How Are Heart and Brain Health Related?

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Update Date 12/05/2020
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What helps your heart can help your brain, too. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your chances of having a brain tumor, and it can also make a big difference in your mental abilities as you age.
In fact, getting plenty of physical activity, eating a healthy diet and other behaviors that strengthen your heart can have a profound effect on the way you think, how you act and what you remember.

Healthy heart

The human heart is one of the most important muscular organs in the human body. It works extremely hard to pump blood to every part of the body. On average, the heart beats 70 times per minute for a person in rest and increases if a person is physically active or has a strong emotional experience.  Each heartbeat pumps blood around the body, pushing it from the left heart chambers, through arteries of ever-decreasing size, finally reaching the capillaries in all parts of the body. Once the body has taken oxygen and nutrients from the blood, it flows from the veins back into the right chambers of the heart.  On its way back, the blood passes through the liver and waste products are removed. This process of gathering nutrients and removing waste from the blood is important because a clean and healthy blood supply is essential for the heart to function properly.

Healthy brain

The brain is the most complex and unique organ in the human body. It not only controls your intellectual functions such as your thoughts, ability to speak and emotions, but it also controls involuntary functions such as your other organ systems. Due to its central control, the brain can alter the body’s movement quickly if there is a change in the environment. Just like the heart, the brain also depends on a healthy blood supply. It gets its supply from two large vessels that stretch down either side of the neck and connect to the heart. These blood vessels then branch off into cerebral arteries in the brain to deliver the nutrient rich blood from the heart to every part of the brain. The term cerebrovascular refers to these blood vessels and their connection from the heart to the brain. When a person has a blockage in either of the two blood vessels they suffer from a cerebrovascular disease, also known as a stroke.

Healthy heart equals healthy brain

Researchers studied a racially diverse group of older adults and found that having more ideal cardiovascular health factors was associated with better brain processing speed at the study’s start and less cognitive decline approximately six years later.

The researchers found:

  • Having more ideal cardiovascular health factors was associated with better brain processing speed at the initial assessment.
  • The association was strongest for being a non-smoker, having ideal fasting glucose and ideal weight.
  • Having more cardiovascular health factors was associated with less decline over time in processing speed, memory and executive functioning. Executive function in the brain is associated with focusing, time management and other cognitive skills.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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