Archive for the ‘dr. daniel amen’ Tag

Dr. Daniel Amen, “Blood Pressure and the Brain”

“Brain in the News” is a weekly commentary on how brain science relates to the news. The brain is involved in everything we do. Wherever there are human stories the brain is involved. From the impact of war and natural disasters on the brain to drug abuse scandals to courtroom dramas to politics the brain is in the news, and you can read about it here.

Blood Pressure and the Brain

Our vital organs and body functions are very much interconnected. We have no problem making the connection between our heart and lungs or our stomach and liver, but we sometimes forget how much the brain is affected by everything else that happens in our body.  Here’s a recent article from Psychology Today magazine that highlights the growing body of research connecting brain function and other health issues…

The next time a nurse inflates a blood pressure cuff around your bicep, pay attention. Those numbers are not just important for your heart, but for your brain as well. It’s becoming increasingly clear that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is at the root of much cognitive decline that has previously been attributed to aging. The more that scientists scrutinize brain function, and especially memory, the more they conclude that we have the ability to keep our memory and spirit strong well into old age. But it depends on how well we nourish our brain throughout life.

Hypertension is defined as blood pressure of 140/90 or above. The first number is the measurement of the blood’s force against artery walls when the heart is beating. The second number is the pressure between beats. A person is hypertensive if either number is too high. Most people think salt is the culprit in high blood pressure. In the vast majority of hypertensives, salt isn’t the root of the problem. Only about one third of people with high blood pressure are what doctors call “salt sensitive.”

“The rest of the folks can eat all the salt they want without seeing much change in their blood pressure,” says Shari Waldstein, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, who studies the cognitive consequences of hypertension. People whose diets are not to blame can pinpoint the problem through a trial of medications that target differing pathways in the body. Blood pressure is affected by many of the body’s systems, including kidney function, hormones such as insulin and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Regardless of cause, high blood pressure is extremely dangerous, especially for people who don’t know they have it, typically people who rarely see a doctor. Hypertension has few symptoms; some sufferers complain of headaches, nosebleeds or shortness of breath but for the most part the body suffers in silence. High blood pressure does its damage by weakening the blood vessels, over time leading the inner lining to slough off. Vessels can be weakened to the point that they tear, causing sudden death or disability via a stroke or aneurysm. Hypertension can also lead to heart attacks.

But long before it creates a health emergency, hypertension takes a subtle toll on mental faculties. It can reduce attention, learning, memory and decision-making skills in ways that can be clearly seen in studies. “Generally, whatever problems impact cardiovascular health also affect cognitive functioning,” says Merrill Elias, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at Boston University who has studied hypertension for 35 years. Indeed, some researchers now believe that a substantial amount of age-related mental decline has little to do with age and much to do with blood pressure. Waldstein says there’s a large body of research linking hypertension directly to brain function, but scientists don’t yet know how it causes damage at the cellular level.

Elias says high blood pressure exerts a constant stress on the brain and cardiovascular system that appears to be cumulative. “It’s more of a problem for people who don’t go to the doctor,” he says. “Just think of it as your brain taking a hit every day.” The damage to the brain can come in a variety of forms. In the elderly, more than half of whom suffer from hypertension, the damage can be detected on MRIs in the form of “white matter lesions.” These are pinpoint lesions in the brain’s message-carrying axons that affect cognitive function, especially weakening memory and reasoning and significantly impacting quality of life.

High blood pressure can also cause small strokes that may go unnoticed, but which diminish the brain’s capacity to function. Other people who have chronic hypertension actually have small spots on their brain where the tissue is dead, says Elias. But that doesn’t mean that high blood pressure is a disease of old age. For one thing, many people who are in their 20s and 30s suffer from it as well. It’s especially important for younger people to control their blood pressure so that the damage doesn’t start early and snowball over time.

But neither is high blood pressure inevitable with age. Blood pressure can be kept in check by keeping cholesterol low, not smoking and limiting salt. But perhaps the most important factor is keeping obesity at bay, a struggle most Americans are not winning. “Weight is a biggie,” says Elias. “The more you weigh, the more pressure there is.”

Getting your weight, blood pressure and diet under control will help you think better, have better relationships, be a better parent, co-worker, friend and spouse. All of those things are directly related to your brain. It’s just not reasonable to think you can neglect one area of health and not have it affect other areas. If your brain is not working at its best, you are not at your best. So, if blood pressure is a problem for you please make sure you’re getting good treatment to keep it under control.

