Cardiovascular & Circulatory System

Cardiovascular and Circulatory System

The whole of the cardiovascular system is fundamental to life, and to the integration of all parts of the body.  If there is weakness or congestion present it will have profound effects on the tissues and organs involved.  If the blood supply to the organs is not adequate, this will cause problems.  Similarly, if waste materials produced in the metabolic process are not removed properly, damage to tissue will quickly result.

The Cardiovascular System in simple terms consists of the Heart and the Circulatory System.

The Heart is a pump; it usually beats at about 60 to 100 times per minute.    Each heartbeat sends blood, which carries oxygen, to every cell in the body.   After delivering the oxygen, the blood returns to the heart, which sends the blood to the lungs to pick up more oxygen, and the cycle repeats itself again, and again.

The Circulatory System is known as the body’s ‘Transport System’.

It consists, of two parts, the Pulmonary Circulation; a short loop from the heart to the lungs, and back again.  And The Systemic Circulation, which carries blood from the heart to all other parts of the body, and back again.  The systemic circulation system contains Blood Vessels which carry blood away from and towards the heart; Arteries which carry blood away from the heart, and Veins which carry blood back to the heart.   These roadways carry oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to cells, and removes waste products, such as carbon dioxide.   They travel in one direction only and keep the transport system going where they should.

Holistic ways of treatment and living life can help with this most important body system.  However, when major heart problems are already, or become, apparent, care must be taken.  Herbal medicine has a great deal to offer in some areas of cardiovascular conditions but any treatment must be under qualified supervision.

Medicine has made tremendous leaps in the treatment of the Cardiovascular System.   It is one way of the Holistic Healer to accept that they, and the medical profession, can work together successfully rather than working against each other.  The medical profession is finally coming to recognise this, and is now beginning to refer some patients to the Holistic Healer, both with the processes of the mind, and both prevention and upholding the advice given to the patient by the medical professionals.

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is said to be attributed to the Dutch philosopher Erasmus Desiderius in around 1500, this is debatable, but the thinking behind the saying was certainly someone with wisdom to the fore.   The prevention of Circulatory Disease sits within the Holistic way of living life, although we cannot ignore what comes to us in the genes. Some diseases and medical problems can be hereditary, and no matter how much wisdom one throws at lifestyle, what is passed down through our gene-pool cannot be ignored.   A matter of doing the best we can with what we have comes to mind!

So, how do we attempt to prevent Circulatory Disease?   There are many ways in which we can help the body to prevent this disease or to recover from it.  Some of this comes by way of causing a change in lifestyle.

Just as the whole of the body is connected, so each little piece of ‘life-style’ is connected and contributes to healthy living.   What we put into our bodies is a good place to begin, and for the heart and its transport system, the need to be clean and clear of obstructions so all can do its job to its optimum.

When contemplating this most important of body systems to work to its optimum, a nutritious diet is vital for feeding the body all the vitamins and nutrients it needs keeps, not only the transport system, but the whole of the body running as it should.   Blood flow is an important part of carrying all the nutrients and oxygen to where the body needs it, a healthy diet can help do this without the need for medical intervention.    Foods which are known to improve blood circulation can help to prevent serious conditions such as heart attack, deep vein thrombosis, and high blood pressure.

Diet is probably the first change that comes to mind, what we eat and drink causes an effect either to the wellbeing of the body or to the contrary, causing problems for the future.

A diet full of fruit and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, along with lean meat, chicken, organ meat such as liver, and fish, cooked in a healthy way with as little fat as possible, and as little cooking as possible, will go a long way to keeping the arteries clear and passageways open so that the transport system can run to its optimum condition.   This, in turn, has a contributory factor to a healthy heart.

But there are also certain foods that have proven to be worth an extra mention here:

Almonds are rich in Vitamin E and healthy fats, and they have antioxidant properties.   A diet rich in almonds is said to improve blood flow.

Asparagus is one of the most important hearth health ingredients, it contains Vitamin B6, which can lower homocysteine, a form of amino acid that has been linked to heart disease.

