The nervous system collects and processes information from the senses via nerves and the brain and tells the muscles to contract to cause physical actions. The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system consists of nerves that connect every other part of the body to the central nervous system. Together with the endocrine system, the nervous system is responsible for regulating and maintaining homeostasis. Through its receptors, the nervous system keeps us in touch with our environment, both external and internal. Millions of sensory receptors detect changes, called stimuli, which occur inside and outside the body. They monitor such things as temperature, light, and sound from the external environment. Inside the body, the internal environment, receptors detect variations in pressure, pH, carbon dioxide concentration, and the levels of various electrolytes.
Some serious conditions, diseases, and injuries that can cause nervous system problems include: Blood supply problems (vascular disorders), Injuries (trauma), especially injuries to the head and spinal cord, Mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders, depression, or psychosis. Problems that cause a gradual loss of function (degenerative); Parkinson's disease, Multiple sclerosis (MS), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Peripheral neuropathies. Infections that may occur in the: Brain (encephalitis or abscesses), Membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Overuse of or withdrawal from prescription and nonprescription medicines, illegal drugs, or alcohol, and A brain tumor. Other Organ system failure: Respiratory failure, Heart failure, Liver failure (hepatic encephalopathy), Kidney failure (uremia). Other conditions; Thyroid dysfunction (overactive or underactive thyroid), High blood sugar (diabetes) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), Electrolyte problems, Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B1 (thiamine) or vitamin B12 deficiency and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
A sudden (acute) nervous system problem can cause many different symptoms, depending on the area of the nervous system involved. Stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) are common examples of acute problems. You may experience the sudden onset of one or more symptoms, such as: Numbness, tingling, weakness, or inability to move a part or all of one side of the body (paralysis), Dimness, blurring, double vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes. Loss of speech, trouble talking, or trouble understanding speech, Sudden, severe headache, Dizziness, unsteadiness, or the inability to stand or walk, especially if other symptoms are present, Confusion or a change in level of consciousness or behavior or Severe nausea or vomiting. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical advice.
Following the Prevention Guidelines Can Help Keep Your Nervous System Healthy:
- Exercise regularly. If you have medical or health issues, talk to your doctor about an exercise plan that will be right for you.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Take care of health conditions that may cause decreased nervous system functioning, such as: Diabetes and High blood pressure.
- Eat a balanced diet. A balanced, low-fat diet with ample sources of vitamins B6, B12, and folate will help protect the nervous system. Make sure that your diet contains lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids. This helps prevent dehydration, which can cause confusion and memory problems. To prevent dehydration during hot weather and exercise, drink water, rehydration drinks, or other fluids each day. Drink extra water before, during, and after exercise. Take a container of water or sports drink with you when you exercise and try to drink at least every 15 to 20 minutes. Limit your intake of caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and colas, which increase dehydration and can affect sleep.
- Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs, which can affect functioning long after use.
- Have your hearing or vision tested. When you do not hear or see well, it is hard for your brain to record information.
- Set priorities and concentrate on one thing at a time. Older adults have a harder time than younger people giving their attention to more than one activity.
- Increase your attention span and ability to focus by learning new skills.
- Keep written notes. Write all your plans on a calendar where you can look at them often.
- Use a medicine box with spaces for each day. This will help you remember when to take your medicines. Take your medicines exactly as they are prescribed.
- Decrease your use of nonprescription medicines. Overuse of medicines may be the single biggest cause of nervous system problems in older adults.
- Develop a positive attitude about your abilities. Reject the notion that nervous system (neurological) functioning declines with age.
- Protect yourself from head injuries and prevent falls in your home.