Secrets for Healthier Hearts and Sharper Minds By Dr. Stephen Sinatra, cardiologist, Healthy Directions
A sharp mind and a healthy heart are both keys to living a long, healthy life. However, did you know that your heart and brain – two seemingly different organs – are highly connected? In fact, they are highly dependent on one another. As a result, your brain and heart act almost as a figurative game of dominos – when one falls, the other falls with it. That’s why I’ve made it my mission as a cardiologist to focus as much on brain health as I do on heart health.
Making the Connection Between the Heart and Brain
Your brain acts as the control center of your body, giving orders here and there to ensure that your natural bodily functions continue without issue. However, there are times when the signals your brain is sending to the different parts of your body can go awry. This can directly affect the heart because faulty signals can send its rhythm into haywire.
These two organs are further intertwined because of their relationships with the vascular system, which both depend on to bring them oxygen and nutrients while carrying away any waste.
Plus, both organs are highly susceptible to several ailments that can affect their efficacy. The main culprits include oxidative stress, disruptions in blood flow and chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be brought on by a lack of exercise, poor diet and exposure to pollutants, among other triggers. The intricate network of your brain and the 100 billion cells (or neurons) that make it up are even more vulnerable than your heart to these stressors.
The good news is that many of the same recommendations I make for keeping your heart healthy also boost the health of your brain and entire body. Here are some of the most important things that you can do to nurture the heart-brain connection:
- Switch Up Your Diet: I’ve always been a proponent of the Mediterranean diet. Another diet that I recommend for heart and brain health combines elements of the Mediterranean diet with elements from the Asian side of the Pacific Rim, also known as the Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean (PAMM) diet. This diet puts an emphasis on healthy fats derived from sources like fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil and DHA-fortified eggs, supporting overall brain health. In addition, the diet includes considerable amounts of vegetables and fruits. While doing this, you should also keep in mind the importance of limiting processed sugars and simple carbohydrates, two major contributors to inflammation.
- Be Wary of Chronic Stress: Believe it or not, stress can play a major role in the health of your brain and heart. When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” Short-term stress is okay because the body can return to normal. However, chronic stress accompanied by high levels of cortisol can affect the regions of the brain associated with memory and emotion, causing your autonomic nervous system to be on constant alert. Making time for exercise, maintaining health sleep cycles, and connecting with people around you can help combat stress. Additionally, you can practice meditation, yoga and breathing exercises to help.
- Put the Kibosh on “Invisible” Brain Threats: When people think of invisible pollutants, they typically think of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. However, there are other invisible pollutants out there that can affect the brain directly. Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are emitted by everything from cell phones to wireless networks. Even home appliances can emit these EMFs that affect the electrical currents within your body, including the crucial ones tasked with regulating your heartbeat and the synapses in your brain. Limiting EMF exposure can be tough, but it’s also extremely important. Some steps include using a corded landline and only using your cellphone on speaker, which limits the exposure of radiation to your brain. You can also hardwire your computer instead of using Wi-Fi. Lastly, you can engage in earthing, which is when you connect to the Earth by walking barefoot or using a grounding pad, protecting you from EMF radiation.
- Know the Link Between Your Brain and Statins: When looking at your medication list, it is crucial to be aware of cholesterol-lowering statins. These drugs suppress the production of cholesterol and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), resulting in brain fog. Additionally, lowering your cholesterol too much can also affect brain function since it depends on cholesterol to process information.
- Keep a Close Eye on Your Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can pose a threat in ensuring your brain gets the oxygen it needs. Your brain takes about 20% of the oxygen you breathe, so a healthy blood pressure of around 120/80 mmHg will help maintain that. Include foods like beets, garlic, onions, and apples to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
- Step Up Your Supplement Game: If you don’t have a solid supplement routine, now is the time to find a regimen that works for you. I recommend starting with a good multivitamin, CoQ10 (100 mg daily if you are taking a statin), omega-3 and magnesium. All these supplements will help support brain and heart health. For added protection, my new Focal Point Plus supplement uses a unique combination of clinically validated ingredients including Longvida Optimized Curcumin, CogniBoost American Ginseng, and vitamin K2 menaquinone-7 (MK7), which together can help support cognitive health and memory, healthy blood flow and arterial health.
As I mentioned at the start, think of your heart and brain as two dominos sitting next to one another. In optimal positions, they work in tandem—but when one falters, it can take the other one with it, leaving your entire body vulnerable. So, it’s important to keep both organs in tip-top shape so they can support you for a lifetime.
About Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is one of the most highly respected and sought-after cardiologists whose integrative approach to treating cardiovascular disease has revitalized patients with even the most advanced forms of illness. He has more than 40 years of clinical practice, research, and study, starting his career as an attending physician at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Connecticut. He is known as one of America’s top integrative cardiologists, combining conventional medical treatments for heart disease with complementary nutritional, anti-aging, and psychological therapies. He is an author, speaker and adviser for the research and development of nutritional supplements with Healthy Directions. Sinatra is a best-selling author of more than a dozen books, including, “Heartbreak and Heart Disease,” “The Great Cholesterol Myth,” “Reversing Heart Disease Now “Heart Sense for Women,” “The Sinatra Solution” and “Metabolic Cardiology.”