When it comes to brain health, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain! As we celebrate American Heart Month this February, we hope to inspire you to show some love to your heart.
Cholesterol and its Relationship to Stroke
We all know that having optimal cholesterol numbers is ideal for our overall health. But why is this? Well, cholesterol is an essential lipid in our bodies. This structure presents as a soft waxy substance that circulates within the bloodstream and forms cell membranes and hormones.
In a nutshell, there are two types of cholesterols, HDL (“Happy or good cholesterol”) and LDL (“Lousy or bad cholesterol”). When the LDL cholesterol is present in excessive amounts throughout the bloodstream (due to poor diet, low exercise levels, and even some hereditary issues), this can cause fatty deposits to build up, leading to a dangerous “traffic jam.” This blockage prevents blood and oxygen from reaching the brain resulting in a stroke; likewise, it can affect blood flow in the heart blood vessels leading to a heart attack.
For a deeper dive into the nature of cholesterol and ways to improve your numbers, check out Cholesterol and Stroke Risk: Do You Know Your Numbers?
Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular health involves the proper regulation of one’s blood circulation. Calculating blood pressure essentially means measuring the amount of force it takes for the heart to pump blood throughout the arterial network in the body.
What are ideal numbers? It is advised to maintain Goldilocks levels, not too low and not too high – they must be just right!
Normal numbers are generally at or below 120/80 for the age ranges of teens through our 30s and even 40s. However, as we get older, especially into our 70s and 80s, a higher “pump pressure” is frequently necessary to avoid low blood pressure effects on the brain.
High blood pressure is the number one cause of Stroke, which is why it is crucial to know your numbers and act in ways that benefit your heart and your brain! When blood pressure is too high, extreme stress is put on the heart to pump blood throughout the body, resulting in a classification of “hypertension.”
Hypertension can cause discomforts such as chest pain, nausea, and headaches. However, symptoms may not present for some until it is too late. That is why it is often called “the silent killer.”
Hypertension (Stage 1) is classified at 130/80 – 139/89, and Stage 2 is at or above 140/90.
For a deeper dive into blood pressure, check out Blood Pressure and Your Brain
Blood Sugar and Long-term Neurological Health
Regulating blood glucose levels is vital for everyone – not just diabetics.
Studies have shown that even if one’s blood sugar levels fall on the high end of the “normal range,” there is a significantly higher risk for heart issues, cognitive decline, and brain disease later in life.
Elevated blood sugar causes damage to blood vessels, arteries, and nerves, resulting in a compromised cardiovascular system. Recent studies also suggest that this damage plays a role in increasing the risk of a heart attack and accelerated brain aging.
How does this occur? High blood sugar, aka “excess sugar” in the bloodstream, creates sugar plaques, which disturb the normal function of one’s neurological network. These plaques can negatively impact memory, learning, and spatial orientation.
Want to improve your blood sugar levels but don’t know where to start?
Start with this easy tip:
Eliminate sugary foods and beverages and opt for more water, vegetables, and protein. Items loaded with refined sugars like soda, fruit punch, and donuts cause an unnatural surge in blood sugar levels. Over time the body cannot handle this imbalance, and insulin resistance occurs. Insulin resistance is a significant driver of type 2 diabetes.
And for more on Heart and Brain Health, check out our article, The Heart and the Brain Connection.
Being kind to your heart does so much more than just protect your heart; it also provides a tremendous benefit for your brain, leading not only to improved brain health but to long-lasting brain health.
A message from Dr. Kandel
“Like I tell my patients, if you don’t have good genetics, you must have good habits. This includes diet, exercise, hydration, and a healthy lifestyle!”
Feel free to share this with the people in your life who may benefit from this information! For more insights on neurology, check out our weekly tips on our Neurology Office Facebook page.
“To Cure Sometimes, To Heal Often, To Comfort Always”
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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