Improving Heart Health Means Better Brain Functioning, Research Says

heart health
General Health

heart healthYou wouldn’t necessarily correlate a healthy heart to a better-functioning brain or the ability to earn more money over your lifetime. But researchers who published a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association have noted a curious link between cardiovascular viability and cognitive performance – even someone’s ability to hold down a high-paying job.

Even more interesting is that those who had lower incomes and lived in the ‘stroke belt’ were more likely to have cognitive damage. Stroke belt states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, where the incident of stroke is high. Learning and memory problems were exaggerated in people with heart conditions.

Cardiovascular Health Affects Learning

The study looked at 17,761 people aged 45 and older at the outset who had normal cognitive function and no history of stroke. Mental function was evaluated after four years. Individuals with the poorest cardiovascular health scores were more likely to have impairment in learning than their counterparts with intermediate or better risk profiles, as demonstrated on memory and verbal fluency tests

Lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University Department of Health Science, in Provo, Utah, said:

“Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function. This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

Natural Ways to Improve Heart Health

While many are referred to cardiologists to counteract poor heart health, there are numerous natural remedies for a bad heart:

  • 1. Eat More Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate has been shown to lower cardiovascular disease significantly. Cacao is full of flavanoids, flavanols, antioxidants, and other plant compounds that can lower blood pressure and make blood less likely to clot in an unhealthy manner, making platelets less sticky.
  • 2. Get Active – Heart health can be drastically improved with physical exercise. The American Heart Association’s Committee on Exercise and Cardiac Rehabilitation of the Council on Clinical Cardiology says all Americans should get physically active as a surefire way to improve heart health.
  • 3. Eliminate Stress – Meditation is one of the most effective ways to eliminate stress – one of the primary causes of declining heart health and health in general. According to TM.org psychological stress has been shown to increase activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. This increased activation releases adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, which lead to faster heart rate, increased cardiac output, and narrower arteries. Meditation can reverse this process.
  • 4. Yoga – Harvard Medical corroborates what ancient yogis have known for centuries – yoga can help boost heart health. The practice can be a “boon for people with high blood pressure, heart failure, and other forms of cardiovascular disease.”