Blood flow is necessary for life. You cannot survive without it. Your blood transports oxygen and nutrients to every cell in every body system while flushing out toxins. Your brain weighs approximately 3 pounds and represents about 2% of your body weight. Yet, it consumes 20% of the oxygen and blood flow to your body. Anything that inhibits blood flow or impairs your blood vessels can harm your brain and mental well-being.
When interpreting a brain SPECT imaging scan, low blood flow is related to bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts, depression, ADD/ADHD, schizophrenia, hoarding, substance abuse, seizure activity, murder, traumatic brain injury, and much more.
In addition, it is the #1 brain imaging predictor of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Top disruptors to blood flow to the brain
- Smoking or ingesting nicotine
Smoking constricts blood flow to the brain. On brain SPECT scans, the brains of smokers tend to look older than they are.
- Excessive alcohol use
Specifically, drinking alcohol decreases blood flow to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is associated with physical movement, which means it impacts your coordination. Plus, people who drink every day have smaller brains.
- Being sedentary or exercising less than twice a week
Over 90% of teenagers do not get the recommended level of exercise, which could be a contributing factor to the increase in mental health issues among teens in the last 30 years.
- Too much caffeine
Drinking more than 2 cups of caffeinated beverages a day reduces blood flow to the brain.
- Having a history of cardiovascular disease
Coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, and heart arrhythmia are all indicators that cerebral blood flow is decreased.
- High LDL cholesterol
High levels of LDL cholesterol and having a high content of small LDL particles is a sign that blood flow is inhibited.
- Having hypertension or prehypertension
High blood pressure negatively impacts blood flow to the brain.
- History of a stroke
Experiencing a stroke indicates that blood vessels are already damaged or vulnerable to trouble.
- Pre-diabetes or diabetes
High blood sugar levels, associated with diabetes and pre-diabetes, cause blood vessels to become brittle and more likely to break, which causes disease complications.
- Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that lowers overall blood flow to the brain, especially in the areas that die first in Alzheimer’s disease.
Ways to improve your blood flow
You want to maintain your brain health, keep your cognitive functioning sharp, and your mental health regulated well into your final years. You need to keep your blood flowing well. If any of the above factors relate to you, make some lifestyle changes to improve your blood flow. Seek medical treatment for any of the above conditions that warrant it, like high blood pressure.
Try hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)
HBOT is a simple, non-invasive, painless treatment with minimal side effects that harnesses the power of oxygen to enhance the healing process and reduce inflammation. Before-and-after SPECT scans from a 2011 study showed remarkable overall improvement in blood flow following 40 sessions of HBOT.
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