Heart Problems Linked to Alzheimer's and Dementia
Have you ever heard the saying, let your heart do the talking instead of your brain - or vice versa? Probably only hundreds of times. Beyond being just a popular expression, though, there exists a close relationship between these two fundamental organs that can impact our health.
We already know that emotions and certain mental states can affect the heart, to the point of creating an experience like that of a heart attack. It has also been proven that people with heart conditions are more likely to develop dementia, which occurs more easily in women. Let's look at why.
The importance of identifying the link
It is estimated that, by 2030, there will be 60 million people in the world with dementia. Learning about preventative measures would be an accurate, comprehensive, and timely way of viewing that statistic. New data is published daily proving the close connection between brain and heart. In 2012, the first international conference (called the Heart & Brain Conference) on the subject was held in Paris, France, with the purpose of initiating a global approach to dementia prevention and treatments. They recognized that cardiovascular risk factors directly affect cognitive function, increasing the possibility of diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. (1)
One fundamental fact in understanding the importance of addressing the care of both organs in a unified approach is knowing the risk factors that can produce a heart attack. Narrowing of the blood vessels and preventing the flow of sufficient blood and oxygen to the heart can also cause damage to the brain. Factors like obesity, hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking, drivers of heart disease, are the same factors involved in cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The wake-up call for postmenopausal women
The American Heart Association in 2013 published the follow-up results to an interdisciplinary initiative they called the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), conducted among eleven universities and hospitals in Germany and the United States. The study followed 6455 postmenopausal women, aged 65 to 79, who all had full use of cognitive abilities. The purpose was to evaluate, after an average of 8 years, the incidence of cognitive impairment or decline based on their health conditions.(2)
The results demonstrated that women with cardiovascular disease tended to develop a higher risk of cognitive impairment. Within this group, those with myocardial infarction or other vascular disease had the highest risk of cognitive impairment. Those with angina pectoris had a moderate risk of dementia. (2) The loss of estrogen during menopause increases the risk of developing heart problems in women, due to the protective role of this hormone, which is no longer abundantly present after menopause. (3)
Always the same risk factors
If you frequent our blogs, you may already know that the risk factors for most ailments are usually the same: high blood pressure, prediabetes or diabetes, excess weight, inactivity, and inadequate nutrition. We didn't invent that formula, and these health problems disproportionately affect Hispanics and women. The WHIMS study showed that factors like hypertension and diabetes, with diabetes being the worst of the two, increase the possibility of cognitive decline, even in women who do not suffer from heart disease. (2)
We always hear about the importance of controlling lipids, such as LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, to keep the mind healthy. Yet, there are other aspects, like hypertension and diabetes, also potentially increase the risk of dementia, a disease that causes so much pain in families.
The power of prevention
The nice side to all this is that these risk factors are avoidable. We have enough evidence proving we can control our habits TODAY to have a better quality of life tomorrow. Controlling lipid levels, weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar promotes cardiac and brain health. (4) (5)
Supplementation is an excellent way to help. Omega-3 oils are one of the best options, since they contain docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. It is the most important omega-3 fatty acid present in both the brain and heart, vital for maintaining the proper functioning of both. There is a direct relationship of Omega-3 decrease in patients with Alzheimer's disease, as well as in healthy people with cognitive impairment and coronary problems. By raising Omega-3 levels in the body, triglycerides decrease and HDL or good cholesterol increases, among other benefits. This supplement also helps improve the brain, specifically learning and memory, especially as we age. (6)
Another supplement that can help is nopal. Its role has been identified in helping reduce problems associated with metabolic syndrome, especially diabetes, via fiber content and other components. (7)
Talk to your doctor to find a comprehensive way to prevent and treat risk factors, with the goal of achieving the greatest long-term well-being of both your brain and heart.
Let's get healthier, together.
Your Santo Remedio Team
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