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Heart Health Paves The Way For Brain Health As We Age – New Study

You’ve probably figured out by now that our brains kind-of sort-of don’t work as well as we age.

Heart Health Paves The Way For Brain Health The good news for some, however, comes from a recently published study indicating that heart health paves the way for brain health as we age.

You know that just like with the rest of your body, advancing years can take a toll on your brain function. Much of this slowing down is predictable and can be chalked up to normal aging.

However, when thinking skills become increasingly fuzzy and forgetfulness gets to be a way of life, an early form of dementia known as mild cognitive impairment may be setting in.

Often, the first reaction is to assume these changes are due to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease. But blood flow problems may be to blame, as well.

As reported by Dr. Albert Hofman, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

“An estimated one-third of all cases of dementia, including those identified as Alzheimer’s, can be attributed to vascular (circulatory) factors.”

Hear the message: Heart health paves the way for brain health as we age. The connection is not difficult to understand. It goes like this:

Heart Health Paves The Way For Brain Health-4Vascular problems—those pertaining to the blood vessels and circulation—include: arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosisAlthough the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not.

 ➡ Arteriosclerosis occurs when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body (arteries) become thick and stiff.

This frequently leads to a restriction of blood flow to your organs and tissues.

Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic, but over time, the walls of your arteries can harden. 

 ➡ Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis.

  • Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls (plaques), which can restrict blood flow.

These plaques can burst and trigger a blood clot.

Although atherosclerosis is usually considered a heart problem, it can affect arteries anywhere in your body. Atherosclerosis may be preventable and is treatable.

Both are well-known contributors to heart disease.

 ➡ Both atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis can also damage brain function by interfering with the steady supply of oxygen-rich blood that nourishes the brain cells.

In the case of a stroke, (sometimes called a “brain attack,”) large areas of brain tissue die when a blood clot in a major brain artery abruptly blocks the flow of blood.

 ➡ In addition to suffering immediate damage from a stroke, roughly one in three stroke survivors will eventually develop dementia.

More subtle injuries are also caused by tiny blockages in the small vessels deep within the brain.

These “silent strokes” are 10-20 times more common than overt strokes.

But the tiny bits of damage they leave scattered behind also increases the risk of dementia at a later date.

Having blood vessels clogged by plaque buildup can also pave the way for Alzheimer’s.

The collection of certain deposits of a protein known as beta-amyloid—the most commonly identifiable finding with Alzheimer’s patients—is a direct consequence of what doctors call hypoperfusion.  Stay with me now…Heart Health Paves The Way For Brain Health-stay with me

What that means for the patient is that the brain is not getting a sufficient supply of blood over the long term.

Because of these overlaps, according to Dr. Hofman, there are tiny-very fine differences between what we know as Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia.

This is why, says Dr. Hofman, it doesn’t make sense to draw sharp distinctions between Alzheimer’s and **Vascular Dementia.

** “Vascular dementia” is a general term which describes the problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory, etc., related to brain damage caused by a stroke as the result of that blocked blood flow to the brain.

bottom lineThe same things that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, etc., also increase your risk of vascular dementia.

Controlling these factors can help lower your chances of developing the significant changes in mental status experienced as we age.

Just keep reminding yourself: Heart Health Paves The Way For Brain Health As We Age.

Protect your heart and your brain!

Just as with the steps you take to protect your heart, a key to maintaining your cognitive abilities is to reduce your major cardiovascular risks.

This includes the usual suspects:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels
  • Eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

It’s especially important to keep your blood pressure well controlled, especially in middle age.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.

High blood pressure is also believed to stimulate the growth of the micro-injuries on the white matter of the brain, as mentioned earlier.

These tiny lesions can slow your thinking and speed up the loss of cognitive function that accompanies Alzheimer’s.

Learn, learn and learn some more. Make a plan to secure the health of your heart so that your “golden years” will find you healthy, strong and mentally intact. 

 

Start Here: 

➡ How Healthy Blood Vessels Offer Protection Against Cognitive Decline

➡ A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)-Warning Signs Of A Mini-Stroke

➡ Using Good Nutrition To Beat Atherosclerosis-Common Sense Medicine

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