Healthy Routes Column – Circulation: It’s all about the Pump and Hoses

by Gladys Kublik

Everyone makes this comparison that your heart is your body’s pump, and your veins and arteries are like hydraulic hoses. This analogy works very well to explain why diuretics are the first drugs prescribed to reduce blood pressure. If there is an excess of fluid in a closed hydraulic system, pressure increases and because we aren’t using that pressure to lift anything as a hydraulic jack would, that pressure strains the pump and hoses. The first and easiest solution is to decrease the volume of fluid. In the body, this requires the kidneys to excrete more fluid than they normally do thereby also decreasing excess fluid in the blood.

As we age we lose elasticity; we are not as flexible, our skin is not as supple, our hair is drier and stiffer and our arteries, veins and capillaries are not as elastic as they were. This also may cause blood pressure to increase because the blood vessels can no longer expand to accommodate an increase in the volume of fluid. A lessening of elasticity is often accompanied by a less smooth surface of the endothelial cells, the lining of blood vessels. Although the cause of Atherosclerosis is a bit of a “which came first” dilemma, the resulting constrictions from plaques in the lining of our arteries and veins impede the flow of blood and are implicated in aneurysm, stroke and heart attack.

Our heart is a remarkable organ; it is literally a pump consisting of chambers, valves, an inflow and an outflow powered by oxygen fuelled muscle. If you use an average heartbeat of 80 beats per minute, your heart beats about 4,800 times per hour. That’s 115,200 times a day. Over the course of a year, your heart would beat about 42,048,000 times. If you live to be 80 years old, your heart would have beaten approximately 3,363,840,000 times! That is over 3 billion beats, each one pumping approximately 5 litres of blood through a network of veins, arteries and capillaries that would measure about 60,000 miles long. For the most part, this tremendous feat happens independently without our thought, control or even awareness.

It is first when something is amiss that we become aware of our heart, its vitality and vitalness to our well being. The public’s growing awareness of the heart and its workings and its problems is the result of a younger demographic becoming aware that their miraculous muscle is not indestructible, but acutely susceptible to the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle, stress, poor food choices and lack of essential nutrients.

The Heart Association recommends at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. Aerobic exercise is an exercise that makes your heart beat faster. Drink plenty of liquids such as distilled water, herbal teas, fresh juices, avoid sugared sodas or juices and energy drinks.

Stress constricts the blood vessels. Exercise helps reduce stress and promotes relaxation. Nutritional supplements also help. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with a decreased ability to handle stress. Herbs such as valerian root, hops, kava kava, and passion flowers help promote relaxation and better sleep.

Also, during times of stress the body needs more of the B vitamins. According to the Heart Association, B vitamins, especially vitamin B-3, B-6, B-12 and folic acid, might have the ability to prevent heart disease by preventing high levels of homocysteine, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

One of the best ways to keep your circulatory system in tip-top health is by strengthening the walls of the various blood vessels, which are largely comprised of collagen protein tissue. Grapeseed extract and Pycnogenol both contain compounds that significantly help to strengthen the collagen fibers that form arterial walls. Silica gives arterial walls elasticity. Gotu Kola helps strengthen the connective tissue of veins. The aescin content of Horse Chestnut tones veins and makes them less permeable. Garlic helps keep the blood flowing through arteries. Lecithin emulsifies (breaks up) fats in the blood.

Blood doesn’t lie stagnant within the walls of vessels; it courses through them due to the pumping action of the heart. Therefore, good circulation largely depends on a strong, healthy heart. Three outstanding supplements for promoting cardiovascular health areCoQ10, L Carnitine, and D Ribose. Several herbs are also very effective at revving up circulation including Ginkgo biloba, Butcher’s Broom, Chickweed, Ginger, Hawthorn, Turmeric and Cayenne.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin that is essential for the normal growth and development of the body. The Linus Pauling Institute states that Vitamin C also helps treat the damage caused by heart attack and stroke by causing dilation of the narrowed blood vessels, thereby promoting proper blood circulation. The article further states that vitamin C supplementation can also help lower high blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease.

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