blood flow

  1. Stiff arteries lead to brain damage

    Keep traffic moving on the highway to your brain

    Healthy aging starts in your arteries -- even a mainstream pill-pushing quack will tell you that. And if yours are so flexible you could yank them out and crack 'em like a whip, you don't have much to worry about.

    But if they're stiffer than the president trying to defend his health care plan, you've got problems -- and not just in your heart, where hardened arteries can lead to heart attack and stroke.

    They could wreck your brain, too, by boosting levels of beta amyloid, according to one new study.

    That's the so-called "brain plaque" linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and the damage doesn't stop there. If you let your arteries get REALLY stiff, you could also end up with lesions in your white matter -- and yes, that's every bit as bad as it sounds, as brain lesions are another major dementia warning sign.

    Stiff arteries make it harder for blood to flow. And when the blood can't flow, it can't reach your bloodthirsty brain (not to mention your heart and other vital organs).

    Clearly, you want to keep yours nice and flexible -- but if you ask the pill-pushers, they'll push their favorite pills at you. You know the ones I'm talking about: cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

    The theory is that since hardened arteries have buildups of cholesterol, the cholesterol must be the cause.

    I'm here to say that's absolutely and completely false.

    On its own, cholesterol will flow freely and cause no problems. It only sticks to the artery walls when your inflammation levels rise -- which is why high inflammation, and not high cholesterol, is the REAL cause of hardened arteries.

    And that's precisely why high levels of the inflammation marker homocysteine (and NOT high cholesterol) will lead to heart attack, dementia and more.

    So put down the statins and pick up a quality B complex instead -- because B6, B12 and folate can fight inflammation and keep your arteries free, clear and flexible.

    Not coincidentally, they're also proven to protect both heart and brain.

    I'm not done with artery health yet. Keep reading for the one thing in your home that could be turning your own arteries to stone right now.

  2. Pepper compound can improve blood flow

    The spicy way to boost your heart health

    There are two kinds of people in the world: People who love spicy food and people with no taste.

    I mean it. Peppers can save just about any tasteless dish (except tofu; don't even try it) -- and if that's not a good enough trick for you, they can even save your life.

    The compound that gives peppers the power to do both is called capsaicin. You know it the moment it hits your tongue, but the rest of your body gets a little taste too, especially the heart.

    And a new study shows how your heart loves this stuff even more than your taste buds do.

    Researchers gave two sets of hamsters high-cholesterol diets (now you're talking!) with either plenty of spice (now you're REALLY talking!) or none at all.

    Either way, a high-cholesterol diet is great for your heart -- but for those that got the spice, it was even better: The capsaicin blocked the gene that causes arteries to contract.

    That relaxed their arterial muscles, allowing blood to flow more easily to the heart.

    The spice-eating hamsters also had lower levels of LDL cholesterol, which proves, yet again, that dietary cholesterol will not necessarily raise blood levels of LDL and can, in fact, even lower them.

    Just don't get carried away in that department -- low cholesterol isn't just overrated, it's dangerous. Stay tuned later this week for more on that.

    For now, let me get back to peppers -- because those aren't the only benefits of capsaicin. This stuff can also fight off pain -- including pain from arthritis and headaches -- and even help you to lose weight.

    If you haven't tried peppers, don't be afraid of them -- they're delicious. And if you have tried them and just don't like them, I feel sorry for you -- but you can also get this stuff in supplement form.

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