High blood pressure not only damages the arteries in your heart, but also in your brain. It increases your risk for stroke and memory loss later in life along with many other diseases. Here’s how you can improve your brain, heart, and overall health.
Brain-Blood Pressure Link
Your brain is fed by one of the richest networks of blood vessels in your body. When blood vessels are damaged and circulation to the brain is reduced, it can lead to vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia. (Alzheimer’s is the most common.) You can develop vascular dementia after a stroke when blood flow is blocked and your brain is deprived of oxygen.
Types of Strokes
87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, that is, the stroke is caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. A clot or rupture in the blood vessel is usually the cause.
13% of all strokes are hemorrhagic strokes which can be more deadly. These kinds of strokes occur when an artery in the brain ruptures or leaks. High blood pressureis typically the cause of this kind of stroke.
Link to Disease
High blood pressure is often at the root of many diseases as well as conditions, such as inflammation. Chronic systemic inflammation plays a key role in chronic disease and pain, such as:
Strokes are afflicting more young Americans — it’s no longer a disease of the elderly and is the leading cause of death worldwide. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and high blood pressure leads as the cause. Here’s how one particular change in your diet can reduce your risk.
Strokes in Young People
The risk of stroke increases with age, but actor Luke Perry was only 52 when he had a massive stroke and died. When you’re younger (middle-aged) and have a stroke, it is especially dangerous.
Immediately after a stroke, your brain swells (a.k.a. cerebral edema, brain edema, or elevated intracranial pressure). Swelling is your body’s response to many types of injury.
As you grow older, your brain shrinks which is a cause of memory problems and cognitive decline as you age. But when you’re younger and your brain swells after a stroke, there’s no room within your snug-fitting skull for expansion.
As a result, your swelled brain presses up against the inside of your skull. A younger person will experience more intense pressure which can peak three to five days after a stroke.
The pressure constricts blood flow to your brain and deprives it of oxygen while at the same time, it also blocks fluids from leaving your brain, so the brain swelling alone, can cause death.
NOTE: Sometimes the skull will have to be cut open and removed to relieve the pressure (decompressive craniectomy). A scope may also be used to drain cerebrospinal fluid or blood.
Strongest Risk Factors for Stroke
One in 3 U.S. adults has at least one of the following conditions or habits:
High blood pressure
Nitrates and Blood Pressure
Eating foods high in compounds called nitrates is a natural way to treat hypertension and reduce risk of a vascular event, such as a stroke or heart attack. Nitrates are vasodilators that widen (dilate) your blood vessels, and they protect against endothelial dysfunction.
Previous studies showed that drinking beet root juice dilated blood vessels and increased blood flow to the regions of the brain involved in executive functioning. In this study, 70+ year-olds ate a high-nitrate breakfast with 16 oz. of beet juice for four days.
Also, studies have shown that beet roots or beet root juice can reduce your blood pressure by up to 4-10 points over a period of a few hours. Beetroot juice lowered blood pressure 1 hour after drinking it with a peak drop in blood pressure occurring after 3 to 4 hours.
NOTE: If you’re a heart patient, you’re familiar with nitroglycerin and never leave home without it. Nitroglycerin or “nitro” is a heart medicine for angina* and belongs to a group of medicines called nitrates. As a vasodilator, it dilates the blood vessels and increases the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart.
*Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Pain can also occur in the jaw, neck, throat, shoulders, arms, or back.
Heart disease is often blamed on genetics (your mom, dad, grandparents…) BUT over 360,000 Americans manage to kill themselves each year from the food they eat. Cardiovascular disease is the country’s number one killer and coronary artery diseaseor ischemic heart disease (where plaque-filled arteries literally choke off oxygen to your heart) leads the way.
Coronary heart disease accounts for 1 in 7 deaths in the United States per year. But plaque not only builds up in your coronary arteries, it builds up in the vessels of your brain as well. And the result? Your brain shrinks.
BRAIN CELLS DIE
Unfortunately, the fat-laden, sugar-heavy junk you consume (and find so addictive) often packs on pounds around your middle. Abdominal obesity has been shown to kill brain cells. According to a study published in the Annals of Neurology, having more belly fat is associated with a decrease in total brain volume in middle-aged adults.
Lifestyle diseases are diseases that occur primarily as a result of your daily habits. Some of the main contributing factors include: bad food habits, physical inactivity, stress, and an aging biological clock.
Diabetes (A Model of Accelerated Aging)
The connection between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia are real and strong.
Experts are now referring to the progression from type 2 diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to type 3 diabetes or brain diabetes. It occurs when neurons in the brain become unable to respond to insulin which is essential for memory and learning.
There is considerable evidence that diabetes is related to brain diseases. Younger diabetics suffer a variety of degenerative diseases earlier and with greater severity than non-diabetics and seem to age more rapidly than normal.
People with type 2 diabetes are 50-65% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people with normal blood sugars.
Coronary Artery Disease
Research shows if you get cardiovascular disease, it is likely to affect your cognitive function. Plaque builds up in your brain as well as your heart. Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol disrupt communication between nerve cells in your brain and contribute to memory and mental destruction.
As the population ages, it is expected that dementia incidences will increase 400% in the next 20 years. A 27-year studyfound obese people were 74% more likely to have dementia, while overweight people were 35% more likely.
Possible speculation is that substances such as leptin, a hormone released by visceral or “belly” fat may have some adverse effects on the brain. Leptin plays a role in appetite regulation but also in learning and memory.
Yesterday, a 77-year-old gentleman under my care complained of increasing memory decline. When I tested him, he was only able to recall 2 words out of 10 on his objective memory assessment. He felt like he “failed” the test. After our first Brain Boot Camp session, he recalled 20 out of 20 words!!! As you can imagine, he felt pretty encouraged. I was thrilled!
Take care of your brain now. The brain shrinks a decade BEFORE signs of Alzheimer’s disease appears. The earliest stages of Alzheimer’s may begin as many as 20 YEARS BEFORE the disease is severe enough to be diagnosed. It’s much easier to protect healthy brain cells than it is to try to revive dead ones.