In the midst of our junk-food-addled, sleep-deprived, over-medicated culture, there exists at least one popular trend that’s good for our brains: The near-death of the necktie.
The traditional suit for males is still hanging on – barely — but the necktie that used to go with it has nearly disappeared. You may see ties at weddings and funerals, or around the necks of lawyers and bankers, but that’s about it.
Even CEOs, Presidents and Senators regular appear in public without a tie. Unthinkable not so long ago.
The trend is probably a good thing for men’s health, because this strangulating sartorial item is bad for your brain. . .
To preserve healthy cognition it’s important to maintain normal blood flow to the brain.
Those with good cerebral flow are less likely to suffer with dementia. In fact, poor circulation to certain regions of the brain is one of the earliest clinical signs of Alzheimer’s.
So the last thing anyone would want to do is to purposely restrict the flow of blood. Yet millions of people do this unwittingly every weekday when they tie a pretty-colored noose around their neck.
A Southern California mayor believes this matter is serious enough to warrant a ban on the practice to stop people harming themselves.
Ties Decrease Blood Flow by 7.5%
The brain depends on blood to deliver oxygen, glucose and nutrients as well as to carry away waste products.
Poor circulation can be caused by low or high blood pressure, an under-functioning thyroid gland, decreased formation of blood-vessel-expanding nitric oxide, blood vessels that have become damaged or simply as part of the aging process.
Since a steady flow of blood is so vital for brain health, researchers from the Department of Neurology at University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany decided to test whether pressure on the neck from wearing a tie could restrict blood flow to the brain.
Thirty healthy men with an average age of 24½ were enrolled. Fifteen undertook brain scans whilst wearing a tie loose with an open collar. The scan was then repeated for 15 minutes with a buttoned collar and a Windsor knot, tightened until it became slightly uncomfortable. A third scan took place after the collar and tie were loosened again.
Another fifteen acted as controls. They were scanned without wearing ties.
The researchers found that after the neckties were tightened, cerebral blood flow decreased by 7.5 per cent on average. Even after they were loosened there was still a fall of 5.7 per cent.
Only two of the 15 didn’t see a drop in blood flow, while five actually saw a decrease of more than ten per cent. For one volunteer the blood loss soared as high as 20 per cent. As you’d expect, the control group did not experience any drop in blood flow.
The study authors described the wearing of neckties as “socially desirable strangulation.”
According to senior neurologist and lead author of the study, Dr. Janne Gierthmuhlen, “A reduction of blood flow means parts of the brain will function less well. For men, wearing ties at work could have an impact on their thinking, decisions and writing skills.
“If this effect was seen after 15 minutes, it would be interesting to see the effect after an eight- or ten-hour day in the office.”
Time to Abandon Ties
Asked to comment on the findings, Dr. Steve Kassem from Neuroscience Research Australia said a 7.5% drop is unlikely to lead to noticeable symptoms in healthy people, but might cause headaches, dizziness and nausea in people who already have restricted blood flow.
He believes it may be time to stop wearing ties altogether.
Dr. Kassem’s message was taken up by R. Rex Parris, mayor of Lancaster, northern Los Angeles County, who said, “I spend a lot of hours every week on an elliptical [trainer] or a bike just to increase blood flow to my brain, and it turns out every morning when I put on a tie I’m diminishing it.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate in America today to make anyone do something that is now known to be detrimental to your health.”
The trend towards a more relaxed dress code has been going on for some years, accelerated by fashions (or lack thereof) in Silicon Valley and by the whole trend toward working remotely from home. The upshot is that formal attire in the workplace is close to being a thing of the past.
Yet More Health Issues with Ties
There are also a few other medical reasons not to wear ties.
Back in 2006, the British Medical Association advised doctors to remove ties because they found them to be a hotbed of germs that could help drive the spread of bugs like MRSA. This is probably not a risk for the general public.
But this is: A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that pressure within the eyes increased in people with both normal and high eye pressures (glaucoma) if they were wearing a tight necktie.
A New Zealander was even strangled to death when his tie was dragged into a sanding machine.
Probably a greater hazard is the thing dragging in a water fountain when you bend over to get a drink.
It seems there are many good reasons to stop wearing neckties.