Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity: A ‘Master Metric’ For Overall Health
It comes as no surprise to most that iHeart is, amongst other things, a tool for assessing risk of cardiovascular disease. What many people are often surprised to hear, however, is that the device can also examine risk of cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Frequently, we are asked about the connection between the circulatory system and the brain, and about how iHeart, a fingertip pulse monitor and mobile app, can assess for risk of brain disease.
iHeart is primarily focused on measuring Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV)—the speed at which a pulse wave moves through the aorta and an index for aortic stiffness. Since Aortic PWV is a risk assessor for heart and brain health (as we shall see), and is connected to overall internal organ health in general, iHeart compares a tester’s Aortic PWV score to a graph of average scores per age to determine Internal Age. Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity is continually being proven as a ‘Master Metric’ for overall health and is deservant of greater attention by the health-conscious population.
Can iHeart Predict My Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Aortic PWV is affected by blood pressure and aortic stiffness, producing a result in metres per second. As the heart pulses blood through the aorta, pressure waves reflect back from the many tributaries that divert blood around the body. With a stiffer aorta and higher blood pressure, these pressure waves moves back along the walls of the aorta and collide with the heart at a greater speed than it is naturally prepared to cope with. Over time these early collisions can stress the heart, leading to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
With each pump of blood, the body's network of arteries and veins pulsate and perform a massaging action on the organs they surround. This action is important in maintaining organ health and functionality, and as the aorta stiffens over time the heart weakens and this massaging action is diminished. The brain is one of the organs in question.
A 2016 study published by the American Heart/Stroke Association found:
"Among young healthy adults, higher aortic stiffness was associated with measures of reduced white matter and grey matter integrity in areas implicated in cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Greater aortic stiffness may result in subclinical vascular brain injury at ages much younger than previously described."
Reporting on the study, HNGN.com added:
"They reasoned that since arterial stiffness can be caused by high blood pressure, having the medical condition could be contributing negatively to brain health. The researchers explained that increasing blood pressure levels mixed with a greater amount of calcium and collagen deposits can cause the arteries to stiffen even more. When further stiffening is combined with inflammation, caused by the deposits, blood flow to the brain can be reduced, which can potentially cause brain injury."
As blood flow to the brain diminishes, so does its performance. If aortic stiffness is allowed to persist then this reduction in blood flow to the brain can cause irreversible damage in the form of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Lowering aortic stiffness and improving Core Mobility, therefore, are crucial if a person wishes to remain in good overall health, and Aortic PWV is a powerful metric capable of assessing health from a broadened and bigger-picture perspective.