The heart and the head are two vital organs in the human body. Each has its unique function. The heart pumps blood and oxygen throughout the body. The brain controls and organises all bodily functions. But what many people may not realise is that these two organs are complicatedly related. For example, a healthy heart depends on how the brain works.
The link between the heart and the brain begins with the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the central nervous system. It includes the brain and spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.
The peripheral nervous includes the nerves that run throughout the body. It is separated into two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is liable for the "fight or flight" response. It is activated when we are in danger or under stress. It causes the heart rate to increase and the blood vessels to constrict, preparing the body for action. The parasympathetic nervous system is blameable for the "rest and digest" response. It is activated when we are relaxed and at rest. It causes the heart rate to decrease and the blood vessels to dilate, allowing the body to rest and recover.
The balance between these two nervous system branches is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart. Chronic stress can prime to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems when the sympathetic nervous system is constantly activated. On the other hand, when the parasympathetic nervous system is not activated enough, it can lead to a lack of energy and vitality.
The brain also plays a role in regulating the heart by releasing hormones. The hypothalamus, a small but powerful brain region, controls the release of some hormones. For example, it secrets adrenaline and cortisol. They can affect the heart rate. These hormones are released in response to stress and can cause the heart rate to increase and blood vessels to constrict. On the other hand, the hormone oxytocin is released in response to positive emotions. Especially love and social types of bonding and feeling can cause the heart rate to decrease and the blood vessels to dilate.
Moreover, maintaining a healthy brain is also vital for keeping your heart healthy. A healthy brain can process information, make decisions, and control impulses. On the other hand, an unhealthy brain may lead to poor decision-making and impulsive behaviours. Those can increase the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that people with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are at a higher risk of heart disease.
Negative psychological states, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. For example, stress has been shown to contribute to the development of hypertension, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Anxiety and depression have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, as well as to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, positive psychological states, such as optimism, positive emotions, and social support, have been revealed to have protective effects on the heart. These positive states have been linked to reduced heart disease risk and improved recovery and survival rates following a heart attack. In addition to these direct effects on the heart, psychological states can also influence health behaviours that contribute to heart diseases, such as smoking, physical inactivity, and poor diet.
Heart health can affect the brain through cerebrovascular disease. It involves the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain. Atherosclerosis, or toughening of the arteries, is a common cause of cerebrovascular disease. When the arteries that stream blood to the brain become narrowed or blocked, it can lead to a stroke. Then it can cause permanent brain damage or even death. Another way heart health can affect the brain is through a condition called cerebral hypoperfusion. It happens when the brain does not have enough blood flow. This can happen because of heart failure, which can reason the heart to pump less capably. Cerebral hypoperfusion can lead to cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. Poor heart health can also lead to inflammation in the body, linked to brain health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Maintaining good heart health through lifestyle changes such as exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking can help to reduce the risk of brain health issues. It is also essential to have regular check-ups and screenings to detect and treat any potential heart issues before they affect the brain.
The heart and the head are intimately connected. The brain shows a key role in adaptable the heart and maintaining a healthy balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. A healthy brain also leads to better decision-making and impulse control, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Therefore, it's important to care for both the heart and the head to maintain overall health and well-being.
It is significant to track a balanced diet to maintain a healthy heart and brain. They should be low in saturated and trans fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition, regular physical activity, and exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, can help to improve cardiovascular health and lower the risk of heart disease.
Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and managing stress levels through yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can also help promote heart and brain health.
It is also essential to have regular check-ups with a doctor to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and glucose levels and to address any potential health issues early on. Taking prescribed medications as directed by a physician can also help to keep the heart and brain health.
It is recommended to get enough sleep and to keep the mind active by reading, writing, playing games, and doing puzzles, which can help to maintain cognitive function and prevent memory loss.
A healthy lifestyle that contains a balanced diet, regular physical activity, stress management, and regular check-ups can help to promote overall heart and brain health.
Dr Opurbo Chowdhury, Physician and Writer London, England. Contact: [email protected]
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