Good circulation (Part 2)
Checking blood pressure is routine for any GP. Hearing the heart beat through a stethoscope is a window into the heart and circulation. The reassuring thud of blood moving through arteries confirms that circulation of blood, along with oxygen through our lungs, as the most important of all vital statistics. When your blood pressure is taken, the top number, the systolic blood pressure, measures your blood pressure during heart contraction while the bottom number, the diastolic blood pressure, measures your blood pressure during relaxation.
Today we want to look at the importance of maintaining good circulation by ensuring the walls of your blood vessels allow for good blood flow at normal levels of blood pressure. If blood vessels lose their elasticity they can offer greater resistance to circulating blood which requires the heart to pump harder to achieve good circulation.
This is especially true of the major arteries that are more elastic than minor arteries. The high concentrations of elastic fibres in these arteries are needed to allow blood to be forced under pressure during heart contraction (systole) and then stored during cardiac relaxation (diastole). The loss of elasticity and subsequent stiffening of these major blood vessels can be caused by reductions in the function of elastic fibres or the cross-linking of supporting collagen fibres. This loss of elasticity is often a contributor to hypertension.
A good analogy is to think of a common garden hose. The coloured walls represent the protein elastin. This allows the hose to be flexible. The white webbing is much like the protein collagen which gives the hose and your blood vessels their strength. When a hose is left in the sun the hose will lose suppleness and may even bust. This is much like how free radicals damage elastin and collagen proteins causing stiffness and weakness in blood vessels.
Primary Hypertension is the name for elevated blood pressure where there is no specific cause. Research does suggest that free radicals (oxidative stress) play a role in damaging blood vessels thus causing an increase in blood pressure. A paper published in Hypertension Research (Rodrigo, 2007) compared free radical activity in 30 people with primary hypertension compared with 30 healthy people. The study confirmed that markers of oxidative stress were significantly higher in those with hypertension.
Some suggest that free radicals damage the collagen fibres which are the structural support for blood vessels. This can result in cross linking of collagen causing a reduction in elasticity of large arteries.
Over the years I have observed many people lower their blood pressure using nutritional therapy. With diet we want to target foods high in compounds called polyphenols and vitamin C. I always add antioxidant supplement complexes that are high in grape seed OPC’s, high in vitamin C and other complementary compounds. I usually start people with hypertension on Cell-X and Omega 3 but sometimes another antioxidant such as Acai Plus.
Beetroot is very important; not only rich in antioxidants it is very high in nitrates that convert in the body to nitric oxide which temporarily opens up blood vessels. While results vary a lot, some people, especially those with slightly elevated blood pressure can notice a return to more normal levels of blood pressure. The following study explains how effective Beetroot juice therapy can be. To achieve this use either fresh or freeze dried beetroot (we stock this.)
Like any application of nutritional therapy there is never just one or 2 elements. Firstly we modify the diet to remove foods that can damage blood vessels. These are mostly certain types of plant oils and some animal fats. Our diets are generally full of empty carbohydrates such as many refined flour breads, baked products and sugar filled foods. These consume vitamins and minerals and do little more than increase body fat from excess energy. The ideal diet for someone with high blood pressure is the Mediterranean diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory oils especially from olive oils and high omega 3 fish. I have a Nutribullet Circulation/Blood Pressure recipe which can really help. Email me if you want a copy.
With supplements I generally start with a solid dose of Omega 3 fish oil and a comprehensive multi antioxidant, multi vitamin, multi mineral. To this I usually add extra vitamin C. The one I like combines vitamin C with complementary bioflavonoid antioxidants. We then add a high OPC (grape seed extract) supplement targeting up to 300mg of OPC. Give me a call if you need any assistance.
John Arts (B.Soc.Sci, Dip Tch, Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.) is a nutritional medicine practitioner and founder of Abundant Health. If you have questions or need help you can contact John 0800 423559. You can email John at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the health advice given through this column is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health problem. © John Arts 2021