152011Dec

Good Health from a Neurological Perspective

By: 
Victor Faradji, M.D

First Choice Neurology
And
Eileen Higgins Faradji, M.D., F.A.C.S

“Mens sana in corpore sano.”

A famous Latin tag that could be interpreted as, “A healthy mind derives from a healthy body”.   In a broader sense, a healthy nervous system depends on the support of a healthy body.  There are multiple examples In the every day practice of neurology that would support this axiom.

Neurology deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. The nervous system comprises the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.  It depends on the protection of the skull and spine as well as an adequate arterial blood supply. The blood provides oxygen, fuel, and other essential nutrients to the nervous system.

Earlier this year during their annual meeting in Hawaii, the American Academy of Neurology presented a video program entitled “The Faces of Neurology”.  It stated that 1 in 7 people are touched by a neurological illness.  We are, therefore, talking about every day situations that affect almost every household.  Many of these conditions are preventable, or their course can significantly be improved by lifestyle changes.

Here are a few examples, highlighting the importance of a healthy nervous system depending on a healthy body.  These may prove more interesting and helpful to the general public than a dissertation on the physiology of neurological disease.

Prevention of Head injury:

Simple measures can prevent or mitigate severe head injuries that result in prolonged hospitalizations and permanent disability.  Using a bicycle or motorcycle helmet, fastening your seatbelt and avoiding driving motor vehicles after drinking alcohol are just a few of the everyday things that can be done.  By adjusting some of your habits slightly, you may completely avoid or lessen the severity of a devastating head injury.

Removing from play an athlete (even in the little leagues) that suffered a concussion prevents the catastrophic “Second Impact Syndrome” that can result in death.  Even a mild concussion days or weeks after the first concussion can result in rapid and severe brain swelling.  After a concussion, a person should not resume play for at least two  weeks.

Prevention of Dementia:

While not all dementias are preventable, certain modifiable risk factors have been identified, particularly for vascular dementia. These include diabetes, hypertension, heavy alcohol use, obesity and sedentary life style.  So, exercising, controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and avoiding heavy alcohol use are positive things that can be done to lower risk.

Several other factors have been identified as being useful in preventing dementia. Mental activity such as social interaction, reading, playing a musical instrument and board games are useful to keep the brain fit.  Also, low to moderate alcohol consumption, Mediterranean diet and vitamin supplementation (especially B complex) appear to be of benefit.

Sciatica and low back pain:

The following are generally recommended for lumbar spinal disorders:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Avoidance of heavy lifting
  3. Strengthening exercises of the spinal and abdominal muscles
  4. Stretching exercises
  5. Proper back support while seated

Sleep disorders and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

It is currently estimated that five to ten percent of Americans are affected with OSA.  Apart from the expected daytime sleepiness, loss of work productivity, increased car accidents and thinking problems (cognitive impairment), OSA carries significant medical consequences such as increased cardiovascular mortality.  Among the things the NIH recommends that can be adjusted to address the problem of OSA are sleeping on one’s side instead of on the back and avoidance of obesity.

For better sleep and prevention of insomnia it is best to avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol use.  Naps should also be avoided.  There is a relationship between smoking and sleep disturbance.  One more reason to stop smoking (or never to start) is its adverse effect on sleep patterns.  It has been shown that smokers spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep, depriving the smoker of a restful, rejuvenating sleep.  Nicotine stimulation can also cause difficulty falling asleep.

Caffeine use in the later part of the day will interfere with sleep.  Some of the common culprits are: some teas, coffee, cola drinks and chocolate.  Sensitivity to caffeine varies from person to person.  Alcohol, even a singe glass of wine, within an hour of bedtime can disturb the sleep cycle after the sedative effect subsides.

Peripheral neuropathy:

Peripheral neuropathy (PN) refers to a group of common neurological disorders that manifest primarily by pain, tingling and numbness in the legs and feet.

Diabetes is a main cause of PN.  Study after study has shown the benefits of controlled blood sugar in the diabetic, among them: peripheral nerve health.  Consistently higher than normal blood glucose damages nerves, particularly the delicate far away branches in the feet and toes.

