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Make an Impact: Support World Brain Day, July 22

Sean’s journey with brain injury

“Started out all good, and then I had a freak accident. I fell, and when I met the water, it felt like I was hitting concrete,” said Sean.

What was supposed to be an experience of a lifetime turned out to be a tragedy for Sean, a former aluminum welder and competitive waterski racer. In 2019 in New Zealand, Sean was struck by a life-threatening injury when he fell, hitting the water in a waterskiing accident.

The injury was severe and the doctors were unsure if Sean would survive. He suffered skull dislocation, ruptured tendons, and rib fractures. He also had bleeding on his head, causing a massive brain injury.

Sean’s journey of recovery for this brain injury was never easy. His body went through painful seizures, sensory and motor function impairment, loss of consciousness, and occasional confusion. His ability to perform daily activities, such as working, studying, driving or engaging in hobbies came to a sudden halt. Leave alone the emotional difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, or mood swings, which affected his relationships relationships and overall quality of life.

From therapies to medication, the journey was like riding a rocky and mountainous road.

Thanks to easier access to health care, Sean recovered from his injuries, with his wife being his number one supporter.

However, this event made him realize how the brain plays a key role in leading a normal life. Today, as Sean continues to work as an aluminum welder, he also dedicates his time to spreading awareness about brain injury and prevention. He says, “Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial to help reduce the impact of brain injury on a person’s life. Treatment can involve a combination of medication, therapy, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes, depending on the severity of the injury and the specific symptoms experienced.”

July 22, is World Brain Day, and we take this opportunity to do the same.

This article provides information about brain-related conditions and how we can participate in mobilizing works for better brain care. 

World Brain Day: Brain Disability Awareness and Improving Access to Health Care

World Brain Day, which is observed annually on July 221, aims to raise awareness about neurological disorders and promote brain health globally. The World Federation of Neurology (WFN) established this day to address the increasing global challenges brought about by neurological diseases2.

This year’s theme for World Brain Day is “Brain Health and Disability: Leave No One Behind.” The WFN aspires to improve global initiatives by expanding awareness about the disabilities associated with the brain and mobilizing various organizations to ease access to healthcare. This theme urges people worldwide to prioritize brain health to achieve immediate and future goals.

Through this theme, the WFN seeks to highlight the importance of brain health in enhancing general well-being and the need to ensure that individuals with disabilities resulting from neurological disorders are not left behind but are well-informed, supported, empowered, and fully integrated into their societies.

It is essential to create public awareness about the human brain and its complexities, as many neurological disorders are preventable, and many of them can be managed when recognized early. Thus, World Brain Day provides an opportunity to reinforce awareness-campaigns and call upon governments, organizations, and individuals to strengthen global efforts to improve brain health and reduce the burden of neurological conditions.

What are some brain-related conditions?

On World Brain Day, it is important to raise awareness and discuss various brain-related conditions that impact individuals worldwide. Some of the brain-related conditions that can be highlighted on this day include:

Stroke:

Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, leading to brain damage. It is important to educate people about the risk factors, signs, and symptoms of stroke, as well as the importance of prompt medical attention in order to minimize the impact of this condition. Did you know, Sharon Stone, the renowned actress, had a stroke in 2001, which led to a life-threatening brain hemorrhage? Stone has been an advocate for stroke awareness and has spoken about her experience to raise awareness about the importance of early intervention and rehabilitation since then. “Recognizing the signs of stroke and seeking immediate medical attention can make a significant difference in the outcome. Time lost is brain lost.” – Dr. Alex Schneider, Neurologist.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia:

Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994. His diagnosis helped bring attention and funding to Alzheimer’s research, raising awareness about the impact of the disease on individuals and their loved ones. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are progressive brain disorders that affect memory, thinking, and behavior.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. As people age, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, while nearly one-third of people over the age of 85 have the disease.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. These conditions can have a significant impact on individuals and their families, necessitating support, resources, and research for improved diagnosis, treatment, and care.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI):

“Prevention is key when it comes to traumatic brain injury. Education about the importance of helmets, seat belts, and safe sports practices can help reduce the risk of TBI.” – Dr. Christopher Giza, Pediatric Neurologist. TBI occurs when the brain is injured by an external force, such as a blow to the head or a penetrating injury. It can result in a range of impairments and disabilities, highlighting the need for prevention strategies, early intervention, and comprehensive rehabilitation services. Michael Schumacher, the legendary Formula One driver, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in a skiing accident in 2013. His case underscores the need for safety measures and ongoing rehabilitation for individuals who have experienced TBI.

Epilepsy:

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3 million adults and 470,000 children and teens younger than 18 are estimated to have epilepsy in the United States. This data reflects the prevalence of active epilepsy in 2015, which accounted for 1.2% of the U.S. population.

