Cognitive abilities and vascular health
What do heart and vascular health have to do with cognitive ability? A lot. In fact, a whole lot. Suffice it to say that cerebrovascular problems are the second leading cause of dementia in the over-60s (which in this case is called vascular dementia precisely) and are also related toAlzheimer’s disease. It is no coincidence, then, that vascular dementias occur precisely in people who have cardiovascular risk factors, such ashypertension, diabetes mellitus (or type 2 diabetes), high cholesterol and triglyceride values (hyperlipemia).
What are the symptoms of vascular dementia?
It is mainly memory that is affected, but problems in executive function, difficulty initiating actions, slowdowns in reasoning, changes in mood and personality, and language deficits can be found. Symptoms can vary, however, because they depend on the parts of the brain affected: directly causing these deficits are many small brain infarcts or small hemorrhages. Although the deficits are irreversible, the good news is that their onset is slow.
Cerebrovascular problems are the second leading cause of dementia
What is the link between hypertension and cognitive problems?
As for hypertension, we now know that it is not only a risk factor but is now established to be a real causative factor of ischemic diseases. In the long run, it can in fact lead to deterioration of cerebral vessels and, consequently, vascular dementia. At the physiological level, the mechanisms underlying this association are quite complex, as reported in a review of studies published in Nature Reviews Nephrology. To simplify, dysregulation of blood flow in the brain causes increased oxidative stress and inflammatory status, and damage at the cellular level. Not only that, hypertension also predisposes to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in the cerebral arteries, hindering proper blood flow and increasing the risk of ischemia and stroke. Evenmore, it has been hypothesized that it promotes the accumulation of amyloid plaques, the deposits of beta-amyloid protein aggregates typical of Alzheimer’s, which may explain why in people with hypertension the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease appears doubled.
What is the role of oxidative stress?
Many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, are related to oxidative stress. This is a condition of “chemical” imbalance, whereby excess A free radical is a particularly reactive molecule or atom that contains at least one odd electron in its outermost orbital. Because of this chemical characteristic, free radicals are highly unstable and try to return to equilibrium by stealing from the nearby atom the electron needed to equalize its electromagnetic charge. This mechanism gives rise to new unstable molecules, triggering a chain reaction that, if not stopped in time, ends up damaging cellular structures and metabolic processes. are formed that are not neutralized and damage cells and tissues. Lifestyle plays an important part in this: excessive or improper diet, alcohol consumption, smoking and sedentary lifestyle (as well as excess physical activity) are all pro-oxidant factors. Oxidative stress not only causes the onset of certain chronic diseases, but is also directly involved in cellular aging processes: tissue undergoes biological decline and reduces its ability to adapt to stress. At the same time, the increased level of oxidation increases the expression of certain pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn promote oxidation.
In people with hypertension, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles
How to prevent this?
Because the onset of vascular dementia and its progression are irreversible phenomena, it is more crucial than ever to plan ahead and focus on prevention. That comes first of all from lifestyle, as we have just mentioned. In this sense, it is possible to “feed the mind” in the right way, providing our bodies with all the necessary elements to counteract cognitive decline. But not only that, we can also givr ourselves the elements that can fight oxidative stress and can help maintain the health of the cerebrovascular system. In this area, SoLongevity research has developed a combined strategy of interventions and developed two nutraceuticals, CardioAge e NeuroProtection, which aim to support vascular health and cognitive performance, respectively.