Do you like doing puzzles?
Activities that challenge your brain, such as working on a Sudoku puzzle, are good for the health of your nervous system. Just like you need to work out your body to stay in shape, your brain also needs a good work out regularly in order to stay sharp.
Keeping the Nervous System Healthy
The nervous system is such an important part of your body. You want it to work at its best so that you can be at your best. Your nervous system contains what is probably the most important part of your body, which, of course, is your brain. Your brain allows you to learn. It allows you to feel emotions like love, anger, and sadness. Your brain gives you the ability to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. It works together with the nerves and spinal cord to send the signals that make your body move. Your nervous system lets you do things like run, jump, play sports, and do your homework.
There are many choices you can make to keep your nervous system healthy. One obvious choice is to avoid using alcohol or other drugs. Not only will you avoid the injury that drugs themselves can cause, but you will also be less likely to get involved in other risky behaviors that could harm your nervous system. Another way to keep the nervous system healthy is to eat a variety of healthy foods. The minerals sodium, calcium, and potassium, and vitamins B1 and B12 are important for a healthy nervous system. Some foods that are good sources for these minerals and vitamins include milk, whole grains, beef steak, and kidney beans (shown in Figure below). Your brain also needs healthy fats like those in nuts and fish. Recall that fats insulate the axons of neurons. These fats help build new connections between nerves and brain cells. These fats may improve memory and increase learning and intelligence. Water is also important for the nervous system, so drink plenty of water and other fluids. This helps prevent dehydration, which can cause confusion and memory problems. And get plenty of rest. Your brain requires plenty of rest so it can strengthen circuits that help with memory. A good night’s sleep will help keep your brain functioning at its best.
Daily physical activity is also important for nervous system health. Regular exercise makes your heart more efficient at pumping blood to your brain. As a result, your brain gets more oxygen, which it needs to function normally. The saying “use it or lose it” applies to your brain as well as your body. This means that mental activity, not just physical activity, is important for nervous system health. Doing crossword puzzles, reading, and playing a musical instrument are just a few ways you can keep your brain active.
You can also choose to practice safe behaviors to protect your nervous system from injury. To keep your nervous system safe, choose to:
- Wear safety goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes from injury.
- Wear hearing protectors, such as ear plugs to protect your ears from loud sounds.
- Wear a safety helmet for activities like bike riding and skating (Figure below).
- Wear a safety belt every time you ride in a motor vehicle.
- Avoid unnecessary risks, such as performing dangerous stunts on your bike.
- Never dive into water that is not approved for diving. If the water is too shallow, you could seriously injure your brain or spinal cord. A few minutes of fun could turn into a lifetime in a wheelchair.
Furthermore, make sure to exercise your nervous system on a daily basis. The simple act of writing requires that you use all the major components of your motor and sensory pathways. These include a number of different sensory receptors, peripheral nerves, synaptic connections within your spinal cord, major tracts within your spinal cord, and nerve tissue throughout your brain. All these components need to be utilized with great precision and coordination to produce neatly written words. What should you do? Spend a few minutes each day writing on paper as neatly as you can. This takes a lot more effort on the part of the nervous system than typing on a keyboard, as typing on a keyboard doesn't require as much fine motor control as writing on paper. If you don't want to write, then draw. Drawing with precision also requires use of all the major components of the sensory and motor divisions of the nervous system.
- The minerals, calcium and potassium, and vitamins B1 and B12 are important for a healthy nervous system.
- You can make choices that will help keep your nervous system healthy and safe, such as choosing to wear a bicycle helmet.
Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.
- The First Key To Health—Your Nervous System at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6_CDcTLpVI (2:30)
- How can the health of your nervous system affect all other body systems?
- What kinds of problem might you experience if the nerve connection to your stomach were impaired?
- What types of foods are important for a healthy nervous system?
- How do healthy fats help the nervous system?
- Name two behaviors that protect your nervous system from injury.
- How does an activity such as writing exercise the nervous system?