Researchers have surprising findings regarding your diet and health. Learn about the connection between salt and blood flow to the brain.
Researchers at Georgia State conducted a first-of-its-kind study that examines the connection between salt consumption, blood flow, and neuron activity.
Neurovascular coupling happens when neurons are activated and produce a rapid increase of circulation to the area. In functional magnetic resource imaging (fMRI), experts use this to look for areas of weak circulation to diagnose brain disorders.
However, little is known about how this applies to deeper brain regions, as previous studies were limited to superficial areas. The researchers at Georgia State, led by professor of neuroscience Dr. Javier Stern, developed a novel approach. By combining surgical techniques and state-of-the-art neuroimaging, they examined how salt intake affects circulation to the hypothalamus.
“We chose salt because the body needs to control sodium levels very precisely,” says Stern. “We even have specific cells that detect how much salt is in your blood. When you ingest salty food, the brain senses it and activates a series of compensatory mechanisms to bring sodium levels back down.”
Previous studies observed a positive association between neuron activity and an increase in blood circulation. In contrast, the Georgia State researchers found a reduction in circulation as the neurons became activated in the hypothalamus.
Sodium and the Brain
“The findings took us by surprise because we saw vasoconstriction, which is the opposite of what most people described in the cortex in response to a sensory stimulus,” says Stern. “Reduced blood flow is normally observed in the cortex in the case of diseases like Alzheimer’s or after a stroke or ischemia.”
Dubbed “inverse neurovascular coupling” by the researchers, this effect is a reduction in blood circulation that results in hypoxia. In addition, they observed that while vascular responses to stimuli are very localized in the cortex, the hypothalamus is different. In the hypothalamus, the response was diffuse and also took place slowly in contrast to the cortex’s rapid dilation.
“When we eat a lot of salt, our sodium levels stay elevated for a long time,” says Stern. “We believe the hypoxia is a mechanism that strengthens the neurons’ ability to respond to the sustained salt stimulation, allowing them to remain active for a prolonged period.”
“If you chronically ingest a lot of salt, you’ll have hyperactivation of vasopressin neurons. This mechanism can then induce excessive hypoxia, which could lead to tissue damage in the brain,” says Stern. “If we can better understand this process, we can devise novel targets to stop this hypoxia-dependent activation and perhaps improve the outcomes of people with salt-dependent high blood pressure.”
In addition to managing your salt intake, you can boost your health by taking supplements like HeartBeet Complete. Its ingredients are effective at promoting circulation, blood pressure health, energy levels, and more. Give your brain health the support it deserves by lowering your salt intake and taking HeartBeet Complete.