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:
You vowed to eat a heart-healthy diet and have been pretty successful, but every once in a while you can’t resist splurging on a big fat juicy cheeseburger and a thick, creamy milk shake. So is that really all that bad? Find out if an occasional surge of fat in your diet is okay.
The ‘Shake and Cake’ Study
The Heart Research Institute in Australia performed the following “carrot cake and milkshake” test. This well-known research was published in the American College of Cardiology. The subjects were normal weight men and women, age 18 to 40, with no cardiovascular risk factors or established heart disease.
Each participant consumed fat in the form of a slice of carrot cake and a milkshake. They had to eat one gram of fat per kilogram of body weight (i.e., one gram of fat for every 2.2 pounds).
For example, a 200-lb person (91 kg) had to eat 91 grams of fat or the equivalent of eating all of the following at one meal:
Double 1/4 pounder with cheese (45 g total fat) = 700 cal.
Large order of French fries (24 total fat) = 510 cal.
Large vanilla milkshake (22 g total fat) = 800 cal.
DAY 1: The subjects ate the carrot cake and milkshake that were made with SAFFLOWER OIL which is predominantly polyunsaturated fat. Then 3 hours and 6 hours after they ate, the scientists measured their blood flow (endothelial function) and assessed how well their HDL (“good cholesterol”) was protecting their arteries from inflammation.
DAY 2 (one month later): The subjects returned and ate another carrot cake and milkshake meal that contained the same amount of calories and fat except thetype of fat used was different. Instead of polyunsaturated fat, the cake and shake contained COCONUT OIL which is 90% saturated fat. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.
The Role of HDL (“Good Cholesterol”)
HDL cholesterol is “supposed” to be anti-inflammatory, that is, they suppress inflammatory molecules from multiplying.When arteries become inflamed:
Substances adhere to the artery wall.
Arterial plaques can rupture. A blood clot forms around the rupture blocking the artery, resulting in a possible heart attack.
The Results: Sludge in Your Arteries After Eating Just ONE Fatty Meal
Research shows if you don’t take care of the “inner lining” of your blood vessels, you may be setting yourself up for heart disease or a stroke. Here are some important tips to improve how long and how well your arteries function.
The Relevance of “Endothelial Dysfunction”
The inner lining of your blood vessels is called the “endothelium”. Endothelial function declines with age and is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. When the lining fails to function optimally, it’s called “endothelial dysfunction” or ED. Think of a healthy endothelium as being smooth (think Teflon®) where nothing sticks to it.
ED refers to a spectrum of damaging changes that take place in the endothelium, such as the smooth inner lining becomes inflamed and “rough” (think sandpaper) from the constant assaults of substances like sodium, high blood sugar, and cortisol (stress hormone). When the endothelium becomes rough, arterial plaque* sticks to the artery wall (think spackling paste or putty).
*Plaque is fatty, waxy substance made up of materials, such as fat, cholesterol, calcium, waste products from cells, and fibrin (a clotting agent).
When Plaque Builds Up and Ruptures
As more plaque deposits build up, your artery narrows and reduces blood flow. This is known as “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerosis. Plaque not only accumulates in the arteries, it can also rupture and create a blood clot at the ruptured area. Your body sees this rupture as an “injury” and rushes to repair it with platelets (or “thrombocytes”) to rapidly cover up the rupture and form a plug, or clot.
Platelets are very large colorless blood cells (think super glue). They help wounds heal and form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs in injured blood vessels.
When Plaque Breaks Away
Ruptured plaque can also break away and travel through the blood to other areas in your body and cause a blood clot. If the clot is big enough, it can block the flow of blood to arteries in various organs — e.g., lungs (pulmonary embolism), heart (heart attack), or brain (stroke).
Researchers studied 55,000 adults aged 18 to 100 for over 15 years. They studied the following:
Whether they ran
How long they lived
Physicians recorded and analyzed the following:
Resting blood pressure
Body mass index (BMI)
Cardiorespiratory fitness (assessed using a maximal treadmill stress test)
Health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure-time physical activity)
Physician-diagnosed medical conditions
Parental history of cardiovascular disease
The study excluded analyses from individuals who reported participating in other activities besides running (e.g, cycling, swimming, walking, basketball, racquet sports, aerobic dance, and other sports-related activities).
The Results (Compared with Non-Runners):
Runners had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes .
Runners had a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Runners had a 50% lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
Cardiorespiratory fitness is a strong predictor of morbidity and mortality. (Morbidity is the condition of being unhealthy, ill, or diseased. Morbidity is the condition of being dead.) Runners had approximately 30% higher cardiorespiratory fitness than non-runners.
If You’re “Unhealthy”, Can You Still Benefit from Running?
One out of three adults has pre-diabetes, that’s, over 84 million people — and nine out of ten don’t even know they have it. Diabetes increases your risk of death by fifty percent. Many are familiar with the link between diabetes and eating too much refined sugar, but did you know there’s a diabetes link to potassium too?
The Battle with Blood Sugar
Your body processes the food you eat and turns it into a sugar called glucose. Diabetes is marked by high levels of glucose in your blood (hyperglycemia).This happens because glucose is ‘locked out’ from getting into your cells and starts to build up in your blood.
Blood sugar is a precious fuel for your body, but when it’s persistently high, glucose can damage nerves and vessels. Since glucose circulates throughout your entire body, high levels can cause damage anywhere.
Diabetes-related complications include:
Blood vessel damage that increases your risk of stroke and heart attack
Poor blood circulation
Nerve and vessel damage to your eyes (retinopathy), feet, and kidneys
What is Insulin?
Insulin (produced by the pancreas) is the hormone that’s needed for the glucose in your blood to enter your cells. Think of insulin as the ‘key’ that unlocks the cell door and lets glucose in. Without the ‘key’, your organs are starved of essential energy and can lead to cell death.
Types of Diabetes
The two most common forms of diabetes, known as Type 1 and Type 2, are distinctly different:
1. Type 1 diabetes mellitus: You DO NOT PRODUCE INSULIN and are unable to control the sugar in your blood. This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells of your pancreas.
2. Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM): With this type, you DO NOT USE INSULIN efficiently and are unable to control the sugar in your blood.
90% of diabetes cases are type 2.
In T2DM, your cells become resistant to insulin. Your pancreas goes into overdrive producing more and more insulin in a futile attempt to get the glucose into your cells. As a result, your pancreas can eventually wear out (become permanently damaged) and can no longer produce enough insulin.
High blood sugar levels can erode your cells’ ability to make insulin. T2DM is preventable whereas Type 1 is not.
Waist Size and Diabetes
People who are overweight or obese, particularly with visceral fat (i.e., belly fat), are more likely to develop T2DM, but even normal weight individuals can develop diabetes.
If you’re a man and your waistline is over 40 inches, your risk for diabetes is 12 times higher than someone with a normal healthy size waist.
Normal waist size is half your height in inches. Therefore, weight loss is the primary goal in treating this form of type 2 diabetes.
What is Potassium?
Potassium is an electrolyte and mineral that helps keep your bodily fluids at the proper level.If your fluids are at normal levels, you can:
Contract your muscles without pain
Keep your heart beating correctly
Keep your brain functioning at its highest capability
Muscle cramps to more serious conditions, such as seizures, are symptoms of potassium deficiency which also means fluid imbalance.