The Heart-Brain Connection

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Circulation, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 04/17/2014

When you look at your anatomy, the largest vessel to emerge from the left ventricle is your blood vessels of the heart and brainaorta. And right after it leaves the heart and feeds its own circulatory tree, the aorta has two major arteries—the carotids, which branch off to the head and shoot blood directly to the brain FIRST.

That's why, when dealing with any arrest of the heartbeat, we know that the brain is the first body organ to feel the pinch in blood flow. Like the heart, the brain requires the highest oxygen saturation of the body.

Your brain is nourished by one of your body’s richest networks of blood vessels. Dr. Sinatra refers to the heart–brain connection when it comes to emotions triggering cardiac problems, and there is one when it comes to caring for your body and your mind.

The cells of your brain use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen that your blood moves through your circulation with each heartbeat. And about 20 to 25 percent of that blood goes directly to your head. So, there's a dynamic dance between heart and brain, and some of the strongest evidence links brain health to heart health.

All the current research indicates that, just like the heart, your brain needs the proper balance of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and nutrients. The same Pan Asian Modified Mediterranean diet (PAMM) that Dr. Sinatra recommends to prevent cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders as well as promote overall optimum health, is a no-brainer when it comes to your mind. Everything that encourages healthy blood flow to your heart and organs will be heart-smart as well as brain-smart.

Eat Your Way to Better Brain Health


In a study of elderly women, researchers found that those women who ate the most green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables were two years younger than their counterparts in mental function. And while we may lack RDA-type information about what quantities of these foods are best for your brain, it certainly can’t hurt (and clearly helps!) to eat as many as we can in our everyday diet.

When it comes to brain health, the best nutrients are antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Here's a quick list of foods that are rich in these nutrients.

Antioxidants

  • Prunes;
  • Raisins;
  • Berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries);
  • Oranges;
  • Cherries;
  • Plums;
  • Red grapes;
  • Spinach;
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts;
  • Alfalfa sprouts;
  • Bell peppers
  • Beets;
  • Eggplant; and
  • Onions.

Essential Fatty Acids

  • Almonds,
  • Pecans,
  • Walnuts,
  • Olive oil,
  • Halibut,
  • Mackerel,
  • Salmon,
  • Trout, and
  • Tuna.

When it comes to fruits and veggies, Dr. Sinatra and I like to juice them raw in order to get the maximum freshness, enzyme activity, and antioxidant boost. Remember, darker skins on your produce means more powerful antioxidant activity.

In addition to being rich in essential fatty acids, nuts can be essential for vitamin E. And when it comes to eating fish, remember to bake or grill rather than frying.

Dr. Sinatra is currently working on a brain fitness program, which you'll learn more about in the future. In the meantime, you can find great cardiovascular nutrition tips on Dr. Sinatra’s Web site.

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