Heavy alcohol use is another major cause of peripheral neuropathy.  Limiting consumption to not more than two drinks per day generally prevents the development of this disorder.

Nutritional deficiencies (typically B12 deficiency) is another common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Adequate nutrition and vitamin supplementation easily prevent most of these cases.

Prevention of Stroke:

Prevention of stroke requires a healthy arterial blood supply to the brain.  The measures listed below all deal with avoiding damage to the arteries by different mechanisms. The following is a summary of the guidelines of the American Heart and Stroke Associations which have been found to prevent stroke:

  1. Moderately active exercise for at least a half hour on most days
  2. Maintain cholesterol at acceptable levels
    1.  Stop smoking
    2. Adequately control diabetes
    3. Adequately control hypertension
    4. Prevent and treat obesity,
    5. Avoid heavy alcohol use (over 2 drinks per day)

Prevention of Migraine Headaches:

The following are commonly accepted recommendations regarding migraine prevention:

  1. Avoid foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses, wines, beers and cured meat.  Food additives such as MSG and preservatives such as nitrates in hot-dogs or cold cuts can also trigger migraine headaches.
  2. Caffeine withdrawal can result in headaches. Minimizing caffeine is recommended.
  3. Avoid smoking and strong smells including perfumes.  They can trigger headaches.
  4. Avoid frequent use of over the counter analgesics.  This can lead to “rebound” headaches when use of the analgesic is stopped, creating a dependency on the medication.
  5. Avoid sleep deprivation, stress and “skipping” meals.

Multiple sclerosis(MS):

While MS is not yet preventable, certain modifiable risk factors have been identified, primarily smoking and vitamin D deficiency.

Conclusion:

As is quite evident, common threads of benefit running through many neurological problems are obesity prevention, smoking cessation, avoidance of heavy alcohol use, adequate nutrition and the correct mix of exercise and rest.  It might help to emphasize our message by quoting the famous Irish writer Jonathan Swift,

“The best Doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.”

Yes, Swift said it best since the year 1738 that diet, sleep and physical activity are the cornerstones of health.“Mens sana in corpore sano.”

A famous Latin tag that could be interpreted as, “A healthy mind derives from a healthy body”.   In a broader sense, a healthy nervous system depends on the support of a healthy body.  There are multiple examples In the every day practice of neurology that would support this axiom.

Neurology deals with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. The nervous system comprises the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.  It depends on the protection of the skull and spine as well as an adequate arterial blood supply. The blood provides oxygen, fuel, and other essential nutrients to the nervous system.

Earlier this year during their annual meeting in Hawaii, the American Academy of Neurology presented a video program entitled “The Faces of Neurology”.  It stated that 1 in 7 people are touched by a neurological illness.  We are, therefore, talking about every day situations that affect almost every household.  Many of these conditions are preventable, or their course can significantly be improved by lifestyle changes.

Here are a few examples, highlighting the importance of a healthy nervous system depending on a healthy body.  These may prove more interesting and helpful to the general public than a dissertation on the physiology of neurological disease.

Prevention of Head injury:

Simple measures can prevent or mitigate severe head injuries that result in prolonged hospitalizations and permanent disability.  Using a bicycle or motorcycle helmet, fastening your seatbelt and avoiding driving motor vehicles after drinking alcohol are just a few of the everyday things that can be done.  By adjusting some of your habits slightly, you may completely avoid or lessen the severity of a devastating head injury.

Removing from play an athlete (even in the little leagues) that suffered a concussion prevents the catastrophic “Second Impact Syndrome” that can result in death.  Even a mild concussion days or weeks after the first concussion can result in rapid and severe brain swelling.  After a concussion, a person should not resume play for at least two  weeks.

Prevention of Dementia:

While not all dementias are preventable, certain modifiable risk factors have been identified, particularly for vascular dementia. These include diabetes, hypertension, heavy alcohol use, obesity and sedentary life style.  So, exercising, controlling blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and avoiding heavy alcohol use are positive things that can be done to lower risk.

