Key words: Healthy brain, Body- brain connection, Nigeria.

Introduction.

A Healthy Brain in Nigeria: The Body-Brain connection. Is there any connection between the body and the brain? Between physical and mental health?

The brain is the most important and the most complicated part of the human anatomy. So when the brain is ill, the body faces the possibility of becoming ill. This was what prompted the first Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Brock Chishlom, to state that without mental health, there can be no true physical health. This statement was further emphasized by the onetime United Nation’s (UN), Secretary, Ban Ki Moon, when he stated in 2008 that there can be no health without mental health. So there is need for one to consciously take care of the brain, just like the body. 

Having a good knowledge about A Healthy Brain in Nigeria: The Body-Brain connection, can help in life longevity. When majority of brain cells die, physical death occurs.

The brain and body connection.

  • The brain is made up of two equal parts, connected together at the centre.
  • The two parts divided into lobes or sections. This is just as the body is made up of different parts.
  • Each part of the body has its head quarters situated at the different areas of the brain.
  • And the different areas of the brain have their different functions, just like the body parts have their different functions.
1. The frontal lobes:
  • These areas of the brain are situated at the frontal part of the head.
  • Apart from being the center for thinking, planning, decision making, judgment, etc., they are also the centres for speech.
2. The temporal lobes:
  • These lobes are situated at both sides of the head.
  • Not only are the temporal lobes the centres for memory, mood (i.e. sadness, happiness, etc.), etc., they are also for smell, taste and hearing.
3. The occipital lobes:
  • These are situated at the back of the head.
  • These are the centres for vision.
4. The parietal lobes:
  • They are seen at the top of the head. That is, they are situated between the frontal and occipital lobes, and above the temporal lobes.
  • These are the centres for sensation. That is these areas interpret the sensations we receive from our five senses. These include sensations from taste, hearing, sight, touch and smell.
  • They help also in processing language.
5. The cerebellum:
  • This is the part of the brain that is the centre for body balancing and stability.
6. The brain stem:
  • This part of the brain is the centre for respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
7. Other deeper parts of the brain.
  • These parts also function to take care of the body and their organs.

Mental and physical health connection.

  • Mental health conditions can predispose to physical health conditions and vise verse.
  • So someone suffering from stroke, hypertension, etc., can also have depression, anxiety as a comorbid condition.
  • Someone suffering from depression can have what is called psychomotor retardation. The person speaks slowly, walks slowly, etc. This is because the areas of the brain responsible for mood, speech, movements, etc., are affected.

Things we do that can harm the brain.

Below are some of the things that we do that can harm the brain and cause disease conditions.

  1. Harm to the brain can begin while the baby is still in the womb.
a. Issues during pregnancy:
  • The pregnant woman can, consciously or unconsciously, cause harm to the brain of the unborn baby by not attending antenatal care.
  • Problems with the pregnant woman’s blood pressure, can adversely affect the brain of the baby in the womb.
  • Diseases like rubella, chicken pox, that affects the pregnant woman, can also adversely affect the baby’s developing brain.
  • The poor nutrition of the pregnant woman, can also affect the brain of the unborn baby.
  • Anemia, lack of vitamins such as vitamin C, folic acid, etc. in the pregnant woman can affect the developing brain.
  • Over the counter drugs such as antihypertensive, pain relievers, sleeping tabs, etc., can harm the brain of the unborn.
  • If the pregnant woman takes alcohol or tobacco, these could harm the brain of the unborn.
  • Issues of intimate partner violence, such as partners quarrels or fights, affects the brain of the unborn.
b. Delivery issues:
  • During obstructed labour and the pregnant woman insists on delivering like the Hebrew women, instead of via cesarean section. This can cause damage to the baby’s brain.
  • Instrumental deliveries such as forceps, vacuum, etc., can cause harm to the baby’s brain, when not properly applied.
  • If the baby does not cry immediately, or does not cry adequately after birth, this can affect the brain.

