My sister called me the other day about her blood test results. It was a basic chemistry panel that looked at cholesterol levels, triglycerides and blood sugar. As we spoke about what the results meant, I realized how useful they could be for getting an early look at brain health. Though to date there is no exact blood test for cognitive ability, some of the regular chemistry panel results and other specific tests can provide valuable information for improving or maintaining the health of your mind.
Let’s start with the simple chemistry panel. The most important figures your doctor will be looking at form this test will be LDL, let’s call that lousy cholesterol and HDL or happy cholesterol as well as triglycerides. Many of you already know that cholesterol is bad for you. Here’s why.
I’ll recap one simple statement; “Too much cholesterol inhibits the responsiveness of cardiovascular cells to TGF-beta, allowing hardening of the arteries to occur.” We all know that hardening of the arteries is not good because it leads to heart attack and stroke. Stroke is the number one cause of adult injury in North America. It happens because blood vessels have either been weakened enough to burst or because they’ve been blocked, preventing blood from getting to the brain. In many cases the blood vessel is blocked because of a blood clot, fat or plaque.
Back to the blood tests. Cholesterol is essential for proper cellular function as well as the manufacture of bile acids, steroid hormones and vitamin D. It doesn’t dissolve or travel in the blood without some help. Low-density lipoprotein, LDL and high-density lipoproteins (HDL) help transport cholesterol to where it’s needed.
Unfortunately, when LDL circulates it can build up in the inner arterial walls. The arteries are what feed the heart and the brain with nutrient dense and oxygenated blood! LDL and other materials form plaque, which is thick and hard. When this substance builds up it can narrow the artery and even block them completely.
HDL on the other hand is good cholesterol. Scientists believe it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke because it carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is processed and sent packing. Some researchers suggest it may even remove excess cholesterol from arterial plaque.
Finally we have triglycerides, a form of fat that the body manufactures. People with a high total level of cholesterol usually have high triglycerides as well. People with high triglycerides may also have heart disease and/or diabetes.
What does this have to do with brain health? Rising triglyceride and LDL numbers could be an early warning sign for both heart disease and stroke.
Four years ago, my father suffered a massive stroke. Mom got him to the hospital within three hours and he was given the protocol for busting up clots so the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But it was bad enough. Dad was a carpenter and loved his work. If someone needed something built, he was there. I don’t think any room in our house has not had his touch. The stroke ended that. He suffered loss of movement on his right side, and the area of his brain associated with speech, Broca’s area. He had difficulty forming words but could follow conversations and get his meaning across. Two years later he had another stroke. This time it was Wiernicke’s, another area of the brain associated with communication. Now, we rarely understand what Dad’s saying, movement is restricted and his once bone breaking handshake no longer has much strength in it.
A simple blood test can help monitor the fats in your blood. This may not prevent a stroke but it can give you a baseline, a starting point on what needs to improve. Though not all strokes are caused by artery blockages, finding out what your lipid levels are, can and will lower the risk of both stroke and heart disease.
Next tip I’ll be talking about two tests you can have done. Both involve heavy metals. You won’t believe what kind of impact they can have on your brain!
If you haven’t seen this video yet, take the time!
copyright 2011 @ Meza Health Systems, Inc.