The Heart-Brain Connection

hh-article-7.jpgNatural strategies for heart health can also boost brain power and help maintain mental functionality throughout your life.

Memory loss is associated with the same risk factors as heart disease. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle and elevated inflammatory proteins, all of these contribute to poor heart health and poor memory. (We all experience ‘senior moments,’ even in our forties and fifties, but such simple, momentary lapses are normal and are not signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.)

Maintaining a good memory depends on four things:

  1. Healthy brain cells
  2. Good cardiovascular functioning for oxygen transport
  3. Adequate levels of certain neuro-transmitters for neuron-to-neuron communication
  4. Mental stimulation

Serious memory problems can usually be prevented. A region of the brain involved in memory storage — the hippocampus — is unusually sensitive to damage from free radicals. What can we do to avoid this?

The same diet that helps your heart helps your brain:

  • Limit your calories and stay away from junk food.
  • Eat more fish and vegetables and drink antioxidant-rich green or herbal tea.
  • Supplement your diet with antioxidant nutrients like vitamins C and E, Co Q10 and beta-carotene, as well as omega-3s from flaxseeds and fish oils.
  • Drink one glass of wine each day.
  • Get enough sleep, and learn to relax (meditate or take a solitary walk daily).
  • Interact with close friends or family.
  • Do some form of exercise each day (enough to get your heart rate up).

All of these help your heart’s health, and also help prevent cognitive decline!

All those habits can improve your general well being and heart health, but to specifically aid your brain and memory:

  • Add tumeric-rich curry to your meals (or take curcumin in capsules). This anti-aging nutrient appears to help prevent mental degeneration. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in India is less than a quarter of that in the U.S.
  • Ginseng is an ancient tonic that slows aging and helps the brain.
  • Gingko biloba, a Chinese herbal remedy to improve brain function.
  • Read, dance, do cross-words and constantly learn new things, all of which promote new dendrite growth and neural connections.
  • Stop worrying! Worry stimulates the creation of stress hormones like cortisol and actually impairs the brain’s hippocampus, reducing memory and mental clarity.

We can all stay younger, feel better, live longer and think more clearly with these strategies. Our heart health and brain health are interconnected. Let’s ‘remember’ to keep them both strong!

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