“The brain doesn’t need to rust”, WHO proposes 5 brain health recommendations, applicable for life

▎WuXi AppTec Content Team Editor

“We experience a series of changes in brain tissue and shape throughout our lives. Pathological changes can lead to declines in brain function and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there will be more than 55 million dementia patients worldwide in 2019, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common.

We share the World Health Organization’s authoritative recommendations for improving brain health with our readers. Improving brain health helps to promote the development of brain nerves and reduce the occurrence of neurological diseases. “

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Our feelings, thinking, activities, and understanding of the world all require the participation of the brain. The brain is also involved in regulating physical health, affecting cardiovascular, respiratory, and endocrine effects. and immune system functions. A variety of factors can affect healthy brain development.

The World Health Organization recently released a position paper to advance understanding and improve brain health. The document proposes a lifelong action plan to improve brain health, addressing 5 determinants of healthy brain development, namely physical health, environmental health, safety and security, lifelong learning and social connections, and access to high-quality services. Dr Ren Minghui, Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, said, “This will help improve the health and well-being of all human beings.”

Screenshot source: World Health Organization

Brain health refers to the functional state of the brain in cognition, sensory, social emotion, behavior and movement. People use the power of the brain to exert their abilities and potential throughout their lives. At different stages of human life development, brain structure and function are constantly adjusted and adapted to physical changes, such as neuronal remodeling in infancy and childhood, neuronal severing in adolescence, and neuronal neurogenesis in adulthood Missing elements, etc. By minimizing the risk factors that may affect brain health, promoting the healthy development of cranial nerves, and improving the repair ability of the brain when it is damaged, in order to achieve the purpose of improving and maintaining brain health throughout the life cycle, it is necessary to start from brain health. decisive factor.

▲Figure 1: Different developmental stages of the brain during life (screenshot source: Reference [2])

Good health

A healthy body is closely related to brain health, even before birth, such as maternal health, the intrauterine environment for fetal growth, genetics and epigenetics, and more

/strong>. Neurological diseases, for example, are thought to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors and negatively impact brain health. Neurological diseases are currently the second leading cause of death globally (16.5% of all causes of death), and nearly 1 in 3 people will suffer from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias at some point in their lives. Parkinson’s disease and some types of epilepsy.

In addition, factors such asnutrition, infections, non-communicable diseases, sensory impairments and trauma can affect brain health. For example, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes are risk factors for stroke and dementia, and about 4% of people with dementia worldwide are associated with the disease. Studies have shown that people who suffer from two or more chronic diseases after middle age will more than double the risk of developing dementia. Among stroke patients worldwide, more than 60% of the disability-adjusted life years are related to hypertension, and more than 20% are related to hypertension. Associated with high body mass index (i.e. overweight and obesity), and more than 10% with high fasting blood sugar.

A healthy lifestyle (e.g., sleep well, exercise properly, and take appropriate medication) also profoundly affects brain health. For example, adequate physical activity has been shown to affect cognitive function in children. May increase neuroplasticity. Even in patients already suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, during recovery after a stroke, and more, increased physical activity can help improve brain health. Similarly, adequate sleep quality can not only promote healthy brain development in children, but also help the elderly reduce the risk of dementia.

Image source: 123RF

Environmental Health

Environmental conditions are equally important, especially for those at sensitive stages of development, such as infants, teenagers, and the elderly.

Air, water and food pollution, certain neurotoxic chemicals (such as heavy metal compounds, insecticides, certain organic compounds, etc.), and various disasters (such as Volcanic eruptions, nuclear contamination, chemical spills), etc., can affect brain health. The position paper disclosure released several startling sets of data:

Over 200 chemicals are known to be neurotoxic;

Over 200 million people are at risk from high-arsenic groundwater;

Nearly 99% of the world breathes polluted air.

▲Figure 2: The threat of growing environmental problems to brain health (screenshot source: Reference [2])

The most closely related is air pollution. Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy or infants and young children may cause neurodevelopmental delays in children. In 2019 alone, African children were exposed to air pollution. IQ drops by 1.96 billion points due to air pollution. This may be because polluted air causes the hippocampus (governing human emotions, learning and memory) to become smaller and the amygdala (related to fear) to become larger. Air pollution may even be a trigger for autism and ADHD, new research has also raised concerns.

Lifelong learning and social connection

As the saying goes, “use it and lose it”, the importance of individual access to learning and social connections cannot be overstated for brain health. People’s learning behavior at a young age depends on the meticulous care of their parents, as well as the training of schools and educational institutions. When they enter the society as adults, a new learning environment will be formed.

The ideal way to improve brain health is to build a learning atmosphere and opportunities for infants and young people, establish cognitive stimulation, such as more conversations, accompanying play, reading together, etc., early good learning foundation for better brain health in children and adolescents. At the same time, the learning opportunities established since childhood will continuously increase the personal knowledge reserve, so that there will be opportunities to receive a higher level of education in the future, and the cognitive function of the brain will be better. Cognitive stimulation in adulthood is more dependent on employment and interpersonal stimulation, coupled with strong social connections, which can help reduce the risk of dementia. Learning is still a sustainable behavior in old age. Behaviors such as reading and music playing in old age are very beneficial to brain health.

Lifelong learning improves brain health and function from start to finish.

Image source: 123RF


Security has two meanings, namely personal safety and property safety. IdealIdeal security is one who has not been threatened or harmed, has a stable income, and is able to support one’s own life independently, such as purchasing food, housing, medical care, education, and transportation.

Get high quality service

Despite many preventive and improvement measures, there may still be problems with the brain. At this time, a high-quality social service support system is needed so that a timely diagnosis can be obtained after the disease. , treatment, care and rehabilitation.

In summary, while the concept of brain health continues to evolve, the role of improving brain health in developing children’s potential and reducing morbidity and mortality from neurological diseases is beyond doubt. Paying attention to brain health is not only beneficial to individual health, but also to the well-being of society as a whole.

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine will be announced soon,