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Brain Health an Important Focus for U.S. Army

On Veterans’ Day, it is of great significance to honor the men and women who have bravely served our country. It is also critical to focus on the health and well-being of those that currently serve or will serve in the armed forces. The Institute of Land Warfare panel at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting discussed Soldiers’ health, highlighting what they call the “human dimension” and the importance of brain health.

Developed by the Army, the human dimension concept shifts the focus from having the latest technology or weapon to developing the mental, physical and social well-being of Soldiers and military leaders so that they are healthy and resilient on the battlefield. Lieutenant General Robert Brown, commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and chair of the event, said, “Equipment can be adapted to changing situations, but not as quickly as the Soldier. As a result, how Soldiers are educated, trained, organized and developed as leaders are critical to the future of the Army.”

Army Surgeon General Lieutenant General Patricia Horoho emphasized the need for brain health. “We have to focus on the healthy brain,” General Horoho said. “We have to enable the Soldier to be agile and flexible in split second decision making.”

General Horoho also emphasized the Performance Triad, which focuses on quality sleep, physical activity, and improved nutrition. The first leg of the Performance Triad, quality sleep, is important because the brain recovers and restores function during this time, optimizing performance and reducing the risk of injuries. Physical exercise, the second component of the Performance Triad, is critical for learning new tasks as it contributes to the development of new brain cells. The final part of the triad is nutrition; General Horoho suggests creating nutrition plans for Soldiers in environmental extremes, where weight loss and fatigue can be critical issues.

The strength of our Soldiers’ and military leaders’ cognitive functioning and physical capabilities are of critical importance. While staying cognitively healthy, maintaining quality sleep, exercising regularly and having a healthy diet is important for Soldiers, these tips also apply to anyone for optimizing functioning.