the sufferer. They are also untreatable, for the large part. However, their effects can be alleviated, and their progression slowed down. The most frequently encountered ones include dementia, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease), and, of course, Alzheimer’s disease.

5 Really Weird (but Interesting) Brain Disorders

As evidenced by the frequently encountered brain disorders above, the mind is a very fragile organ. Its home, the brain, is basically a mass of gray mush, encased in a delicate home of bones. When something goes wrong in there, it can go very, very wrong. Aside from the frailty of the human mind and psyche, the physiology of the brain, with its conglomerate of tissue, muscle, blood vessels, and sequential neural connections, is highly complex. Here’s what can happen when the brain skips a link or two between neural processes:

03 unseeing-what-has-been-seen-how-the-brain-worksUnseeing that which has been seen

Image source: NGFiles.com

#5 Chronic palinopsia

You definitely know the feeling of seeing something and then being stuck with that image on your mind’s eye for a little while. Well, that’s perfectly natural, as long as it lasts for a few seconds, and typically occurs right after you’ve stared at a bright object. In one particularly weird case, a 73 year-old woman who had gone to a Christmas party the night before kept seeing people in Santa hats and sporting Santa beards for days on end. Another woman would see her husband’s face on everything, as well as halos of light, and imagined windows. It’s a condition in which you literally cannot forget that which you have seen!

#4 Dysdecorum

This is not Tourette’s syndrome, but it’s a lot like it. It’s simply when you cannot abstain from shouting profanity and it comes from an injury to the right frontal part of the brain. Verbal dysdecorum is one manifestation of this problem, but social dysdecorum also exists. As you may have already guessed, this entails highly inappropriate actions, which the sufferer simply cannot control himself about.

#3 Dysantigraphia

Say you’re taking a test and really don’t know the answer—but the acing, or even passing it, is essential for your future. You would likely do what most normal people would, but what dysantigraphia patients can’t do: copy your neighbor’s paper. One recorded case is that of a man who, after a stroke, had no problem speaking, reading, writing after dictation, or controlling his limbs, but simply couldn’t copy any written text. He would stop after a few words and then could no longer continue at all. Eventually, the man’s speech patterns also deteriorated, to the point where communicating with him about his symptoms became impossible.

#2 Anhedonia

It may look like depression, but it’s actually not. What the two disorders, one neurological, and the other one psychological, have in common, is the patients’ complete inability to feel any sort of pleasure. But while depression has to do with emotions and cognition, anhedonia is actually caused by that tiny neural center which regulates pleasure and rewards. It’s called the globus pallidus and its job is to reward us with a burst of pleasure-inducing chemicals when we do something good, or simply when we need to cover up some pain. It’s usually caused by strokes, but has also been observed in recovering methadone addicts.

Chronically Unhappy Anhedonia

 The sad life of the chronically unhappy

Image source: Lifehack.org

#1 Jargonaphasia

Making up words is fun, right? We all used to do it as kids and some still play with it as adults—most notably, literary greats such as Lewis Carrol or Gertrude Stein. But what if your brain suddenly became unable to form any coherent words at all? Jargon aphasia sufferers can only mutter incomprehensible strings of sounds, or words tossed together in a sort of salad with no meaning. This would even encompass people who spew out clichés, platitudes, and other verbal common places, but end up saying absolutely nothing at all, in terms of the sense their words are making.

The Best Brain Boosting Supplements

Memory loss is a big deal nowadays, when some 10 million people born in the 1950s, also known as the Baby Boom generation, are already struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Current research says that delaying the early onset of the disease by just one year would ‘bring back’ over 210,000 Alzheimer’s patients, and recover $10 billion in medical care costs.

That’s precisely one of the problems with preventative brain health care: it’s incredibly expensive. It does make sense, to a certain extent, since the brain is perhaps the most important internal organ in the human body. However, given the massive spread of brain disorders nowadays, as well as the state of the economy, one would expect science to be working toward the development of more affordable brain health solutions. Sadly, this is not (yet) the case. Aside from OTC and prescription medicine, brain health boosters and supplements are severely under-researched at the moment. We’re including the precious few which have been tested with relevant results, as well as some which do show promise, but require far more studies than what is currently available. Note that there are also some foods that can contribute toward a healthy brain.