2. Neonatal, infancy and childhood period:

  • Poor feeding and nutrition of the baby, or introducing solid foods too early, can adversely affect the developing brain.
  • Holding the baby upside down and force feeding can injure the brain.
  • Shaking the baby excessively, while playing with the baby can damage the brain.
  • Not immunizing the baby fully. This can predispose the baby to diseases that can harm the brain.
  • Trauma to the head from falls, or deliberate hits, can injure the brain.

3. Adolescent period:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), even from childhood, are stressors that can destroy brain cells.
  • The abuse of substances, be it alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, codeine, etc. can cause damage to the brain.

4. Adulthood:

  • Eating the wrong foods like pastries, etc.
  • Abusing substances like alcohol, etc.
  • Not taking part in activities that can stimulate the brain. For example, refusing to socialize, or take up work or other forms of responsibilities, etc. Not being able to get involved with activities that can stimulate the brain, can cause the brain cells to start dying off. One thing about the brain cells, it is either you use them or you lose them.
  • Living a stress filled life.

Consequences of harm done to the brain.

  1. It is important to know that the consequences of harm done to the brain may be delayed in presentation.
  • For example, the consequences of harm done to the developing brain in the womb, may present during adolescence or adulthood.

2. These consequences may present as physical or psychiatric issues.

  • The physical issues can include hypertension, diabetes, etc. and even premature death. This is because stress can release the harmful chemical called cortisol.
  • Psychiatric issues include depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, suicidality, etc.

A health brain in Nigeria, how to ensure it.

1. Keeping the brain health should actually start while the baby is still in the womb:
  • The pregnant woman should ensure that she gets adequate antenatal care.
  • She must ensure that she gets treatment for any illness at the earliest possible time.
  • She must receive all the necessary immunizations due to pregnant women.
  • Her nutrition must be adequate and contain the right nutrients, such as folic acid, iron, vitamin B, C, proteins, carbohydrate, etc.
  • During delivery, ensure that the safest method is carried out. If the doctor recommends a cesarean section (operation) for the delivery, then adhere to it.
2. Immediately after delivery:
  • The medical personnel should ensure that the baby has a strong cry. This helps to deliver oxygen to the baby’s brain to keep the brain cells alive.
  • Feeding of the baby should start as soon as possible. For those whose breasts do not produce milk immediately, ask the doctor what should be done.
  • Stimulate the baby by talking, playing and having good eye contact with him/her.
3. As the child grows:
  • There must be adequate nutrition, and only start complementary feeding at the appropriate time. So always follow the doctor’s instructions.
  • The baby must be fully immunized, to prevent diseases that can affect the brain.
  • Always nurture and love the child. Do not abuse the child. Child abuse of any form can harm the child’s brain.
  • There must be adequate brain stimulation through academic and non academic means.
4, From adolescent period and through adulthood:
  • Avoid the abuse of substances like alcohol, cannabis, cigarette, codeine, etc.
  • Minimize stress, live a healthy life style, and socialize adequately. Also eliminate marital conflicts. This not only harms the adult’s brain, but also the brains of the children in the house and the baby in the womb.
  • Good nutrition is important, and do not get overweight.
  • Adequate sleep is mandatory and 8 hours is ideal.
  • Exercise is key to a healthy brain in Nigeria because there is the body-brain connection.
  • Listening to good music is medicine to the brain.
  • Make out time to smile and laugh as often as possible.
  • Keep the brain active by being interested in things around you, reading books or writing books, etc. Challenging the brain even in old age increases the brain connectivity and the production of new brain cells.
  • Do the things that you enjoy doing. Travel out with your family members, if the finance permits. If not, just spend good times with the family at home.
  • Take part in religious activities and become spiritual.
  • Every night before you sleep, recall your blessings for the day and thank God for them.
  • When insurmountable problems occur, see a professional, like the psychologist, who can teach you problem solving skills. When mental illness creeps in, see a psychiatrist early enough before brain damage sets in.  

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