Bananas are packed with potassium and help improve blood flow by lowering blood pressure.  Potassium also helps the kidneys to remove extra sodium (salt) from the body, which then passes through the urinary system.  This helps relax blood vessels and helps blood to flow.

Beetroot is a superfood that is rich in nitrate.   Nitrate is good because the body turns it into nitric oxide, which can relax blood vessels and improve the blood flow to tissues and other organs in the body.  Beetroot also helps lower blood pressure.

Bell Peppers contain folate, a nutrient that can reduce homocysteine. (see asparagus above)

Broccoli contains a high content of vitamin C, which is, of course, excellent for the prevention of heart disease.

Carrots can have a positive effect on cardiovascular health.  Carrot juice drunk daily can decrease blood pressure and protects the cardiovascular system by increasing total antioxidant status. (Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation.   Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage cells.   Antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) terminate these chain reactions; this can protect the cells in the cardiovascular system.)

Citrus Fruits contain lots of Vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for staying healthy; oranges, grapefruit and lemons contain many antioxidants that can prevent blood clots and improve blood circulation.

Garlic contains phytochemicals that boost immunity and protect the heart against heart disease.

Ginger has the potential to treat cardiovascular disease; it can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Onions are a rich source of sulphur-containing phytochemicals which reduce cholesterol levels, therefore prevent heart disease.

Potato skins are a high potassium food that can help the body maintain a healthy blood pressure.  High blood pressure can increase the risk of heart failure and stroke.  So baked potatoes or cooking them with the skin on are best.

Squash (in its many forms) has many nutrients that are beneficial to heart health, including Vitam C, potassium, magnesium, and folate.

Sunflower seeds contain many essential nutrients and are high in healthy fats, proteins, fibre, phytochemicals, selenium, copper, magnesium, vitamin E and magnesium.  All this makes sunflower seeds an amazing choice for a snack.

Tomatoes provide a carotenoid called lycopene; effective in preventing heart disease.

Turmeric contains curcumin, which is believed to produce nitric oxide.  This helps the blood vessels to widen, making it easier for blood to flow through the body.

Walnuts are a source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid which helps blood to flow easier, also improving the health of blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

Another ‘what we put into our bodies’ is Alcohol and Tobacco!

Too much alcohol weakens the heart muscle and increases blood pressure, leading to heart disease.  One unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol, the recommended units in seven days is fourteen units for men and for women.   Having said that it would be better for the Cardiovascular System if no alcohol was consumed at all, although It isn’t easy giving up, the choice, as usual, belongs to the individual!

Smoking cigarettes makes the walls of the arteries sticky from the chemicals, so fatty material can stick to them. If the arteries that carry blood to the heart are damaged or become clogged, it can lead to a heart attack. If this happens in the arteries that carry blood to the brain it can lead to stroke.

As said above, it’s all about choice, a bad diet, alcohol and smoking or a healthy body?


Stress

Stress is the natural feeling of not being able to cope with specific demands and events, but stress can become a chronic condition if a person doesn’t take steps to manage it.

Stress can be a motivator and it can even be essential to survival.  The body’s ‘fight or flight’ mechanism tells a person when and how to respond to danger.   Way back in history it was the mechanism that indicated danger was near and the sabre-toothed tiger that was leaving paw prints was just around the corner, do you fight or do you run and hide?  It is a necessary part of the body.

However, when the body becomes triggered too easily, or there are too many stressful situations at any one time, it can undermine a person’s mental and physical health, this then can become harmful.

What happens when stress kicks in?

The body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These trigger the following physical reactions:

  • increased blood pressure
  • heightened muscle preparedness
  • sweating
  • alertness

These factors all improve a person’s ability to respond to a potentially hazardous or challenging situation. Norepinephrine and epinephrine also cause a faster heart rate.

Environmental factors that trigger this reaction are called stress factors. Examples include noises, aggressive behaviour, a speeding car, or even meeting someone for the first time, this is by no means a complete list. Feelings of stress tend to increase in tandem with the number of stress factors.

Physical effects include slowing down of some normal bodily functions, such as the digestive and immune system.  Blood pressure and pulse rise, breathing speeds up, this means the body can concentrate its resources on breathing, blood flow, alertness, muscles become tense, and sleepiness decreases due to a heightened state of alertness.

