Are you going with the flow?
Medical websites like Mayo Clinic and WebMD are excellent resources for small medical issues and general health – there’s no disputing that. But when it comes to such a complex and vital organ as the heart, these large websites that follow conventional medical guidelines are not providing us with the full picture.
YOU CAN DIE OF A BROKEN HEART
Primary risk factors for heart attack and coronary heart disease are listed by most major health sites as increased age, gender or being male, and genetics including race, along with modifiable risk factors like smoking, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, plus high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Even traffic noise (or is it the fumes?) has been proven to increase the risk of heart attack.
Certainly, all of these risk factors are worth paying attention to, especially related to lifestyle choices that are within our control. And still, our focus may be skewed when we are only looking at one piece of the puzzle. On all of these reputable medical websites, intended to provide emergency information and pre- diagnostic help, you’ll be hard-pressed to find poor circulation listed as a heart attack risk factor. Circulation, as the foundation of heart health, is often glossed over by the medical community – they fail to mention that when blood flow is severely restricted or cut off to part of the heart, a heart attack is sure to follow.
In fact, some of the only press you may have seen mentioning blood flow and the heart might have been the dark chocolate buzz from a few years ago.
Hearing that a favourite food like dark chocolate could turn out to be good for us – and even good for the heart – came as welcome news. Doctors and medical organisations began to publish articles on the benefits of enjoying dark chocolate in moderation because of its effect on heart health. A 2014 study published in The FASEB Journal found dark chocolate to be a friend in the fight against poor circulation, minimising blockages by restoring arterial flexibility and preventing white blood cells from sticking to blood vessel walls.1 Because of this, dark chocolate was able to reduce risk factors of atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up on the arteries, considered a main cause of cardiovascular diseases like peripheral vascular disease, heart attacks and stroke. Delicious dark chocolate took centre stage when this research was released, while healthy circulation once again fell by the wayside.
It is our coronary arteries that work diligently and silently for decades, without taking a break, to feed the heart with blood through the circulatory system day after day. Hardening and narrowing of these all-important arteries can immediately lead to heart attack. In most cases, this compromised circulation that can burden the health of the heart is brought on by chronic inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is brought on by or made worse by high surges of the stress hormone cortisol, along with other enemies of heart health, like processed foods high in sodium, fat and sugar.
THE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE EPIDEMIC
In 2014, researchers from Vienna discovered that it was foods rich in phosphate – processed cheese, Parmesan, colas and other processed foods – that may actually be behind our high blood pressure epidemic. Processed foods containing the food industry preservative and pH stabiliser phosphate have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system.2,3 Men who regularly eat moderate amounts of processed red meat, like cold cuts, have also been found to have a higher risk of heart failure and heart failure death. Added sugars in processed foods are thought to play a major role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, even more so than added salt.
With the heart as our engine, faithfully chugging along to keep the body running each day, chronic inflammation, which often comes from processed foods and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, is the “gunk” that gums up the works. As circulation in the body gets “gummy,” this engine and vital organ begins to break down because of the burden we’ve placed upon it. It starts with poor circulation from a poor diet and can soon end in heart disease or stroke.
Healthy circulation doesn’t just benefit your heart. Strong blood circulation throughout the entire body is something we may take for granted, but proper blood flow is needed to keep the body’s circulatory system and vital organs working in unison. Increased blood flow can improve the supply of oxygen-rich blood to all extremities, with direct benefits to the muscles and the heart.
As it goes with any health problem, a medical solution may be presented to you by your doctor first of all. Most doctors readily prescribe anticoagulants to reduce blood clotting in the arteries, veins and heart. Blood clots are a major cause for concern because they can block healthy blood flow to the heart and the brain, with even a minor clot triggering a heart attack or stroke.
If blood clots are standing in the way of you and a healthy heart, you may have been prescribed an anticoagulant like warfarin or heparin by now. These pharmaceuticals are used to keep blood from clotting too quickly and in the wrong places, potentially reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis and transient ischemic attack. While anticoagulants may reduce blood clot risk, they can also cause dark stool or urine, abnormal bleeding, and gangrene in severe cases. Almost a decade ago, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston researchers discovered that taking heparin right after a stroke could increase the risk of serious bleeding.4 Along with these dangerous side effects, warfarin was also linked with an increased risk of dementia in patients with atrial fibrillation in 2016.5
Save for extreme and temporary cases, it’s clear that anticoagulants can’t fix a serious circulatory breakdown in the body. And many times, they may even make matters worse by bringing new side effects along with them.
HOW TO MEND A BROKEN HEART
The best way to support heart health is by supporting circulation, and the best way to support healthy circulation is by looking at the bigger picture. Lifestyle choices have and always will have a profound effect on the health of the heart – preventing heart disease in nearly three out of four women. American researchers discovered in 2015 that six healthy habits, including not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, staying active for at least 2.5 hours per week, consuming no more than one alcoholic drink per day, watching seven or fewer hours of television a week, and eating a healthy diet, could have the biggest impact on the heart.
