Why do people start to lose their mental sharpness as they get older?
One theory is that brain cells start to die without being replaced.
Another is that protein tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease accumulate in the brain and clog neural pathways.
But a new scientific paper concludes there is another factor at work: Blood vessel health. Swedish scientists believe the condition of your brain is largely dependent on the blood vessels that serve it.
“We suggest a chain of events on how the aging of the brain and blood vessels are related,” said Professor Lars Nyberg. He was a lead author of the article, which was published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
When we’re young, the force of blood being pushed throughout the body is absorbed by large arteries.
But those arteries become stiff over time. With less flexibility, the pressure of each heartbeat is transmitted to smaller blood vessels, including capillaries in the brain.
When these tiny veins are damaged, it can harm cognitive processes.
Professor Nyberg and his colleagues believe the hippocampus is especially vulnerable. It’s a part of the brain that is important for recalling events.
The hippocampus is located close to large blood vessels. If those vessels are stiff, the hippocampus gets hammered.
Your blood vessels are your brain’s shock absorbers. And one compound is crucial to keeping veins, arteries, and capillaries supple and flexible as you age. It’s nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide relaxes the endothelium inside your blood vessels. This is the inner lining that gives blood vessels the healthy ability to expand and contract. A study in the journal Experimental Gerontology found that nitric oxide levels are directly related to memory ability in seniors.
1. Eat vegetables high in nitrates. Your body converts vegetable nitrates into nitric oxide. High-nitrate vegetables include beets, celery, watercress, lettuce, spinach, and arugula.
2. Take L-arginine. This is an amino acid that your body converts to nitric oxide. It is widely available in supplement form.
3. Don’t use alcohol-based mouthwash. Yes, “it kills germs that cause bad breath.” But it also kills beneficial bacteria in your mouth that produce nitric oxide. Instead, try this safe and natural mouthwash alternative.
4. Take vitamins C and E. These antioxidants increase nitric oxide levels by limiting its breakdown and improving its stability in your body.
5. Eat dark chocolate. A study at the University of Adelaide in Australia found that dark chocolate increases nitric oxide levels. This is thought to be due to flavonols, antioxidant compounds in dark chocolate.
Boosting your nitric oxide levels helps your blood vessels keep their youthful flexibility. This protects your brain, keeping you mentally sharp as you get older.
Editor’s Note: Where are my keys? Why did I come into this room? What is my nephew’s name? Read our monthly journal Independent Healing to learn if these mental lapses are normal or signs of Alzheimer’s. And discover how to get back your youthful memory. Subscribe HERE.