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Take Care of Your Heart to Take Care of Your Memory

Head and heart

Over the past few years it’s become common knowledge that even though the brain makes up a small percentage of your body weight, it requires twenty percent of your blood supply to operate correctly.  As a result, the performance of your heart, the organ that pumps oxygen rich blood throughout the body, is vital to optimizing your brain health and memory.

Good heart performance and blood flow results in better memory performance and brain responsiveness.  Restricted blood flow results in increased memory struggles, increased risk of Alzheimer’s (and other forms of dementia), stroke, and even heart attack.
 
According to Web MD, the top risk factors for poor heart performance or heart disease include: Smoking, High LDL (“bad” cholesterol and low HDL ("good" cholesterol), Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), Physical inactivity, Obesity, Uncontrolled diabetes, Uncontrolled stress and anger.
 
Here are some steps to implement to improve your heart performance, memory and brain health.
 
Manage your blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, high blood pressure impacts your blood flow to the brain in a number of ways.  It can damage arteries.  Once fats enter your body from diet, they can collect in the damaged areas. As a result, arteries become less elastic and restrict blood flow to the brain and other areas. In addition, high blood pressure forces your heart to work harder which results in thickening of your left ventricle and limiting its ability to pump oxygen rich blood to the brain. 
 
Control your cholesterol. High cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis, a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and other deposits on the walls of your arteries. These deposits (plaques) can reduce blood flow through your arteries, which can cause complications, including chest pain, heart attack and stroke.
  
Reduce blood sugar. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the higher a person's blood sugar level is, the higher his or her risk of Diabetic Heart Disease (DHD). Diabetes alone is a very serious risk factor for heart disease. It’s been found that people who have type 2 diabetes have the same risk of heart attack and dying from heart disease as people who already have had heart attacks. In addition, people who have DHD tend to have less success with some heart disease treatments, such as coronary artery bypass grafting and percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary angioplasty. In addition, Diabetes is one of the top risk factors for stroke. 
 
According to Diabetic Living Online, a few of the things that you can do to reduce your blood sugar include: focusing on healthy sources of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy foods, etc.), reducing added sugars and sweets (soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, etc.), reducing fat intake (salad dressing, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.) and minimizing salt/sodium intake.
 
Eat healthier. Diet low in fat, low salt such as the Mediterranean Diet is recommended for better heart health. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes consuming: Plant based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, etc.); healthy fats (olive oil, canola oil, no butter, etc.), herbs and spices (instead of salt); fish and poultry twice per week, minimal red meat consumption (few times per month), and moderate consumption of red wine (optional).
 
Exercise more. Exercise is not only good for your heart and brain health, it’s also good for your mental health. It keeps you young. A recent study, published in 2017, evaluated segments of participants in the Framingham Study, the gold standard of studies related to cardio health. Their research revealed that low physical activity was associated with a higher risk for dementia in older individuals. The data suggests that a reduced risk of dementia and higher brain volumes may be additional health benefits of maintaining physical activity into old age.
 
Stop smoking. According to the British Heart Association, smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which includes coronary heart disease and stroke. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke. The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs. The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder. Research has shown that smoking cessation cuts the risk of a heart attack or stroke in half.
 
Lose weight. Dr. E. Dean Nukta, medical director of interventional cardiology at Fairview Hospital in Cleveland, states that "There is no doubt that just by losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight, you can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke." Losing 5-10 percent of your body weight lowers plaque forming fat in your blood vessels which reduces your heart’s workload and the risk of heart attack. In addition, reducing your weight lowers your blood fats (blood lipids), reduces your LDL cholesterol (bad), increases HDL cholesterol (good), and reduces probability of blood clots that can travel to your heart, lungs, and brain (stroke). Losing weight also reduces fat around your belly. A 2011 study published in the journal Cardiology found that even normal-weight people with a “beer belly” or “muffin top” and heart disease have an increased risk of death than those with differently distributed weight. 
 
Nukta suggests cutting back about 500 calories a day and getting at least 90 minutes of physical activity a week to get the ball rolling. Then work up that exercise routine to the American Heart Association recommended two-and-a-half hours a week.
 
Take action on improving your heart and brain health today. You’ll find that you have more energy, more focus, improved memory, and just feel better. For more information on memory and brain health, phone us at 530-297-6464 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 
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