Health conditions that affect the brain, spine and nervous (neurological) system are among the most serious concerns to affect a person’s well-being. While some conditions are more easily understood and treatable, others remain more challenging to diagnose and treat effectively.
Before diagnosis or treatment comes self-care. Although there are many brain and spine concerns that cannot be completely prevented, keeping your health as a top priority can help minimize the impact of even chronic conditions.
The risks of developing some brain, spine and nervous system conditions may be lowered by prioritizing your physical and mental health:
- Eat a healthful diet that gives your brain, bones and nerves all the necessary nutrients to function at your best. This means including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding too much sugar or processed foods and properly managing your blood sugar levels. You can also ask your doctor about augmenting your normal diet with brain-healthy supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 or green tea.
- Get enough exercise on a daily and weekly basis. This helps keep bones strong and is also good for your brain, especially if practicing balance and coordination exercises. Staying active can also help reduce back pain, improve your posture and strengthen your back muscles for more spinal support.
- Exercise your mind with mentally stimulating tasks, like doing crossword puzzles or playing memory games. A busy social life keeps your mind sharp, and is also good for your mental health. Meditation and mind-body exercise like yoga may also be good for brain health, including for those who are already diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect your overall physical and mental health. If you suffer from back or neck pain, consider investing in a high-quality mattress and pillows that give your head and neck the proper level of support.
- Avoid unhealthy habits like alcohol abuse and drug use, including tobacco. Long-term moderate to heavy drinking can cause brain damage. Smoking can cause blood vessels in the brain to narrow or cause blood clots to form, which are both stroke risks. Bone health can also be affected by smoking.
Tracking Your Health
Some neurological conditions, like epilepsy or migraine headaches, may be related to certain triggers. For example, seizures may be more likely if you didn’t get enough sleep the previous night. For other people, not getting enough sleep could cause a migraine the following day. Certain foods and other stimuli can also be triggers for these events.
Keeping a health journal can be an important part of your care when it comes to brain, spine and neurological conditions. This log can include simple information about your daily habits, like what you ate, whether you exercised and how much sleep you’re getting each night. Sharing this information with your healthcare provider can give clues that not only help you more effectively manage your condition, but can also lead to more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Health journals can also be good for making notes when something changes, like trying a new dosage of medication or a new medication entirely. This helps your doctor see which treatments are most effective in your care.