February is American Heart Month. And in this edition of Neurology Insights, we explore the vital link between heart health and brain health and what this means for you.
A Special Connection
Throughout century-old love stories and perhaps our own experiences, it is often the case, that the heart and the brain are in a constant struggle to reach mutual understanding.
Thankfully, in terms of our biological lives, our hearts and brains are in constant cooperation, working together to keep us alive and well.
Although our brains are credited for running the show, it is our hearts that are also working around the clock to provide our brains with their much-needed blood and oxygen. Any impediments to this very process can result in cognitive impairment, stroke, and even death.
Did you know that one-third of all cases of dementia can be attributed to cardiovascular dysfunction?
The importance of adequate blood flow to the brain is hardly anything to be taken lightly.
Thankfully for most of us, we can keep heart & brain disease at bay by practicing these critical lifestyle choices:
- Exercise Regularly
Through physical activity, blood circulation increases all over the body. This blood flow also reaches the brain, stimulating and strengthening blood vessels and neurons. This constant supply prevents stagnation and blockages from occurring.
I frequently recommend aerobic exercise at your target heart rate range (THR = 220 minus your age X 60% to 80%). This should be for 30 minutes per day. If your physical health does not allow you to run or bike or swim, then even chair aerobics with 1 pound weights can produce the desired benefit.
- Eat Nutritious Foods
Eating nutritious foods doesn’t mean eating low-calorie foods that taste like paper. Eating foods high in nutrition provides vital vitamins and nutrients that are needed to keep your heart and brain healthy. Heart-healthy choices are foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, rich in fiber, and low in additives. Don’t know where to start? How about the book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth” by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.
I always tell my patients, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your heart & brain health. Research has shown that the risk of heart disease increases significantly when there is a lack of proper sleep, regardless of gender, age, or weight. Sleep impacts crucial processes, such as blood pressure regulation, hormone regulation, glucose metabolism, and neurological regeneration.
And one of the most serious issues with regards to sleep is sleep apnea. Lack of oxygen can lead not only to excessive daytime fatigue, sleep attacks, and cognitive decline, but also to a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Make sure you are monitored on at least one occasion to rule this out, and if this is an issue then sleep evaluation is absolutely in order.
Know Your Numbers
Knowing where you stand is the first step to effectively managing your lifestyle. Don’t skip out on getting your numbers checked by a medical professional. Your cholesterol numbers, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels can all provide essential insights into the health of your heart... and, consequently, your brain. And if you have suffered a stroke in the past, working with your cardiologist and neurologist for a plan tailored to your condition is the best way to prevent future events.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, show your heart, and your brain, some much-deserved love!
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If you have any questions related to brain & heart health or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
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