We recommend embracing all six habits for optimum heart health. Here is more information on putting these healthy changes into practice to strengthen circulation over the long-term:
- Stay active. Even gentle physical activity, like low weight training, rebounding for 30 minutes, or brisk walking for three miles, can improve circulation and heart health. If your circulation is poor, you can work your way up to longer bouts of physical activity by lying on your back and cycling your legs in the air. Increasing strength and stamina to exercise moderately for an hour a day may decrease heart failure risk by 46 percent.6
- Take the missing enzymes. As a helpful alternative to toxic prescription meds, natural enzymes can boost circulatory health. A highly powerful combination of pro-circulatory enzymes, including Serrapeptase, Nattokinase, digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and proanthocyanidins, may improve arterial and cardiovascular function, regulate the circulatory system and blood pressure, and even support brain, lung, digestive and eye health. The anti-inflammatory proteolytic enzyme Serrapeptase can calm and clear existing inflammation in the body, while Nattokinase, an anti-clotting proteolytic enzyme derived from fermented soybeans, may help to clean blood vessels and prevent dangerous clots from forming.
- Change your diet. Remember, eating healthy foods was named by researchers as one of the top habits to support a healthy heart, whereas eating processed foods can increase chronic inflammation and cause coronary arteries to narrow. An anti-inflammatory diet rich in fresh and frozen vegetables, dark-skinned fruits and avocados, healthy oils, oily fish, moderate meat, and healthy carbohydrate alternatives is pivotal to uphold circulatory and heart health. Taking B vitamins to supplement a really healthy foods diet may also help to reduce the risk of death from stroke, heart disease and heart failure. A daily mineral and multivitamin supplement is recommended for everyone to fill in the nutritional gaps; essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies, like vitamin D deficiency, have been linked to heart disease.7
Like so many important functions in the body, circulation can slow down with age, increasing the risk for many of the heart ailments we have just discussed. Yet staying active, eating well, and clearing the veins with powerful proteolytic enzymes could help to get things “flowing” again.
A healthy circulatory flow at any age can revive a tired body and keep your heart’s engine running strong.
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1. Esser, D., Mars, M., Oosterink, E., Stalmach, A., Muller, M. and Afman, L. A. 2013. Dark chocolate consumption improves leukocyte adhesion factors and vascular function in overweight men. The FASEB Journal, 28 (3) p 1464 DOI: 10.1096/fj.13-239384.
2. Andrukhova, O., Slavic, S., Smorodchenko, A., Zeitz, U., Shalhoub, V., Lanske, B., Pohl, E. E. and Erben, R. G. 2014 May. FGF23 Regulates renal sodium handling and blood pressure. EMBO Molecular Medicine, DOI: 10.1002/emmm.201303716
3. Andrukhova, O., Smorodchenko, A., Egerbacher, M., Streicher, C., Zeitz, U., Goetz, R., Shalhoub, V., Mohammadi, M., Pohl, E. E. Lanske, B. and Erben, R. G. 2014. FGF23 promotes renal calcium reabsorption through the TRPV5 channel. The EMBO Journal, DOI: 10.1002/embj.201284188.
4. Hallevi, H., Albright, K. C., Martin-Schild, S., Barreto, A. D., Savitz, S. I., Escobar, M. A., Gonzales, N. R., Noser, E. A., Illoh, K. and Grotta, J. C. 2008. Anticoagulation after cardioembolic stroke: to bridge or not to bridge? Arch Neurol., 0(2008):65.9.noc70105.
5. Oschatz, C., Maas, C., Lecher, B., Jansen, T., Björkqvist, J., Tradler, T., Sedlmeier, R., Burfeind, P., Cichon,
S., Hammerschmidt, S., Müller-Esterl, W., Wuillemin, W. A., Nilsson, G. and Renné, T. 2011 Feb. Mast cells increase vascular permeability by heparin-initiated bradykinin formation in vivo. Immunity, 34:2.
6. Andersen, K., Mariosa, D., Adami, H. O., Held, C., Ingelsson, E., Lagerros, Y. T., Nyren, O., Ye, W.,
Bellocco, R. and Sundström, J. 2014 Aug. Dose-response relations of total and leisure-time physical activity to risk of heart failure: a prospective cohort study. Circulation: Heart Failure, DOI: 10.1161/ CIRCHEARTFAILURE.113.001010.
7. Brondum-Jacobsen, P., Benn, M., Jensen, G. B. and Nordestgaard, B. G. 2012. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, and early death: population-based study and meta-analyses of 18 and 17 Studies. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, DOI: 10.1161/ ATVBAHA.112.248039.