Skyrocketing suicide rates: Brain-based prevention tips
While death rates from cancer, heart disease and even homicide have gone down in the last 20 years, the suicide rate in the United States has risen sharply. Suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death in the country, having jumped 80 percent between 1999 and 2014.
Economic distress, social isolation, and social media are factors that take part of the blame for skyrocketing suicide rates. While it is important to address these factors, we must also look at addressing depression, anxiety, and brain injury by improving brain health.
What does a brain need for health?
To function optimally, your brain needs fuel, stimulation, and oxygen; appropriately timed and in proper amounts. Unfortunately, our standard American diets (SAD) and sedentary lifestyles deprive the brain of these critical elements, setting the stage for dysfunction.
The brain consumes about one third of the body’s energy and depends on a steady, reliable source of glucose to keep it fueled and functioning properly. Spikes and drops in blood sugar (glucose) levels sabotage brain function, often causing depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of high blood sugar levels include fatigue after meals, constant hunger and thirst, and cravings for sugary foods and drinks.
Some common low blood sugar symptoms are moodiness or lightheadedness if meals are delayed or missed, waking up at 3 or 4 a.m., and a dependence on caffeine or sugar to keep you going.
Both low and high blood sugar are commonly caused by eating too many processed carbohydrates and sugary foods. Therefore, one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and protect against depression is to eat a healthy, whole foods diet devoid of processed carbohydrates and sweets.
A healthy brain also needs exercise. Physical activity, such as jogging or gardening, and mental activities, such as playing chess and reading, stimulate the brain to keep it active and healthy. Watching TV is not stimulating, and spending hours on social media can worsen brain function. A well stimulated brain is less likely to get depressed.
The fact that you are breathing is no guarantee that your brain is receiving sufficient oxygen. Oxygen enters through our lungs and is carried, attached to iron, through the bloodstream into the brain where it can be used by the brain’s cells. If you have poor circulation (symptoms can include cold hands and feet, or fungal nail infections), compromised lungs, or you are anemic, your brain may not be getting the oxygen it needs for optimal health, and depression could result.
History of brain trauma also important
Just one concussion triples the risk of suicide according to a Canadian study. This is likely due to unchecked brain inflammation, which damages brain cells, or neurons, leading to depression later on. If you have had a brain injury in your past and suffer from depression or anxiety, it’s vital to seek functional neurology help to help improve your brain health.
Functional medicine and neurology strategies can help to minimize damage from concussions, thereby reducing the risk of future depression and suicide.
To learn more about how to support brain health, contact my office.