Mind & Mood
Your mood and your mental health affect every aspect of your life, from how you feel about yourself to your relationships with others and your physical health. There's a strong link between good mental health and good physical health, and vice versa. In the other direction, depression and other mental health issues can contribute to digestive disorders, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, heart disease, and other health issues.
There are many ways to keep your mind and mood in optimal shape. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or mindfulness can keep your brain — and your body — in tip-top shape.
When mood and mental health slip, doing something about it as early as possible can keep the change from getting worse or becoming permanent. Treating conditions like depression and anxiety improve quality of life. Learning to manage stress makes for more satisfying and productive days.
Mind & Mood Articles
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that affects about 1 in 100-200 girls or women in the United States. A person with this disorder limits eating and by definition weighs at least 15% less than his or her ideal weight. At least 90% of cases are in women and the disorder usually begins in adolescence. The weight loss may delay the onset of menstruation or stop it once it has started, Anorexia nervosa rarely occurs before puberty or after age 40. And, although relatively rare, it can occur in men.
Hydrocephalus, also known as "water on the brain," is a condition in which there is extra cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid acts as a cushion for the brain and spinal cord, supplies nutrients, and takes away waste products.
Hydrocephalus can be present at birth (congenital) or can develop later (acquired).
Congenital hydrocephalus is present at birth, although it may not be detected until later in life. It forms when the brain and surrounding structures develop abnormally. The exact cause is usually unknown, but contributing factors may include genetics and certain infections during pregnancy.
Acquired hydrocephalus results from injuries or illnesses that occur at birth or later, including infections in the brain and spinal column (meningitis), bleeding (hemorrhage) of blood vessels in the brain, severe head injury, brain tumors or cysts. Hydrocephalus also can occur when there is no known injury or illness to cause it.
Cerebral palsy is the name given to a large group of disorders that affect muscles and movement. These disorders begin early in life and result from brain injuries or problems with brain development before birth. Although the specific brain injury or problem causing cerebral palsy does not worsen, the movement problems can vary over time.
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control muscles and movement. There are many possible ways that the brain can be damaged, including problems during pregnancy, infection, stroke, genetic problems, lack of oxygen, severe jaundice or diseases that cause the brain to develop abnormally.
Cerebral palsy can also occur after birth, such as when there is an infection of the brain or a head injury.
Giant cell arteritis, also called temporal arteritis, is a disease in which the medium-sized arteries that supply the eye, scalp and face become inflamed and narrowed. This disease can cause loss of vision, so it is essential that the problem be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Larger blood vessels, including the aorta and its branches, also may be involved, and can lead to the blood vessel weakening and even rupturing years later.
Strokes can damage brain tissue in the outer part of the brain (the cortex) or deeper structures in the brain underneath the cortex. A stroke in a deep area of the brain (for example, a stroke in the thalamus, the basal ganglia or pons) is called a lacunar stroke. These deeper structures receive their blood flow through a unique set of arteries. Because of the characteristics of these arteries, lacunar strokes happen a little bit differently from other strokes.
A lacunar stroke occurs when one of the arteries that provide blood to the brain's deep structures is blocked. These arteries are small, and are uniquely vulnerable. Unlike most arteries, which gradually taper to a smaller size, the arteries of a lacunar stroke branch directly off of a large, high-pressure, heavily muscled main artery. High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to lacunar strokes because it causes a pounding pulse. Since the arteries don't gradually taper down in their size, high blood pressure can directly damage these arteries. High blood pressure also can cause atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits (plaques) build up along the walls of blood vessels. When atherosclerosis is present, a clot can form inside of one of these small arteries, blocking blood flow in the artery.
Tay-Sachs disease is an inherited disease caused by an abnormal gene. People with this abnormal gene do not have an important enzyme called hexosaminidase A (HEXA) that helps to break down a fatty material called ganglioside GM2. This material builds up in the brain, and eventually damages nerve cells and causes neurological problems.
Infants usually begin to show signs of the disease between 3 months and 6 months of age. Children with Tay-Sachs disease can become deaf, blind and paralyzed, and usually die by the age of 5.
