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Mental health and medical centers often publish content that discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatments for mental health conditions. It is important to know these things because mental illness is complex and deeply rooted in the brain. 

Every mental health and wellness center will encourage healthy living. There is no question that our life choices have a direct impact on our health, but more critically, on our brain’s health. Dieting, exercise, sleep, socialization — everything is critical when it comes to understanding your brain health. 

What Is Brain Health?

Brain health is a concept that encompasses the development, general functioning, and healing that occurs within the brain, and as a result, within the body. 

Good brain health is characterized by:

  • Cognitive functioning – the ability to think, learn, and remember
  • Motor functioning – the ability to make and control balance and movement
  • Emotional functioning – the ability to interpret and respond to emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant)
  • Tactile functioning – the ability to respond to external sensations (including pressure, temperature, and pain)

In general, good brain health is a state where a person can realize their abilities, recognizing both their strengths and their weaknesses. They can optimize all of their functioning states, such as emotional, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral functioning. 

Understanding Brain Health From Mental Adversity

One way to understand what a healthy brain looks like is by understanding how the brain reacts to mental adversity, such as substance use or stress. 

In the brain, stress and anxiety occur as a response to life-threatening or otherwise challenging situations. The stress response begins in the brain when it processes and labels external stimuli as harmful. When chronic stress develops, our brain starts to label many general things as harmful or threatening even when there is no real threat present. 

The main brain area of focus with addiction and substance use is the brain’s reward system. Our brain can process and recognize activities that cause pleasure. Naturally, our brain recognizes eating and socializing as activities that produce feelings of well-being and yield rewards. With persistent and repeated drug use, our brain begins to only recognize drug use as a pleasurable activity. 

Our brain health is challenged in any situation of mental illness or mental adversity. It is important to recognize that nearly every mental and medical condition affects brain health. It is crucial to identify what risk factors can lead to worsening brain health, as well as what protective factors you can utilize to help maintain your brain health. 

Brain Health and Aging

Oftentimes, brain health is associated with how well a person ages. Even when a person is healthy, aging can cause increased challenges with cognitive, motor, and tactile functioning. The good thing is, most of us can learn new skills at any age to help improve our brain’s health. 

Brain Health Risks

Next to aging, many factors may play a risk in worsening your brain’s health. While genetic risks are inherited, there are lifestyle and environmental factors that you can control to help maintain your brain health. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Accidents – such as falls or other accidents that can cause brain injury.
  • Alcohol-consuming alcohol can impair the communication between brain cells that affect all forms of functioning. Long-term alcohol consumption can cause chronic impairment with balance, coordination, memory, and even emotional processing. 
  • Smoking – inhaling pollutants can affect not only your heart and lung health but also your brain health. 
  • Medicines – certain medications can alter brain functioning, especially when combined with other factors. 
  • Health conditions – conditions such as strokes, heart disease, diabetes, and even sleep issues can affect your brain’s health. 

Protecting Your Brain’s Health

Taking care of your overall health can help you to maintain good, quality brain health. Several tips might help you to increase your overall health, and therefore, increase your brain health. These tips include:

  • managing your diet, including eating less sugar, salt, and fats and eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains
  • control portion sizes
  • limiting your exposure to alcohol, smoking, and other drug use
  • drinking enough fluids to stay properly hydrated 
  • making physical activity a part of your daily routine
  • learning new exercise and wellness tips from your health care providers
  • serving within your community by volunteering or helping others in need
  • joining a local club that encourages you to socialize and gather with others
  • working on a regular sleep schedule and finding an adequate amount of time to dedicate to sleep every night
  • scheduling and attending regular health screenings and reviewing your routine with your healthcare provider

It is essential to understand what a healthy brain looks like, especially so one can know how to protect their own brain health. Brain health involves cognitive, motor, emotional, and tactile functioning. Mental adversity, such as anxiety or stress caused by substance use, can cause permanent changes to an individual’s brain health. It is important to understand the risks associated with brain health and to also understand how to protect your brain’s health, especially when it comes to aging. West Coast Recovery Centers is a substance use and behavioral health rehabilitation center that recognizes how essential good brain health is for general well-being. If you believe it is time to experience recovery from mental illness or substance use, our program will create unique and individualized treatment plans to help personalize your treatment experience. We believe that individualized care creates an effective healing process. For more information, give us a call today at (760) 492-6509

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