The U.S. government has taken several initiatives to reduce epilepsy and improve care for individuals living with the condition. The CDC’s Epilepsy Program works to raise awareness, improve surveillance, promote research, and support self-management programs for people with epilepsy. One of their initiatives is the Managing Epilepsy Well (MEW) Network, which consists of academic Prevention Research Centers conducting studies related to epilepsy self-management. The MEW Network focuses on improving health and quality of life through research, programs, and tools.

Lil Wayne, the Grammy-winning rapper, publicly shared his experience with epilepsy. He has spoken about the challenges of managing seizures and raising awareness about the condition.

Mental health disorders:

“Mental health disorders are medical conditions that deserve the same attention and care as physical illnesses. Seeking help and support is a sign of strength.” – Dr. Ingrid Allard, Psychiatrist.

It is estimated that more than one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, which translates to approximately 57.8 million individuals as of 2021. According to a report by Mental Health America, the prevalence of mental illness among American adults is 18.57%, with approximately 45 million adults experiencing a mental health illness. Additionally, 4.38% of adults are experiencing a severe mental illness. The prevalence of mental illness varies by state, ranging from 16.19% in New Jersey to 25.03% in Idaho.

The US government has implemented several initiatives to improve mental health. In 2022, President Biden announced a national mental health strategy to transform the health and well-being of Americans by supporting and strengthening the system’s capacity and creating a continuum of support. This included the allocation of $35 million to address the national mental health crisis by expanding community mental health services and suicide prevention programs for children and young adults. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced $45 million in funding to support research on early intervention for children and adolescents experiencing mental health conditions. The Biden-Harris Administration is taking steps to advance its mental health strategy by strengthening system capacity, expanding access to mental health services, and addressing social determinants of health.

Brain Tumors:

A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain or spinal cord. Brain and other central nervous system tumors comprise a diverse constellation of over 100 histologically distinct subtypes with varying descriptive epidemiology, clinical characteristics, treatments, and outcomes. In 2019, an estimated 176,566 people were living with brain and other nervous system tumor in the United States, and in 2023, about 24,810 malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord are expected to be diagnosed.

How can we prevent brain tumor? The problem is, the exact cause of brain tumors is often unknown, but some factors that may increase the risk include exposure to radiation, family history of brain tumors, and certain genetic conditions. “There are no known ways to prevent brain tumors, but leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding known risk factors such as radiation exposure can help reduce the risk. Additionally, early detection and prompt treatment of brain tumors can improve outcomes”, says Dr. Ingrid Allard, Psychiatrist.

 

How to take care of the brain

Eat a brain-healthy diet.

Consume a well-balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Opt for foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.

Get regular exercise.

According to research, physical exercise has a direct link to improved cognitive function. Aim for regular routines like walking, jogging, cycling, and other activities that promote coordination and balance.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Prevent being overweight to lower your risk of developing various brain-related conditions. Adopt a healthy lifestyle by having a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can affect brain health and cognitive function. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Set up a working sleep routine and create a relaxing sleeping environment.

Manage stress.

Chronic stress can harm the brain. Find specific ways to manage and control stress, such as practicing relaxation techniques, engaging in new hobbies, spending time with family, and seeking support when necessary.

Protect your head.

Take necessary precautions to prevent head injuries. Wear helmets when engaging in activities with a risk of head trauma. Follow safety guidelines in sports and recreational activities.

What can we do to contribute to the impact of World Brain Day?

Common people like Sean, and celebrities like Sharon Stone and Lil Wayne extensively use their social media to support this cause. Today, with each one of us having an access to social media, we can join forces with people like Sean, to raise awareness and demonstrate stewardship. 

Raise awareness:

Share information about World Brain Day on your social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Use relevant hashtags and encourage your friends and followers to spread the word as well.

Educate yourself and others:

Take the opportunity to learn more about brain health and different neurological conditions. Share your knowledge with your community by organizing educational events, workshops, or webinars.

Participate in events:

Check if there are any local or virtual events organized for World Brain Day. Attend these events to learn from experts, engage in discussions, and support the cause.

Support related organizations:

Research and find organizations that focus on brain health and neurological conditions. Consider making a donation or volunteer your time to support their work. You can also join advocacy efforts or participate in fundraising activities.

Start conversations:

Initiate conversations about brain health and neurological conditions with your friends, family, and colleagues. By discussing these topics openly, you can help reduce stigma and create a supportive environment for individuals affected by brain-related conditions.

Take care of your own brain health:

Remember that taking care of your own brain health is important too. Follow healthy lifestyle practices like eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, managing stress, and getting enough sleep. These habits can contribute to overall brain health and well-being.

World Brain Day is crucial in fostering understanding, support, and resources for individuals affected by neurological disorders. Raising awareness and promoting knowledge contributes to earlier diagnosis, better treatment outcomes, and a higher quality of life for those with brain-related conditions. Let us create some awareness about this condition this year!

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