It’s estimated that the brain uses at least 20% of the body’s energy, even though it makes up only 2% of total body mass. We need our blood to adequately flow to our brain in order to supply the cerebral tissues with the oxygen it requires. Neuronal activation generates signals to the rest of the body, making it crucial that we get consistent and ample blood flowing to our brain. Brain blood flow is important to the brain itself and the rest of the body since our brain controls our entire body.
Brain and Blood Circulation
The brain is classified as an aerobic organ that needs a constant supply of oxygen. When oxygen to the brain ceases for just 5-10 minutes, serious and potentially irreversible brain damage can occur.
Other tissues in our body are able to store glucose, which can later be used to produce energy when the blood supply is low or cut off – but the brain doesn’t have this ability. It relies on blood, nutrients, and oxygen at all times to keep it active and maintain coordination and communication with all other parts of the body.
The constituents of blood that are particularly important for the brain include oxygen and glucose, as they are converted to ATP (adenosine triphosphate - a molecule that provides energy to cells). A study published in the Royal Society about our restless brains explains how the energy produced by the ATP reaction is then used by millions of neurons inside the brain – that allow us to think, remember and concentrate.
The ATP energy supply helps demonstrate the importance of constant blood flow to the brain can also be estimated by the fact that whenever blood supply is cut to the brain, the tissues inside this complex system start to disintegrate within minutes and can cause permanent damage to an individual’s memory, thinking skills, or even mobility.
Nitric Oxide and Brain Blood Flow
Nitric oxide is often discussed in research when it comes to exploring ways to increase blood flow to the brain. It’s a specifically critical topic for those that battle brain related challenges. As a signaling molecule, nitric oxide works as an important cell communicator helping brain cells speed up communications between each other. People who battle with brain related challenges show reduced production of nitric oxide from neurons in the brain.
Nitric oxide is involved in the signaling pathways that help the brain get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Those processes are:
- Autoregulation - the ability for organs to maintain blood flow at a near constant rate
- Neurovascular Coupling - enables the adequate delivery of oxygen and nutrients to neurons in the brain
When there is a reduction of oxygen levels in the body, nitric oxide is the mediator that helps signal an increase of oxygen is required by the brain.
Key Factors to Increase Blood Flow To The Brain
Exercise Drives Blood Flow to the Brain
As an aerobic organ, the best exercise for the brain is cardio. Exercise is often used as a means to lose weight and keep the body fit and healthy. However, another important benefit of exercise is that it helps increase blood flow all over the body, including the brain.
Exercise moves blood by contracting the muscles in different parts of the body, which helps the blood surrounding these muscles move back to the heart, which then pumps this blood to the rest of the body. An organ that benefits particularly from this is the brain, which is in need of oxygenated blood at all times. Exercise pumps more of the oxygenated blood the brain requires to function optimally.
Those who participate in regular exercise are more likely to get the advantage of healthy blood flow to the brain compared to the individuals who don't exercise. One form of movement which is often recommended by experts is to move the arms and legs on one side of the body vigorously for a few minutes, as it helps boost up the blood flow of the opposite side of the brain.
Vitamins that Support Blood Flow to the Brain
The vitamins and minerals which are found to be particularly effective for their ability to boost blood supply to the brain include Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Folic Acid, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. This can either be taken in the form of natural food sources, or they may be taken in the form of nutritional supplements – the latter being the more popular.
Studies show that this particular combination of multivitamins and minerals may not only improve the vascular health of the brain but also support its function, helping people power up their brain health and potential. When neurons in the brain are destroyed, likely by a reduction of blood and oxygen supply, these vitamins, whether sourced from food or supplements, can help restore the supply of vital blood and oxygen to the brain.
Diets that Support Blood Flow to the Brain
Vegan and Mediterranean Diets can be very effective for improving the body's blood supply. This is because they contain high proportions of fruits and vegetables, along with healthy fatty acids which are taken in the form of seeds, nuts, soy and other plant-based foods.
The daily recommended macronutrients suggested to help increase blood flow to the brain include:
- 50-60% of carbohydrate intake
- 15% of proteins intake
- 25-35% of low saturated fat
It is also recommended to avoid trans fats in diets, which may be found in food sources like baked goods, margarine, shortening, and refrigerated dough. It is also recommended to limit the intake of nitric oxide-depleting foods, particularly those which are high in saturated fats and salt.
Increasing blood flow to the brain is automatically performed when we eat a plant-based diet and perform some level of physical activity every day. The harder we pump our blood in a cardio workout, the greater the benefits we can feel. Often people ask why they think so clearly after a good workout. The answer lies in the blood flow and nutrients we’re delivering our brain during that time.
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