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Cognitive Dysfunction

Memory lapses, inability to concentrate, blurry vision, and slowed reflexes are all examples of cognitive dysfunction, a condition which becomes increasingly common as we age. While it is often suggested that these symptoms are simply a result of natural aging, they are more commonly a result of decreased blood flow to the brain.

Blood flow to the brain is dependent upon the blood pressure in our circulatory system, and numerous factors can cause our blood pressure to fall. Numerous large studies have shown that, in both the young and old, when diastolic pressure (the lower number in a blood pressure recording) falls below the level of 80mmHg, cognitive deficits become evident. Moreover, sustained low levels of diastolic pressure (below 70mmHg) have been associated with greatly increased risk of developing dementia.

Blood pressure typically falls because cardiac output is falling. The most common cause of falling cardiac output is that the fluids in our body are pooling into our legs when we are sitting upright or standing. This pooled fluid is not being returned to the heart, and so there is less fluid available for the heart to pump out.

A quick determination of whether poor cardiac output is a cause of your cognitive dysfunction is to simply measure your blood pressure over a period of time. Sit quietly in a comfortable chair, with your back supported and your feet on the ground, for a period of 10-15 minutes. Then take your blood pressure with a home blood pressure cuff. After a few minutes, repeat the blood pressure measurement. Then, after a few minutes more, take a third measurement. This last measurement is your resting blood pressure. If your diastolic pressure is below 70mmHg, you may not be getting sufficient blood flow to your brain to support normal cognitive function.

A common cause of low cardiac output is insufficient secondary heart (soleus muscle) activity. Your soleus muscles are responsible for pumping the fluid which pools into your lower body due to the force of gravity back to your heart. If fluid return to the heart is insufficient, cardiac output falls.

Weak soleus muscles can be retrained with a variety of exercises, but the easiest way to accomplish this is with the HeartPartner. The HeartPartner allows you to passively exercise your soleus muscles while you are sitting at home or work, and there is no need to remove your shoes or socks. Recent clinical studies have shown that just one hour per day of HeartPartner use will, over the course of three months, have your soleus muscles trained back up, your blood pressures levels back to normal, and your cognitive status significantly improved.