This blog is the beginning of several pieces about the brain—an organ that is receiving much attention these days. Statistics indicate that one in three people will die of dementia in the United States—two-thirds of these are women, as reported in the book The Unbreakable Brain, by Will Mitchell. Clearly, dementia will affect many of us, directly or indirectly.
The brain performs very distinct functions: keeping our lungs breathing, hearts beating, intestines moving, body temperature regulated, and immune systems functioning, among many others. Moreover, the brain is organized to manage all of these tasks simultaneously and perpetually.
As babies, our brains are like piles of wires and transistors. At first there are few connections, yet as we learn something new, our brains connect this wire to that wire, and then that wire to the transistor. This process forms a growing number of complex circuits that we call memories, habits, reflexes, thoughts, emotions, talents, etc. Albert Einstein’s brain was examined after he died, and his brain weighed less than average, yet the numbers of connections—as evidenced by his work—were immense!
Brain neurons do not store energy, but they need it to function. When they completely run out of energy, the cells die. Additionally, even minor drops in blood sugar reduce their functionality, which can cause fatigue, inability to concentrate, and mood changes. Alzheimer’s occurs when brain plaques build up and neural fibers become tangled, which breaks the communication circuitry and results in the death of the neurons and synapses. Thus, memory problems, disorientation, speech irregularities, and behavior issues are associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Here are other components potentially involved in the onset of Alzheimer’s:
I have had experiences with individuals who have dementia, which is very hard for families to deal with. If you are concerned about the above information, forthcoming blogs will delineate ways to manage contributing factors of Alzheimer's and discuss how it can be prevented. For now, how would you rate your brain health? Based on the list above, do you feel there are steps you can take to improve the overall well-being of your brain?
Dr. Gagan's insights on brain function are important and well articulated. Another important topic for our well-being. Thank you,