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Home > Lifestyle News > Health And Fitness News > Article > World Brain Day 2023 Embracing neurological health Ignorance can be fatal

World Brain Day 2023: Embracing neurological health - Ignorance can be fatal

Updated on: 22 July,2023 12:22 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Poonam Ahuja |

World Brain Day, celebrated on the 22nd of July each year, holds significant importance as it was established by the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) to promote brain health. Over the years, this event has been dedicated to various themes aimed at raising awareness about brain health

World Brain Day 2023: Embracing neurological health - Ignorance can be fatal

Each year, World Brain Day is celebrated on July 22 to promote awareness and support for people affected by neurological conditions. Image Courtesy: iStock

Not everyone can afford to pay for healthcare, particularly the underprivileged community of Mumbai, who are severely affected by the lack of access to both private and public healthcare services. While medicine can be miraculous, its benefits are limited to those who can afford it. A wave of new treatments has emerged, curing devastating neurological diseases, but sadly, the greatest burden falls on the low-income and middle-income groups due to the absence of cost-effective healthcare planning and resource allocation.

When it comes to healthcare, many of us tend to hide or ignore our body's signals and may be reluctant to visit a doctor for regular checkups. However, denying these issues can have serious consequences. Let's break this habit! The pandemic served as a wake-up call, emphasising the importance of prioritising and caring for our mental health.

Unfortunately, for many individuals, accessing private healthcare and life-saving drugs for neurological conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and Parkinson's disease is simply unaffordable. The burden of out-of-pocket costs can lead to medical debt, compromising essentials like food and even result in patients not taking their necessary medications as prescribed.

To shed light on this growing challenge of neurological disorders, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Pankaj Agarwal, Senior Consultant Neurologist and Head of the Department of Neurology at Global Hospitals in Mumbai. 

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of World Brain Day, hosted annually on July 22 by the World Federation of Neurology (WFN). Bringing public awareness, we aim to promote WFN’s this year’s theme “Brain health and disability; Leave no one behind.” Below are edited excerpts from the interview:

What is brain health and ways to build strength and mental fitness?

It's my pleasure to do this interview with you. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss such a critical topic. World Brain Day, celebrated on the 22nd of July each year, holds significant importance as it was established by the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) to promote brain health. Over the years, this event has been dedicated to various themes aimed at raising awareness about brain health.

Indeed, it is essential for everyone to recognise that access to proper diagnosis and treatment for brain disorders is a fundamental human right. To achieve this, education and awareness play a crucial role. By increasing public awareness about brain diseases and the importance of seeking timely medical attention, we can work towards better access to healthcare services for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

And people should be aware that it is a human right for every person, every patient to get access to for their brain disorders. And we can only do that by raising awareness, increasing access by different ways in which governmental and non-governmental agencies can be involved.

It is highly important to tell people that there are brain diseases and if anyone has any symptoms of brain disease themselves or in their family or loved ones, they should get access to proper diagnosis and treatment.

Governments and non-governmental agencies also have a vital role to play in this effort. Collaborating and implementing strategies to improve access to healthcare services and support for brain disorders can make a significant difference in people's lives.

If anyone experiences symptoms of brain disease, whether personally or in their family, it is important to seek professional help for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early intervention and appropriate care can have a positive impact on managing and treating brain-related conditions.

Through continuous efforts in education, raising awareness and increasing access to healthcare, we can work together to ensure that every individual receives the care they need and deserve for their brain health.

Do you think sedentary lifestyle or work stress are major factors for rising neurological diseases in India?

Yes, you are absolutely right. The burden of neurological diseases is indeed increasing worldwide, including in India. Over the last three decades, there has been a notable rise in non-communicable neurological diseases and trauma-related brain conditions.

Stroke, in particular, is a significant concern and is closely linked to major vascular risk factors. As you mentioned, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes and hypertension are some of the key factors contributing to stroke. These risk factors can lead to the development of vascular diseases that not only affect the heart but also pose a risk for brain health, potentially causing a stroke or "brain attack."

Cigarette smoking is another significant risk factor associated with stroke and various heart diseases. It not only affects the cardiovascular system but also impacts blood vessels, leading to an increased risk of stroke.

Addressing these modifiable risk factors through lifestyle changes and preventive measures is crucial in reducing the incidence of stroke and promoting overall neurological health. Public health initiatives, awareness campaigns and early screening for risk factors can play a vital role in preventing stroke and other neurological conditions in India and around the world.

Do blood sugar levels play a role in brain health?

Yes. It is a very important risk factor. India is the diabetes capital of the world and that of course leads to vascular problems that is a big cause of stroke, untreated diabetes and it has a role to play in other various brain disorders.

Do technology and smartphones affect our brain health and memory?

Yes, to an extent. Maintaining good brain health is essential and one way to achieve this is by getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. Additionally, it is crucial to manage stress levels and set aside time for oneself after work, or for young children, after school or college hours. Providing ample time for relaxation and quality sleep can contribute to a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Stress is a significant factor that can negatively impact mental health and may even lead to the development of various brain-related diseases. Prioritising and nurturing good mental health is, therefore, fundamental in promoting overall brain health.

What are the neurological dangers of chronic work stress?

Chronic work stress can have detrimental effects on neurological health. Stress can exacerbate various neurological conditions, including migraine, stroke and even Parkinson's disease. It is essential to recognise that stress has widespread negative impacts and is not beneficial to our overall well-being. So, for example, if you have Parkinson's, your tremor will increase with stress and as the stress subsides it will come down.

Stress triggers the release of abnormal chemicals in the brain, which can lead to disruptions and, in some cases, contribute to the development of new disturbances. For instance, stress can provoke seizures in susceptible individuals, making it crucial to manage stress levels for those with neurological conditions.

