We will get to work with your brain and its condition.
In this article you can read more about:
- How does the brain work?
- Development of your brain during your life
- Reduce your change of Dementia
How does the brain work?
First, let’s see how your brain actually works. For example, did you know that:
- your brain weighs about one and a half kilo?
- this is only 2% of your entire body?
- your brain uses 30% of all body energy?
That energy comes from your blood. Your brain is full of blood vessels. They provide every nerve cell with energy. There are a lot of blood vessels: an estimated 500 kilometers in total. These blood vessels come in different sizes. For example, you have large arteries but also vessels that are ten times thinner than a hair. The brain cells die without blood supply to the blood vessels. It is very important that this network works well!
What does your brain consist of?
Your brain forms an incredibly complex structure. You can see it as a huge network. It consists of a lot of nerve cells, around 100 billion. These nerve cells all have offshoots again. Synapses connect those spurs and nerve cells with each other. One nerve cell makes contact on average with a thousand other nerve cells. So you have around 100 trillion connections in your brain. These connections provide electrical signals and form the basis for all your thoughts, memories and feelings.
We do all our thinking with the brain. We can divide our brain into three parts:
Ensures that you can breathe, your heart beats and your blood pressure is good. This happens automatically, you don’t have to think about it.
How can you walk to the supermarket every day? How do you actually manage your body? That is the work of the little brain. They remember how to move to walk, cycle and swim, but also the route to the supermarket. This is not automatic but you really have to do it yourself.
The large brain consists of two parts: a left half and a right half. Together they ensure that you can talk, move, think, taste, smell, feel, hear and look. Just like with the small brain, this is not automatic. Funny fact: your left hemisphere controls the right side of your body and the right hemisphere controls the left side.
Development of your brain during your life
Are your brains now a solid block of gray matter in which nothing changes? Certainly not. At birth, the brain is about the same size for everyone. Our lives and experiences influence our brain. He adapts and develops during our life. We call this neuroplasticity.
So we have around 100 billion nerve cells in our brains. Brain cells and connections die every day, but luckily we also make new cells and connections. This way the brain can reorganize itself. It makes new connections between nerve cells. This happens a lot with young people and to a lesser extent with older people. Neuroplasticity is therefore a continuous process in your brain.
Shrink or grow?
We have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad. Your brain wears out and shrinks as you get older. This makes processes more difficult that were previously so easy. It is very important that you keep your brain in good condition as well as your body.
The good news: you can prevent and slow down wear on your brain. Brain cells live longer with healthy blood vessels. And a mentally active brain has more connections, so it can compensate for lost brain cells. Think of it as a road map. In the city there are so many roads that if one is occupied, you can still easily reach your destination. In the countryside, one roadblock makes a huge detour. Or some areas are no longer accessible.
Fit, fitter, fitst?
When is your brain at its best? The following does not apply to your brain: the younger the fitter. Your reaction speed will decrease from the age of 20. On the other hand, your short-term memory will then increase. This peak between your 20th and 35th year of life. Between your 40th and 50th year of life you read the best other people’s emotion. For your speaking skills, this peak is around the age of 70. As you can see: your brain is not at its best at any one time.
Reduce your chance of dementia
As we get older, we have to deal with diseases and hereditary characteristics. This can result in getting dementia. With dementia, the nerve cells or the connections between cells in the brain are destroyed. This means they can no longer process important information.
But healthy brains are resilient. The network of blood vessels is important here. Is a path between nerve cells damaged? A large network ensures that there is another path. So you can still perform your task via this other path. Taking good care of your blood vessels keeps as many brain cells as possible alive as long as possible.
What is good and what is not good for your brain?
Challenge your brain! The number of connections between your brain cells grows as you learn new things. Children who study longer have a lower chance of dementia later. But lifelong learning is important. People who retire later have a lower risk of dementia. A large part of dementia cases can be postponed or partly prevented. You have a major influence on this yourself. Did you know that 30% of all cases of dementia can be prevented by:
- Quit smoking
- Enough exercise
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stay metally and socially active
- Treating high blood pressure or diabetes
A healthy lifestyle is unfortunately no guarantee for not getting dementia. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are complex diseases that can affect anyone. The deterioration of the brain has to do with age, genes, heredity and other circumstances that are not (yet) controllable. That is why researchers continue to look for causes, diagnosis and treatment options. But a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of dementia or delay the symptoms.
“In the series ‘Keep your brain healthy’ we give you tips on how to do this.”