Several other factors have been identified as being useful in preventing dementia. Mental activity such as social interaction, reading, playing a musical instrument and board games are useful to keep the brain fit.  Also, low to moderate alcohol consumption, Mediterranean diet and vitamin supplementation (especially B complex) appear to be of benefit.

Sciatica and low back pain:

The following are generally recommended for lumbar spinal disorders:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Avoidance of heavy lifting
  3. Strengthening exercises of the spinal and abdominal muscles
  4. Stretching exercises
  5. Proper back support while seated

Sleep disorders and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

It is currently estimated that five to ten percent of Americans are affected with OSA.  Apart from the expected daytime sleepiness, loss of work productivity, increased car accidents and thinking problems (cognitive impairment), OSA carries significant medical consequences such as increased cardiovascular mortality.  Among the things the NIH recommends that can be adjusted to address the problem of OSA are sleeping on one’s side instead of on the back and avoidance of obesity.

For better sleep and prevention of insomnia it is best to avoid smoking, caffeine and alcohol use.  Naps should also be avoided.  There is a relationship between smoking and sleep disturbance.  One more reason to stop smoking (or never to start) is its adverse effect on sleep patterns.  It has been shown that smokers spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep sleep, depriving the smoker of a restful, rejuvenating sleep.  Nicotine stimulation can also cause difficulty falling asleep.

Caffeine use in the later part of the day will interfere with sleep.  Some of the common culprits are: some teas, coffee, cola drinks and chocolate.  Sensitivity to caffeine varies from person to person.  Alcohol, even a singe glass of wine, within an hour of bedtime can disturb the sleep cycle after the sedative effect subsides.

Peripheral neuropathy:

Peripheral neuropathy (PN) refers to a group of common neurological disorders that manifest primarily by pain, tingling and numbness in the legs and feet.

Diabetes is a main cause of PN.  Study after study has shown the benefits of controlled blood sugar in the diabetic, among them: peripheral nerve health.  Consistently higher than normal blood glucose damages nerves, particularly the delicate far away branches in the feet and toes.

Heavy alcohol use is another major cause of peripheral neuropathy.  Limiting consumption to not more than two drinks per day generally prevents the development of this disorder.

Nutritional deficiencies (typically B12 deficiency) is another common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Adequate nutrition and vitamin supplementation easily prevent most of these cases.

Prevention of Stroke:

Prevention of stroke requires a healthy arterial blood supply to the brain.  The measures listed below all deal with avoiding damage to the arteries by different mechanisms. The following is a summary of the guidelines of the American Heart and Stroke Associations which have been found to prevent stroke:

  1. Moderately active exercise for at least a half hour on most days
  2. Maintain cholesterol at acceptable levels
    1.  Stop smoking
    2. Adequately control diabetes
    3. Adequately control hypertension
    4. Prevent and treat obesity,
    5. Avoid heavy alcohol use (over 2 drinks per day)

Prevention of Migraine Headaches:

The following are commonly accepted recommendations regarding migraine prevention:

  1. Avoid foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses, wines, beers and cured meat.  Food additives such as MSG and preservatives such as nitrates in hot-dogs or cold cuts can also trigger migraine headaches.
  2. Caffeine withdrawal can result in headaches. Minimizing caffeine is recommended.
  3. Avoid smoking and strong smells including perfumes.  They can trigger headaches.
  4. Avoid frequent use of over the counter analgesics.  This can lead to “rebound” headaches when use of the analgesic is stopped, creating a dependency on the medication.
  5. Avoid sleep deprivation, stress and “skipping” meals.

Multiple sclerosis(MS):

While MS is not yet preventable, certain modifiable risk factors have been identified, primarily smoking and vitamin D deficiency.

Conclusion:

As is quite evident, common threads of benefit running through many neurological problems are obesity prevention, smoking cessation, avoidance of heavy alcohol use, adequate nutrition and the correct mix of exercise and rest.  It might help to emphasize our message by quoting the famous Irish writer Jonathan Swift,

“The best Doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.”

Yes, Swift said it best since the year 1738 that diet, sleep and physical activity are the cornerstones of health.