Promoting good brain health involves reducing stress and prioritising mental well-being. By doing so, we can help minimise the potential negative effects on neurological health and overall quality of life.

Does the hustle and bustle of city life affect mental health?

Indeed, there are several simple yet crucial steps that people living in busy cities like Mumbai can take to prioritise their brain health and overall well-being.

Adequate Sleep: Getting seven hours of sleep every night is essential for optimal brain function and overall health. Despite hectic schedules, making sleep a priority can significantly benefit one's cognitive abilities and emotional well-being.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Avoiding smoking and paying attention to a balanced diet are vital components of maintaining good brain health. Smoking can have harmful effects on the brain and a nutritious diet can provide the necessary nutrients for optimal brain function.

Regular Health Check-ups: For individuals above the age of 40, regular health check-ups are crucial. These check-ups help identify common conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure issues, or heart diseases early on, allowing for timely intervention and management.

Listening to Your Body: It's essential not to ignore persistent symptoms, especially those related to neurological health. Symptoms like chronic headaches, speech difficulties, vision problems, or issues with walking could be indicative of neurological disorders. Ignoring or underestimating these signs may lead to further complications, so it's important to seek medical attention promptly.

Consulting Specialists: In busy urban centers like Mumbai, access to healthcare professionals, including neurologists and brain health experts, is relatively accessible. Seeking out medical advice and expert consultations is encouraged to address any neurological concerns and receive appropriate care and guidance.

By adopting these practices and staying vigilant about health, individuals can take proactive steps to safeguard their brain health amidst the demands of city life.

Is India efficient enough to handle rising neurological disorders?

Over the past decade, the government has taken significant steps to create awareness and improve access to healthcare services for people with brain health problems. To continue progress in this area, it is essential to double down on these efforts, break barriers and ensure that individuals from all walks of life have universal access to doctors specialising in brain diseases. Access to brain health specialists is crucial for timely diagnosis and effective treatment.

Education about neurological disorders is also paramount. There is currently a lack of awareness about these conditions and it is crucial to promote more dialogue and discussions surrounding neurological health. Raising awareness will help people recognise early symptoms, seek medical attention promptly and understand the importance of brain health in overall well-being.

It is worth noting that a percentage of Parkinson's disease cases, around 15-20 per cent, may have a genetic basis, indicating a familial link. Similarly, Alzheimer's disease can have genetic components as well as other risk factors. While lifestyle choices can play a role in neurological disorders, some conditions may develop due to a combination of factors, including genetics.

While we may not always be able to prevent the development of neurological diseases, knowing about genetic predispositions or risks allows for proactive monitoring and early intervention. With this knowledge, healthcare professionals can provide more careful monitoring, timely treatment and minimise the delay between symptom onset and intervention. This approach aims to ensure that patients receive appropriate care and support, reducing the severity of symptoms and disability to the best possible extent.

By promoting awareness, improving access to specialised care and staying vigilant about genetic risk factors, we can make significant strides in treating and diagnosing neurological disorders effectively.

What is the main cause of Myasthenia gravis?

Thank you for highlighting Myasthenia gravis and its impact on individuals' lives. Indeed, this autoimmune disease can cause weakness in specific muscles and early recognition of its symptoms is crucial for timely treatment and improved quality of life.

Myasthenia gravis commonly affects muscles that control eye movements, leading to droopy eyelids and double vision. It can also result in difficulties with speaking, chewing, lifting the neck, raising arms or walking. The wide range of symptoms makes it essential for individuals experiencing such issues to seek medical attention promptly.

Diagnosing Myasthenia gravis involves a thorough examination and a comprehensive assessment of the patient's medical history. Neurologists may also perform specific tests, such as blood tests and an electromyography (EMG) test, to confirm the diagnosis. Once diagnosed, the condition can be effectively managed with appropriate treatment.

The primary treatment approach for Myasthenia gravis involves using medications to suppress the immune system, which helps control the harmful antibodies responsible for attacking the muscles. With proper treatment, individuals can experience significant improvement and lead a fulfilling life without the burden of Myasthenia gravis symptoms.

Increasing awareness about this condition is vital, as it encourages people to recognise potential symptoms and seek timely medical advice. With greater awareness, individuals can reach neurologists or healthcare professionals in time, allowing for early diagnosis and intervention. Early treatment can positively impact the disease's course and significantly enhance the individual's quality of life.

Your message to readers on World Brain Day?

You've highlighted some excellent points about the importance of overall health and its impact on brain health. Indeed, a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, regular exercise, avoiding toxins like alcohol and maintaining positive relationships both at work and home can significantly contribute to good overall health, including brain health.

World Brain Day presents a great opportunity to come together and raise awareness about the significance of brain health. Every individual has the right to good brain health and to be free from neurological diseases. To achieve this goal, it is crucial to ensure that people can access healthcare services at all levels without any barriers or obstacles.

Education plays a key role in this process. By educating the public about common neurological disorders and their early signs, we can empower individuals to take proactive steps in preventing brain-related disabilities. Recognising symptoms early and seeking timely medical attention can make a significant difference in the outcome and management of neurological conditions.

Through collective efforts and increased awareness, we can work towards a society where brain health is prioritised and everyone has access to the necessary healthcare resources. By promoting preventive measures and timely interventions, we can strive to reduce the burden of neurological diseases and enhance the overall well-being of individuals.

On World Brain Day and beyond, let us join hands to advocate for brain health awareness and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life, free from neurological ailments.

Also Read: International Epilepsy Day: Misconceptions and how Covid-19 affects the neurological disorder

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