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Brain Health and Mental Health

When brain health correlates with mental health

There is a lot of chat in the media lately about how we can improve our brain health as we are ageing. With the rates of Alzheimer increasing drastically over the last 20 years (some research suggesting 145% increase) [1] , neurological disorders being the leading cause of disability adjusted life years & the 2nd cause of death globally and the fact that 1 in 3 person will develop a neurological disorder at some point in their lifetime [2] , no wonder people are starting to give brain health the consideration it deserves.

When we talk about brain health, we often think of good sleep, regular exercise, eating well & minimising harmful environmental factors which are all valid determinants. Although things are slowly changing, the importance of mental health can still be under-looked when addressing brain health.

Having lived experience of tackling life with a neurological disorder for the past 5 years, I’ve seen numerous health specialists, however, I can count on one hand those who tried to assess how I was coping from a mental health point of view.

Whether you have a neurological condition or not, anyone can experience mental health struggles. It does not discriminate and we sadly see our youth navigating mental health problems such as anxiety and depression at a much younger age and in a much greater number too. Another important aspect to note is that if you are part of the 1 in 3 persons developing a neurological disorder, you find yourself at a much greater risk of seeing your mental health decline.

Your physical condition can affect your mental health, but the state of your mental health can also greatly affect your physical health. So in order to achieve a state of brain health, they cannot be looked at independently.

To me it’s a no brainer, brain health and mental health cannot be dissociated.

Nurturing our future mental health begins much sooner than many would assume too. Even whilst in the womb, a range of factors can influence the brain development of an unborn child and therefore have impacts later on their overall brain health including their mental health.

So as we are about to get into mental health awareness week in my wonderful country of adoption that is NZ, I think it’s really important to start looking at brain health in a more holistic way. The well being of our brain, body and mind are closely intertwined and additional consideration needs to be given about how we can maximise everyone’s brain health.

Addressing a range of brain health factors can have huge benefits on:

  • Optimising brain structure and function,

  • Enhancing overall well-being

  • Improving our physical and mental health and

  • Resulting in social and economic benefits.

If this isn’t enough to convince you I’d like to invite you to take a dive with me this week and explore how each of the determinants of brain health stated in the recently published WHO position paper on brain health, to which I was a contributor, can positively influence our mental health.

I often say that knowledge is power so now is as good of a time as ever to get started.

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