Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow

Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow
Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow

What’s one of the factors affecting cerebral blood flow (CBF)? Choking!

As a teenager in the mid-90s, I witnessed a dimwitted fad somehow spread without the help of TikTok.  I don’t think I tried the “choking game,” but some of my friends who did said it was fun.

They choked themselves until they passed out, supposedly experiencing a little high.

Fast forward to 2021, and the “pass-out challenge” continues to spread via YouTube and all other social media platforms. In 2018, Time magazine reported that a YouTube search on “how to play choking game” turned up 36 million hits!

I recall being told not to play the fainting game because it kills brain cells, cuts off oxygen, and slows the blood flow to the brain. In other words, those kids were toying with one of many factors affecting cerebral blood flow!

CBF is critical to healthy brain function. Our brains’ vast network of arteries and veins require constant blood flow to deliver glucose, oxygen, and essential nutrients. The blood also removes lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and other metabolic waste products.

Our brains account for only 2 percent of our total bodily weight. Yet incredibly, they consume 20 percent of the oxygen we inhale. The rate of consumption varies depending on our degree of mental activity.

Our resting brains may cut the amount of oxygen they use by half, to 10 percent. But when we’re stressed with intense cognitive tasks, our brains may burn “up to 50%” of our oxygen.

Negative Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow

A few weeks ago, I discussed what Dr. Albert Hofman of Harvard described as “chronic hypofusion,” or prolonged insufficient blood to the brain.

Negative factors commonly result in cerebral hypofusion include:

  • generalized atherosclerosis
  • hypertension
  • diabetes

and smoking.

In the case of atherosclerosis, the plaque lining our blood vessels may not exhibit obvious acute symptoms. However, chronic hypofusion over two to five decades can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Whether it’s short- or long-term, insufficient oxygen and blood flow are bad for our brains! 

 Positive Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow

Cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking impede CBF, but are there ways we can boost CBF?

Yes! Exercise and plant-based foods.

 Positive Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow

Past science held that CBF stayed constant regardless of changing conditions, but research has disproved this hypothesis. Once a person begins mild to moderate physical exercise, CBF improves. 

In a paper published by the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota, author Jill N. Barnes discussed multiple studies showing that higher aerobic fitness led to greater CBF and improved cognitive function.

This exercise-CBF-cognition-benefit occurred in different studies with participants across all ages- children, teens, young adults, mid-life, and the elderly.

One of the most convincing studies on exercise and CBF was from researchers in New Zealand and the UK. it included 307 healthy men aged from 18 to 79.

Half the men had “no regular physical activity” for two years. The other half exercised at least four times every week, including competing regularly in running and cycling races.  The researchers described their regimen as “vigorous aerobic endurance.”

The sedentary 153 men admitted to being physically inactive throughout their lives. The athletic group sad that they had always been active.

The researchers checked each participant’s resting CBF velocity, and the results were startlingly clear. Those who had exercised regularly had 17-percent stronger cerebral blood flow! 

relationship between age and blood flow.Factors Affecting Cerebral Blood Flow

The benefits of optimal blood flow to the brain are indisputable. People who exercise and eat plant-based foods enjoy better short-term cognitive performance and lower long-term cognitive decline.  

The bottom line?

Don’t choke yourself, exercise regularly, and consume healthy food. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss which plant-based foods will do the most for your CBF! 


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