Written by L. Doolan
The brain, like every other organ in the body, requires oxygen to function and to stay alive. To deliver oxygen to all the parts of the body, the lungs are responsible for exchanging oxygen in hemoglobin in the blood. The heart then pumps that oxygenated blood throughout the entire body using the circulatory system, the set of blood vessels that run throughout the entire body. The brain is no exception.
Improving blood flow can improve performance on a variety of tasks, including memory formation or recall. Increased blood flow also makes the brain better able to recover after an injury.
There are several strategies that a person can use to improve blood flow to their brain.
Do aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise is defined as any light to moderate exercise that increases the heart rate to about 150-160 beats per minute. Many types of activities can increase heart rate and overall blood flow through the circulatory system, including running, jogging, dancing, cycling, or playing sports. Increasing the activity of the heart will boost the blood flow into the brain. Additionally, working out can trigger the body to release endorphins, which are the brain’s natural compounds that cause us to feel good. This may be the reason behind the “runner’s high” that some people experience after aerobic exercise.
Exercise also causes the brain to produce growth hormones, which may be involved in improving plasticity in the brain, which is believed to be related to learning and memory.
The current advice is that 30 minutes three times a week is the ideal amount of exercise to provide the maximum amount of brain blood flow boosting benefit.
The nicotine that a smoker takes in through cigarette smoking has a dramatic effect on blood flow. Nicotine affects blood vessels in the brain by constricting the vessels. This constriction decreases blood flow into the brain. Some smokers experience a head rush when they first take a breath from their first cigarette. This head rush is partially explained by the brief lack of oxygen that the person experiences when they inhale the smoke, and partially explained by the rapid vasoconstriction effect of the nicotine.
By stopping smoking, the brain is able to overcome the changes that have happened during nicotine addiction. In addition to the many health benefits of stopping smoking, such as the decreased probability of developing lung, throat, or mouth cancers, quitting smoking causes a person’s brain to increase blood flow due to the dilation of blood vessels.
A well balanced diet helps to improve the balance between too much vasoconstriction and too much dilation. It can also decrease blood viscosity.