Ginkgo biloba

Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses of available data on ginkgo biloba have revealed that the plant can improve the quality of life for people who suffer from dementia, in similar ways that Alzheimer’s medication is able to do this. The plant basically helps blood flow back into small vessels inside the brain. A researcher from the Georgetown School of Medicine says that, while biloba cannot prevent dementia from progressing, it can slow down its evolution, and also provide great benefits for healthy people who use such supplements. The improvements include better moods, alertness levels, and overall improved mental functions.

ginkgo blob tree fruit

Image source: ketenewplymouth.peoplesnetworknz.info

Omega-3 fish oil supplements

Science has yet to come up with a clear-cut verdict regarding the effectiveness of fish oils. However, some relevant research does exist, with respect to the positive impact of cold-water fish, plants, and nut oils (like those obtained from English walnuts) on the onset of Alzheimer’s. Further, double blind studies with placebo control groups are required, though.

L-carnitine

This amino-acid has been touted as a sort of fitness and health cure-all. However, there have even been scientifically sound studies on the link between L-carnitine intake and Alzheimer’s patients that experience trouble remembering things. It seems that Acetyl-L-carnitine can help them remember things better, but this specifically applies to early onset patients, whose illness progresses at a very rapid pace.

Huperzine A (Chinese club moss)

Alzheimer’s drugs and Huperzine A have both shown similar results in improving the memory functions of patients surveyed. Though more research is required, the results thus far are encouraging.

Panax/Asian ginseng

Much like Ginkgo Biloba, Panax Ginseng can help Alzheimer’s patients fight off their chronic fatigue and it could also cause an uptick in their overall levels of quality of life. However, in terms of memory enhancing effects, they have only shown up in small segments of those interviewed for the survey.

06 asian-panax-ginseng-root

Image source: HealAdvice.com

The Top 4 Vitamins for Brain Health and Memory

Vitamin E

It may be risky. It may even cause high death risks, when consumed in excess. However, there has been research indicating that it might also slow the pace of Alzheimer’s. Given the under-researched nature of vitamin E overdoses, it’s important to consult with a doctor before upping your intake. Some research has suggested that it’s not alpha tocopherol that does the good work of vitamin E, but a different component altogether: a powerful antioxidant called gamma tocopherol. Vitamin E-rich foods include corn and sunflower oil, hazelnuts, leafy greens, almonds, and whole-grain flour.

Vitamin D

This valiant little vitamin has inadvertently gotten quite a lot of flak, owing to its link with skin cancer. It’s not that the vitamin itself causes the plague of the century, but that it is best absorbed from direct exposure to sunlight. Skin care and melanoma prevention experts consistently advise against unprotected tanning. However, in tow they are also ignoring the beneficial effects of this nutrient, which dissolves in fat and induces similar neural activity to a naturally secreted hormone. According to Dr. Robert J. Przybelski from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the central nervous system and hippocampus within the human body are equipped with receptors for vitamin D. This is the same nutrient which activates and deactivates certain enzymes within the brain and spinal fluid, so as to facilitate the synthesis process of neurotransmitters, as well as the evolution of nerves.

Recent tests, on both human and animal subjects, support the purported positive effects of vitamin D on the human brain. Human respondents aged 65 and over, with high levels of vitamin D, outperformed those with deficiencies on cognitive ability tests. A second similar survey confirmed the link between cognitive impairment and a lack of vitamin D, especially in the case of men aged over 60. It remains unclear if vitamin D can actually fight brain fog, but the lab work thus far indicates there’s a strong correlation between high nutrient levels and an increase ability to focus, as well as more power of concentration, well into one’s old age.

The Bs (+ Magnesium!)

Vitamins B play a major part in the formation of important chemicals in our brains, among which epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Folic acid helps the early brain develop, but deficiencies also crop up in elderly sufferers of Alzheimer’s. The same patients indicated very low levels of B12 and B6. B12, which should be consumed in daily doses of 3 to 100mcg, is only available in animal foods. Deficiencies have been linked with nerve damage, poor moods, and reduced mental functions. Folate level uptakes have resulted in lower homocysteine levels, thus also lowering the risk of brain cell damage. The daily recommended intake of folate stands at about 400mcg and can be consumed from whole grains, legumes, leafy greens, and several types of fruit. Finally, B6 helps produce several ‘happiness’ brain chemicals—notably, serotonin and dopamine, both of which help improve our moods and keep us alert. And, of course, if you want to keep your brain truly protected, also add in 300mg of magnesium, either from supplements or from nuts, seeds, and dark green leafy veggies.

Vitamin C

Finally, don’t underestimate the benefits of 500mg of vitamin C per day, regardless of whether you’re getting them from berries, oranges, potatoes, broccoli, and legumes, or from supplements. According to a recent Johns Hopkins study, participants who supplemented their intakes of vitamin C and vitamin E were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s by 78% at the beginning of the study, and 64% less likely, four years onward.

07 vitamin-c-rich-foods

Vitamin C-rich foods
Image source: PrecisionNutrition.com

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