February is Heart Month


With February as Heart Month and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it is important to take note that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.

The heart pumps about 20% of blood directly to the brain. The most complex organ and one of the most active in the body, the brain has over 100 billion nerve cells. These cells depend on the oxygen and essential nutrients supplied by the blood flow. If the condition of the heart is compromised or if the brain’s blood vessels are damaged or obstructed in any way, this can affect the blood supply to the brain and can lead to a number of debilitating conditions or neurological disorders such as mild cognitive impairment, vascular dementia, stroke or Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are 5 tips on how you can take brain health to heart:

Source: www.alz.org 

Adopt a long-term, heart-healthy “food lifestyle” rather than a short-term diet and eat in moderation. A long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in later life. Those who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure had six times the risk of dementia.

Reduce your intake of fat and cholesterol. Studies have shown that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol clogs the arteries and is associated with higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Use mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, for example. Try baking or grilling food instead of frying.

Exercise. Walking or other moderate exercise for 30 minutes each day gets the body moving and the heart pumping.

Don’t smoke. Smoking interferes with blood flow and oxygen to the brain and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Manage your numbers. Controlling your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar helps reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Researchers and physicians at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) collaborate in cutting-edge research and clinical treatment in the area of cerebral blood flow (CBF).

Neuroscientist Dr. Edith Hamel’s work aims to understand how nerve cells control regional blood flow in the brain and how this relationship is altered in pathological states like Alzheimer's disease. Through understanding of the mechanisms involved, her research could help in the development of new drugs aimed at preserving a normal blood supply to the brain.

The cerebrovascular program at the MNI also includes clinician-scientists who pursue research with the goal of improving patient treatment; neurosurgical specialists Dr. David Sinclair and Dr. Denis Sirhan who lead the Cerebrovascular Service at the institute, Dr. Donatella Tampieri, Director of Neuroradiology, who has particular expertise in the treatment of brain aneurysms and stroke, and neurologist Dr. Michel Aube, Canada’s leading neurologist in the treatment of headaches and migraine. 


October 2009 marks the 75th anniversary of the MNI. The MNI is a McGill University research and teaching institute, dedicated to the study of the nervous system and neurological diseases. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, the MNI is one of the world's largest institutes of its kind. MNI researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders. The MNI, with its clinical partner, the Montreal Neurological Hospital (MNH), part of the McGill University Health Centre, continues to integrate research, patient care and training, and is recognized as one of the premier neuroscience centres in the world. At the MNI, we believe in investing in the faculty, staff and students who conduct outstanding research, provide advanced, compassionate care of patients and who pave the way for the next generation of medical advances. Highly talented, motivated people are the engine that drives research - the key to progress in medical care. A new building, the North Wing Expansion, is currently under construction and will house state-of-the-art brain imaging facilities. Once the construction is completed and the new building is fully equipped, the scientific community focused on brain imaging research at the MNI will be without equivalent anywhere in the world.

Contact Information

Anita Kar
Montreal Neurological Institute
anita.kar [at] mcgill.ca
Office Phone: 
(514) 398-3376