Tay-Sachs disease is an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, meaning a child inherits one copy of the abnormal gene from each parent. The parents do not actually have the disease, but carry the Tay-Sachs gene and pass it on to the baby. If both parents have the abnormal Tay-Sachs gene, there is a one-in-four chance that their child will inherit the gene from both of them and have Tay-Sachs disease.
Tay-Sachs disease is most common in Ashkenazi Jews. About one in 30 people with this ancestry carry a copy of the gene. Some non-Jewish groups also have a higher chance of carrying the disease. They include people whose ancestors were French-Canadian, from the Louisiana bayou, or from Amish populations in Pennsylvania.
A concussion is a short-term disturbance in brain function caused by a head injury. A concussion causes:
Confusion, headache or dizziness
Loss of consciousness lasting less than 30 minutes or no loss of consciousness at all
Loss of memory (amnesia) lasting less than 24 hours
About half of all head injuries happen during motor vehicle accidents. Falls, sports and assaults cause the rest. Alcohol and drug use are major contributing factors.
Most head injuries result from direct trauma (for example, the head hitting the ground or the windshield of a car). In the elderly, serious head injuries can result from even minor falls. Injuries also can occur from rapid acceleration or deceleration, as may happen in a whiplash injury. People who injure their heads often injure their necks, too.
Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography (CT) scans of someone with a concussion rarely show obvious signs of brain injury. .
Occasionally, minor head trauma can trigger a more serious problem such as bruising of the brain tissue (brain contusion) or bleeding within the head (subdural hematoma or subarachnoid hemorrhage). Bleeding and other complications of minor head injuries appear to be more common in the elderly and in people taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, fatal brain disorder caused by prions. Prions are normal proteins that have changed their shape. Healthy proteins have a healthy shape, which allows them to function normally. The misshapen prion protein is unhealthy. Worse, the prion causes disease by making other proteins nearby change their healthy shape to the prion's unhealthy shape. In this way a prion makes more prions: it slowly turns healthy proteins into prions, too.
When symptoms eventually appear, CJD causes rapidly progressive dementia (mental decline) and involuntary jerking muscle movements called myoclonus. About 90% of people with CJD die within 1 year of diagnosis.
About 85-95% of cases of CJD are from sporadic mutations. The DNA in a brain cell is changed by the mutation, and makes an unhealthy prion protein. Less often, the mutation is hereditary (passed down from parent to child). Jewish people born in Czechoslovakia, Chile and Libya have a higher-than-average number of inherited cases of CJD. Inherited CJD does not cause symptoms until adulthood.
Prions also can be passed from an animal to a person, or from one person to another. Fortunately, it is hard to catch prion diseases. A type of CJD called "variant CJD" shows somewhat slower progression of brain injury and more psychiatric symptoms, and it tends to affect younger people. This type of CJD has been linked to eating beef from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also called "mad cow disease." BSE is caused by prions.
In the 1990's, a small outbreak of variant CJD was described in the United Kingdom. It was caused by people eating beef infected with prions. Since then, changes in beef farming and processing practices have helped to limit the number of new cases.
It is extremely uncommon for CJD to spread from one person to another. However, in very rare cases CJD has been transmitted by a blood transfusion, by a medical procedure (because of contaminated equipment), by contaminated tissue (such as corneas that are used for transplant) or by injections of hormones extracted from human tissues.
Epilepsy is a nervous system condition. It causes repeated, sudden, brief changes in the brain's electrical activity. These changes cause various types of symptoms.
Epileptic episodes are called seizures or convulsions. During a seizure, brain cells fire uncontrollably at up to four times their normal rate. Seizures temporarily affect the way a person behaves, moves, thinks or feels.
There are two main types of seizures:
A primary generalized seizure involves the entire brain.
A partial seizure begins in one brain area. It affects only part of the brain. However, a partial seizure can turn into a generalized seizure.
Many conditions can affect the brain and trigger epilepsy. These include:
Brain injury, either before or after birth
Infections, especially meningitis and encephalitis
Abnormal blood vessels in the brain
Huntington's disease causes nerve cells in the brain to stop working properly. It leads to mental deterioration and loss of control over major muscle movements.
Huntington's disease worsens over time. It is an inherited (genetic) disease. Each child of a parent with Huntington's disease has a 50% chance of inheriting the illness.
Huntington's disease is relatively uncommon. It affects people from all ethnic groups. The disease affects males and females equally.