To your brain health,

Daniel

Daniel Amen, M.D.
CEO, Amen Clinics, Inc.
Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association

Dr. Amen‘s Blog – Recent Articles

Dr. Amen‘s Upcoming Appearances

West Virginia Counseling Association (Eastern Region)
May 09, 2008 
National Conservation Training Center,  Shepherdstown, West Virginia   More…

“Brain In The News” is offered as a free service to educate people on how the brain relates to our behavior. You can see over 300 color 3D brain SPECT images at www.brainplace.com. You can subscribe for free at www.amenclinics.com

Advertisements

Supplements Decrease Violence

“Brain in the News” is a weekly commentary on how brain science relates to the news. The brain is involved in everything we do. Wherever there are human stories the brain is involved. From the impact of war and natural disasters on the brain to drug abuse scandals to courtroom dramas to politics the brain is in the news, and you can read about it here.

If you’ve followed my work and the research we’ve done at the amen Clinics for any length of time, you’ll know the importance I place on nutrition and how it affects brain function. A new study from England is underscoring this point. Here’s the story from London’s Independent…

Prison Study to Investigate Link between Junk Food and Violence

Some of Britain’s most challenging young prisoners are to be given food supplements in a study aimed at curbing violent behavior. Scientists from Oxford University say the effect of nutrition on behavior has been underestimated. They say increases in consumption of “junk” food over the past 50 years have contributed to a rise in violence. The university will lead the study in which 1,000 males aged 16 to 21 from three young offenders’ institutions in England and Scotland will be randomly allocated either the vitamin-and-mineral supplements or a placebo, and followed over 12 months.

In a pilot study of 231 prisoners by the same researchers, published in 2002, violent incidents while in custody were cut by a more than a third among those given the supplements. Overall, offenses recorded by the prison authorities fell by a quarter. John Stein, professor of physiology at Oxford University, said: “If you could extrapolate from those results you would see a reduction of a quarter to a third in violent offenses in prison. You could reduce violent offences in the community by a third. That would have a huge economic benefit.”

“Our initial findings indicated that improving what people eat could lead them to behave more sociably as well as improving their health. This is not an area currently considered in standards of dietary adequacy. We are not saying nutrition is the only influence on behavior but we seem to have seriously underestimated its importance.” Mark Walport, head of the Wellcome Trust, which is funding the three-year study, said: “If this study shows that nutritional supplementation affects behavior it could have profound significance for nutritional guidelines, not only within the criminal justice system but in the wider community – in schools, for example. We are all used to nutritional guidelines for our physical health but this study could lead to revisions taking account of our mental health.”

The theory behind the trial is that when the brain is starved of essential nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids, which are a central building block of brain neurons, it loses “flexibility”. This shortens attention spans and undermines self-control. Even though prison food is nutritious, prisoners tend to make unhealthy choices and need supplements, the researchers say. Bernard Gesch, a senior scientist in the department of physiology and head of Natural Justice, a charity that investigates the causes of offending, said prisoners would be given the supplement with 100 per cent of the recommended daily amount of more than 30 vitamins and minerals plus three fish-oil capsules on top of their normal diet.

“We are trying to rehabilitate the brain to criminal justice. The law assumes crime is a matter of free will. But you can’t exercise free will without involving your brain and the brain can’t function properly without an adequate nutrient supply. It may have an important influence on behavior. This is a positive approach to preventing the problems of antisocial and criminal behavior. It is simple, it seems to be highly effective and the only “risk” from a better diet is better health. It is a rare win-win situation in criminal justice” said Gesch.

To your brain health,

Daniel

Daniel Amen, M.D.
CEO, Amen Clinics, Inc.
Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association

Beginning February 27th PBS will air a special presentation:

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

with Dr. Daniel Amen

click here for more information

Dr. Amen’s Blog – Recent Articles

Dr. Amen’s Upcoming Appearances

Nature’s Sunshine Products
February 15, 2008 
Hyatt Regency Houston,  Houston, TX  More…

California Association of Private Special Education Schools
April 11, 2008  – April 12, 2008
Crowne Plaza Resort Anaheim-Garden Grove,  Garden Grove, CA  More…

Ben Franklin Institute: Summit for Clinical Excellance
April 11, 2008  – April 13, 2008
Chicago Marriot O’Hare,  Chicago, IL  More…

Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital/ Young Minds
April 17, 2008  – April 18, 2008
,  Hastings, NE  More…

West Virginia Counseling Association (Eastern Region)
May 09, 2008 
National Conservation Training Center,  Shepherdstown, West Virginia   More…

“Brain In The News” is offered as a free service to educate people on how the brain relates to our behavior. You can see over 300 color 3D brain SPECT images at www.brainplace.com. You can subscribe for free at www.amenclinics.com