Obesity, Stroke, High Blood Pressure, Platelets, Hypertension, Heart Attack & Thrombosis. What are the 3 Major Things that Can Go Wrong With Your Circulatory System and the 5 Things that Cause Them.
Before we discuss the healing powers of nutrition, let’s explain some basic facts about the heart and vascular network and common malfunctions of this important system. We can compare the vessels in your body to the water pipes in your house. There are three major things that can go wrong with your vascular network:
1. “Plugged up plumbing” such as from fatty blockages or clots forming, more formally called atherosclerosis and thrombosis, respectively.
2. “Brittle plumbing,” from hardening of the vessels (a.k.a. arteriosclerosis), which can lead to bursting of these hard and brittle “pipes.”
3. “Weak pump,” from a worn-out heart or unbalanced electrolyte solution that helps to regulate heartbeat. These problems could lead to the implantation of a pacemaker or to an erratic heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation).
These problems can be caused by:
1. Fatty blockage (plaque). Fats, though essential for health, do not mingle well with the water medium of the blood. All fat-soluble substances (including cholesterol, triglycerides, vitamin A, D and others) must have an escort in the blood to make sure they stay in solution. When most of the cholesterol is carried by HDLs (high-density lipoproteins) through the bloodstream, the cholesterol is less likely to collect along the blood vessel walls. When more of the cholesterol is carried by LDLs (low-density lipoproteins), it tends to sediment along the vessel walls and create fatty obstructions. Therein lies the importance of lowering your body’s LDL levels. Though most areas of the body favor carbohydrates for fuel, the heart favors fats. This preference for fats provides the heart with a dependable fuel supply yet also is often the demise of the heart, since the vessels near the heart can plug up with fatty occlusions. As the passages in the vessels narrow with fatty obstruction, the victim may experience a shooting pain near the heart, called angina. If the plaque lining the vessel walls totally obstructs the passage of blood, then the tissue on the other side of this “road-block” may die. Such an event is called a heart attack, or myocardial infarction.
2. Sticky blood cells (platelet aggregation). In this situation, the blood cells start adhering to one another and begin forming a clot, as though you had been cut. The clot may cause havoc anywhere in the body and is now called thromboembolism. These clumps of clotting blood cells (thrombus) can find a comfortable spot somewhere in a blood vessel and begin gathering a blanket of fat. The end result may be the blockage of a vessel and death to the tissue on the other side of this roadblock. Or, these sticky blood clumps may instead wander to the brain and lodge themselves somewhere in a delicate artery, choking off nutrient flow to an area of the brain and causing a stroke. A clot that gets caught in a blood vessel of the legs can cause swelling and pain. This is known as phlebitis. Internal clotting becomes more likely as humans age.
3. Hardening of the arteries. Cholesterol can combine with calcium in the bloodstream to form mineral deposits that begin accumulation along the blood vessel walls. These mineral deposits reduce the elasticity of the vessels and raise the blood pressure. Inflexible and brittle vessels are more likely to burst, causing a stroke or thrombus. Or, the brittle vessels can simply raise blood pressure. High blood pressure, a.k.a. hypertension, slowly and perniciously pounds away at the vascular network and eventually may cause organ failure or a heart attack.
4. High blood pressure. People can develop elevated blood pressure for reasons besides hardening of the arteries. You have a complex system of hormone like substances (prostaglandins) and steroids (like aldosterone) that regulate blood pressure. Improper balance of these prostaglandins or steroids can encourage hypertension. Fluid buildup, due to sodium retention or mineral imbalance, can elevate blood pressure. Whatever causes it, when the pressure in your blood vessels goes up dramatically, there is a great likelihood that one of the vessels may burst, causing stroke or death.
5. Electrolyte imbalances. Your heart is a muscle and is operated via remote control through a network of nerves. Both nerves and muscles rely heavily on the “electrolyte soup” of the body. An imbalance in the concentration of any key electrolyte (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium or water) can cause spasm, poor heart rhythm, and even sudden death. Also, the heart is one of the few muscles in the body that gets no rest periods (AMAZING!) The continuous wear and tear of muscle pumping and a marginal nutrient supply can gradually weaken the heart’s pumping ability.
Although we can’t change some risk factors, such as age and heredity, many factors—including cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity, and inactivity—can be modified, thus significantly lowering the risk of heart disease. And because lifestyle habits (e.g. diet, exercise, and appropriate supplementation) can strongly influence these modifiable risk factors, stay tuned to our next blog for 10 lifestyle strategies you can implement to promote a healthy heart.