AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

Think of Your Brain!

It is without a doubt the most vital organ in the human body, but too often we neglect the importance of taking good care of our brain. The development and organization of the brain are incredibly complex, but the intricacies of this central body belie the simplicity of its proper day to day caretaking. We only get one – why not give some thought (pun intended) to it.

Prevention of traumatic head injuries is likely the most obvious consideration for avoiding significant damage to the brain. Unfortunately, we cannot always predict when an accident might occur, but we can take basic steps like fastening our seat belts while riding in automobiles and wearing helmets when engaging in physical activities carrying risk of trauma. Beneath the skull, we must be concerned with degenerative disorders of the brain affecting motor skills and cognition, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s. Depression and anxiety also afflict millions of individuals across the country. It is important to remember that although our fast paced, high-stress lives can seem overwhelming, these conditions are chemical, and there are measures we can take to mitigate their negative effects.

Perhaps the most severe threat to the brain is stroke and other cardiovascular disease. The American lifestyle has taken a significant toll on the health of the blood vessels that deliver vital oxygen and nutrients to the brain. We have seen it most exaggerated throughout the southeastern US, a part of the country known as the ‘Stroke Belt,’ where residents face significantly higher rates of stroke morbidity and mortality.

The experts offering advice to citizens on how to minimize their risk of stroke sound like a veritable broken record; sleep more. Eat better. Exercise. Although stroke care has made huge advances in technology and technique over the course of the past decade, there is truthfully no more powerful plan of action than that of prevention. Telemedicine may soon be able to play a bigger role in opening lines communications between physicians and patients at risk of having a stroke, helping them take the necessary steps to avoid an emergency situation where the health of their brain and their life are in danger. As neurologists become more familiar with the advantages of new telemedicine technologies, they are realizing that the “ounce of prevention” is more readily available than ever before.

A Sharper Mind, Middle Age and Beyond

Though many studies have found that college graduates earn more money, it looks like there may be an even better reason to dig in deep for the sheepskin. According to the Midlife in the United States, or ‘Midus study,’ a very large study involving more than 7000 people over the course of many years, a college degree appears to slow the brain’s aging process by up to a decade. The findings appear to be true regardless of other factors such as differences in income, parental achievement, gender, physical activity, and age.

According to an article in the New York Times, the effect seems, perhaps surprisingly, to be truer for ‘fluid intelligence,’ described as “the abilities that produce solutions not based on experience, like pattern recognition, working memory and abstract thinking, but rather the kind of intelligence tested on I.Q. examinations.” ‘Crystallized intelligence,’ by contrast, “generally refers to skills that are acquired through experience and education, like verbal ability, inductive reasoning and judgment.” The interesting finding of this study is the fact that the ‘fluid’ intelligence that appears to benefit more from schooling, is often considered largely a product of genetics, and ‘crystallized’ intelligence would seemingly be far more dependent on influences, including “personality, motivation, opportunity and culture.”

All other conditions being equal, the more years of schooling a subject had, the better he or she performed on every mental test. Up to age 75, the studies showed, “people with college degrees performed on complex tasks like less-educated individuals who were 10 years younger.” If the overall health of the brain can be improved with continued education, perhaps it’s time to consider going back to school!