A Healthy Heart Equals A Healthy Mind

A study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association looked at 1,504 people of the decades-long Framingham Offspring Cohort study to examine brain and heart MRI information. The participants, who ranged from 34 – 84 years old, displayed signs that their brains began to shrink as they age. Brain atrophy has long been considered a sign of aging, and is more severe in people with dementia.
"The results are interesting in that they suggest cardiac index and brain health are related," Angela L. Jefferson, Ph.D., the study's lead author and associate professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine, “The association cannot be attributed to cardiovascular disease because the relationship also was seen when we removed those participants with known cardiovascular disease from our analyses."
But participants with a poorer Cardiac index -- a measure of heart health -- and whose hearts pumped less blood had brains that appeared an average of two years older than those with normal cardiac output. This was true even for healthy people with no indications of cardiovascular disease but who had more 'sluggish' hearts. This link was found both in younger people (in their 30s) who did not have heart disease, as well as older participants who did. Yet the exact cause for a link between heart function and brain volume is still not fully understood.
"There are several theories for why reduced cardiac index might affect brain health. For instance, a lower volume of blood pumping from the heart might reduce blood flow to the brain, providing less oxygen and fewer nutrients needed for brain cells. It is too early to dole out health advice based on this one finding but it does suggest that heart and brain health go hand in hand." -- Angela Jefferson
So if a youthful brain goes hand in hand with a healthy heart, what are the best ways to keep both in shape? Although we can do little change some risk factors such as family history or age, The Mayo Clinic provides a few tips to preventing cardiovascular disease.

Don't smoke

Smoking or using other tobacco products is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals, many of which can damage your heart and blood vessels, making them more vulnerable to narrowing of the arteries -- which can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

The nicotine in cigarettes also causes the heart to work harder by narrowing blood vessels and increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Cigarette smoke also contains carbon monoxide, and this replaces some of the oxygen in your blood -- which in turn increases your blood pressure by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. Even "social smokers" -- who only smoke while at a bar or restaurant with friends -- face an increased risk of heart disease.

The good news? Once you quit smoking -- no matter how long or how much you smoked -- your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year of quitting.

Get moving

Regular exercise not only reduces risk of fatal heart disease, but it also helps to control your weight and reduce chances of developing other conditions that can strain the heart such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Exercise also reduces stress, which is thought to be a factor in heart disease.

How much exercise is enough? Current guidelines recommend at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits and activities like gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog all count toward a healthier heart.

Eat heart-friendly foods

To enhance heart health, choose foods are those that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Think of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Legumes, low-fat dairy and low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce risk of heart disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids -- a type of polyunsaturated fat -- are another component of a heart-friendly diet. They can decrease risk of heart attack, protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Some fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are a good natural source of omega-3s. Other sources include flaxseed oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and canola oil, and they can also be found in supplements.

Saturated and trans fat, on the other hand, increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. Major sources of saturated fat include beef, butter, cheese, milk, and coconut and palm oils.

Trans fat may be even worse than saturated fat. This is because unlike saturated fat, it both raises your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol, and lowers your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol. Sources of trans fat include some deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods, margarines and crackers. Look at the label for the term "partially hydrogenated" to avoid trans fat.

Watch your weight

It's been widely reported that obesity rates are on the rise in North America among both adults and children. These extra pounds (especially around the mid-section) can take a toll on your health – but keep in mind that even small reductions in weight can produce big benefits. Reducing your weight by just 10 per cent can decrease blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol level and reduce risk of diabetes.

Get regular health screenings

Be sure to stay on top of your numbers: High blood pressure and high cholesterol cause damage to your heart and blood vessels. But without regular testing, you won't know if you have these conditions or if you need to take action.

Source: 50plus.com

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4 Responses to “A Healthy Heart Equals A Healthy Mind”

  1. nicole says:

    Great! I really like it and I want to try it now! I was looking for lower cholesterol, since I have unhealthy cholesterol level I've been trying to find ways to get rid of it without spending much.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Exercise never hurt anyone...

  3. Tina Felluss says:

    Exercise is great for heart health. As a novel way to build a healthy heart, mind and spirit, why not look into Nia? It's a fusion of dance/movement, the martial arts and the healing arts...a total mind/body experience...and it's fun!

  4. David Whittle says:

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