How a person reacts to a difficult situation will determine the effects of stress on overall health. Some people can experience several stress factors in a row or at once without this leading a severe stress reaction. Others may have a stronger response to a single stress factor.

An individual who feels as though they do not have enough resources to cope will probably have a stronger reaction that could trigger health problems. Stress factors affect individuals in different ways.

Single incidents of stress happen to each and every one of us, they arise, the body deals with the situation and then puts it aside.

Chronic Stress develops over a long period and is more harmful.

Ongoing poverty, a dysfunctional family, or an unhappy marriage are examples of situations that can cause chronic stress. It occurs when a person can see no way to avoid the stress factors, and stops seeking solutions.   A way of dealing with this sometimes is to stop recognising its there, going forward with the thought that ‘all this is normal,’  this is a sure way to chronic stress.  A traumatic experience early in life may also contribute to chronic stress.

Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to return to a normal level of stress hormone activity, which can contribute to problems in the following systems:

  • cardiovascular
  • respiratory
  • sleep
  • immune
  • reproductive

A constant state of stress can also increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can develop when stress becomes chronic.

Chronic stress can continue unnoticed, as people can become used to feeling agitated and hopeless. It can become part of an individual’s personality, making them constantly prone to the effects of stress regardless of the scenarios that they encounter.

People with chronic stress are at risk of having a final breakdown that can lead to suicide, violent actions, a heart attack, or stroke.

People react differently to stressful situations. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another, and almost any event can potentially cause stress. For some people, just thinking about a trigger or several smaller triggers can cause stress.

Diagnosing stress can be challenging because it depends on many factors.

Treatment can include self-help or therapies that may help a person relax, include aromatherapy and reflexology.

A visit to the doctor complaining of stress or presentation of stress will possibly end up with medication, which doesn’t explore the reason for stress; it treats the symptoms, not the underlying illness.  Stress can result in; tiredness, mental exhaustion, loss of memory, tightening muscles that combine with the resultant pain, especially across the shoulders, back and neck, stress causes many problems in the body and mind.

Developing coping strategies before stress becomes chronic or severe can help an individual manage new situations and maintain their physical and mental health.

Techniques below are, in my opinion, a better option than resorting to being fobbed off with tablets, no matter how friendly and smiley the doctor is, or how much he or she tells you that taking the tablets will work, as said above, seek only to treat symptoms.  Stress needs to be managed to stop it happening in the first place and to have available ways of reducing stress when it occurs.

Things that can help manage or prevent stress-induced feelings of being overwhelmed are:

  • Exercise
  • Reducing the intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine. These substances will not help prevent stress, and they can make it worse.
  • Nutrition (see above) A healthful, balanced diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables can help maintain the immune system at times of stress. A poor diet can lead to ill health and additional stress.
  • Priority management Only today matters; yesterday has gone and is in the past, tomorrow hasn’t come yet.  Concentrate on today, this hour, this minute, and take time for the self; do something that will feel good for you.  Perhaps take a small walk, or have a chat with someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time.
  • Breathing and relaxation Meditation, massage, yoga can help. Breathing and relaxation techniques can slow down the heart rate and promote relaxation. Deep breathing is also a central part of mindfulness meditation.
  • Talking Sharing feelings and concerns with family, friends, and work colleagues may help a person “let off steam” and reduce feelings of isolation. Other people may be able to suggest unexpected, workable solutions to the stressor.
  • Acknowledging the signs A person can be so anxious about the problem causing the stress that they do not notice the effects on their body. It is important to be mindful of any changes.

Noticing signs and symptoms is the first step to taking action. People who experience work stress due to long hours may need to “take a step back.” It may be time for them to review their working practices or talk to a supervisor about finding ways to reduce the load.

Possum’s Planet has a very good article about Mindfulness which is full of helpful tips ideas, give it a read, it may help.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean a session at the gym three times a week, a short slow walk, stopping every now and again to take a look at what is around goes a long way to helping combat stress.

One step at a time, choose where to begin with this topic if disease is already in place, then the above will help recovery if not, the above will help to reduce the possibility of suffering from it.  Take care and be well.