The heart and the brain – two vital organs of human body – are deeply intertwined. It wouldn’t be wrong to say, ‘what affects the heart also affects the brain’. Factors that affect the health of blood vessels affect the heart and also the brain, as there are hundreds of blood vessels in the brain. In the event of disruption of blood flow to the brain, there may be disruption in thinking, memory and other functions regulated by the brain.
Heart and its network of blood vessels is vital for brain health, and vice-versa. Clinical studies have revealed that people with depression, anxiety and schizophrenia develop cardiovascular disease or CVD, irrespective of their age. Research also suggests that people with cardiovascular disease are likely to develop dementia in later years of life. So, it’s imperative to maintain brain-heart health for healthier life.
Here are some ways to enhance the healthy connection between the heart and brain.
Spending some time in meditation every day can be effective in calming the mind. Studies reveal that people who devoted 15-20 minutes in meditation had improved blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, responsible for cognitive function, decision making and social behaviours. Besides it’s associated with reduced anxiety and mood upliftment. Meditation also reduces stress and is effective in alleviating cardiovascular risks.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the first step towards healthy heart and healthy brain. Research suggests that people who exercise regularly have better cardiovascular health, improved blood flow to the brain, decreased inflammation, and reduced production of stress hormone. This shows that physical exercise offers several benefits to your body. But studies reveal that regular exercises have positive effect on human brain as well. For instance, exercising increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex and improves white matter integrity that results in increased cognitive capacity. It also promotes neuroplasticity, which is the ability of nerve cells in the brain to form new neural connections and adaptability throughout life. Neuroplasticity is especially visible in brain’s hippocampus area, the seat of memory functions.
So, even 150 minutes of moderate exercises per week will improve your physical fitness and both your heart and brain will thank you for it.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT involves breathing almost pure oxygen in a special high-pressure room. The air pressure is almost three times higher than normal air pressure, creating conditions for lungs to take in more oxygen, which is carried by blood throughout the body.
Availability of increased oxygen to blood vessels and tissues, accelerate the healing process by helping your body to release growth factors and stem cells. Most importantly, the enhanced oxygen supply helps in reduction of inflammation in the heart and brain. Doctors prescribe HBOT to people suffering from severe anaemia, brain abscess, arterial gas embolism, burns, decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, nonhealing wounds like diabetic foot ulcer, and more.
Studies have shown that HBOT when applied to people experiencing heart attack reduces the volume of muscular death. HBOT is especially helpful in treatment of patients who have low blood flow to the cerebral area. This oxygen therapy has been effectively used on patients with brain injuries, ranging from concussions to mild traumatic injuries (TBIs) that took place many years ago, and sometimes decades earlier.
Food for heart-brain health
Healthy heart and healthy brain require nutritious diet that provides proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vital minerals & vitamins for your body. Ingestion of the right vitamins will protect your brain, enhance cognitive function, avert memory loss, maintain healthy blood pressure and reduce stroke risks or heart conditions.
Here are some essential vitamins to boost your heart & brain health.
Thiamin (Vitamin B-1) – has vital function of helping nerves and the brain to communicate with rest of the body. It is found in abundance in sunflower seeds, bean, pork and whole grains.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2) – helps in preventing plaque build-up in heart, alleviates some types of headaches and aids in energy production. Abundantly found in lean meat, eggs, almonds, and green leafy vegetables.
Folic acid (Vitamin B-9) – protects brain health, uplifts mood and in certain cases it may help in fighting heart diseases. Natural sources of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, beans and orange.
Vitamin B-12 – has been found to be effective in reducing risk of heart disease, uplift mood and helpful in maintaining nerve and blood health. Meat, fish and dairy products are rich in vitamin B-12.
Vitamin D – helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure and supports nerve health. Food sources of vitamin D includes fish, eggs and dairy products.
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) – strengthens the immune system, decreases inflammation, stimulates collagen production and regulates blood pressure. Broccoli, kale, lemon, oranges and other citrus fruits are high on vitamin C.
Omega 3 fatty acids – supports brain health, helps in reducing inflammation, and maintains healthy blood pressure and cholesterol. Oily fish, flaxseeds and nuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acid.
Coenzyme Q10 – is high on antioxidant and helps brain cells to combat free radicals. Several studies have shown that Coenzyme Q10 may be helpful in treating heart diseases. Rich sources of Coenzyme Q10 are organ meat, fatty fish and cruciferous veggies.
Healthy brain and healthy heart is the crux of human health, a fact harnessed by the medical community. The connection between the heart and brain has been understood by health professionals from ancient times and applied in their wellness treatments. So, when you take care of your heart, you are also taking care of your brain, and promoting your brain health means you are promoting your heart health.