The health of your heart - and actually of your entire body - depends upon a strong network of blood vessels. From the womb through old age, healthy arteries, capillaries and veins are essential for optimal functioning of all organs, muscles and nerves. They fuel and cleanse your body in two ways: efficient nutrient delivery (fuel) and removal of toxins (cleanse/detox). Their main job is to deliver more blood flow where needed, or constrict to reduce blood flow when necessary.
If your blood vessels don't open or narrow as required, then blood, oxygen and nutrients can't get to where they're needed, whether it's the brain, the gut, the muscles, or back to the heart. Poor condition of your blood vessels can lead to major illness of the heart, including atherosclerosis (clogged or blocked arties), as well as varicose veins, aneurysm, and other diseases of veins and arteries in the periphery of the body.
TIPS FOR MAINTAINING HEALTH BLOOD VESSELS
Many of the things you do for the health of your heart are also important for the blood vessels. The entire circulatory system benefits from exercising aerobically every day, reducing stress and negativity, getting sufficient hours of restful sleep, eating a variety of whole foods, and not smoking. Specifically, here are ways to maintain healthy blood vessels:
Eat Smart and Eat the Rainbow. Eating a variety of colorful fruits and dark green veggies daily provides ample amounts of fiber and Vitamin C, both important to blood vessel resilience. When cooking, use plant based oils such as coconut, olive, and sunflower. Limit your intake of refined sugars. Opt for organic or free-range poultry, and leaner cuts of grass finished beef. Increase intake of healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds.
Stay Calm. Chronic negativity and daily stress take a huge toll on your mind and body, particularly the cardiovascular system. Learn how to achieve inner calm through healthy coping strategies, deep breathing, yoga, meditation, journaling, and aerobic exercise.
Break a Sweat. The most important type of exercise for your circulatory system is aerobic, where you're moving your body rhythmically to increase heart rate, breathing rate, and circulation. You also break a good sweat. When you're in the zone for 30 minutes a day, you've done your heart, mind and body a world of good.
Supplement Your Diet. Support blood vessel health with key nutrition supplements, which include turmeric, bioflavonoids, anthocyanidins (colored plant pigments), and trace minerals. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and supports the elasticity of the blood vessels. Anthocyanidins contribute to the robust color of many fruits and veggies, and have heart-protective properties. Bioflavonoids support cell growth and can help reduce inflammation. Trace minerals such as zinc and copper, support healthy development of the vessels and other tissues in the body.
Start a conversation with your holistic health practitioner about steps you can take to support the health of your blood vessels and all of the vital organs they nourish and protect.
The bright golden-orange spice in curry and mustard comes from turmeric, a tasty herb with numerous health benefits. Turmeric is an excellent source of iron, manganese and vitamin B6. Additionally, curcumin, an active component in turmeric, is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, turmeric has been used to treat allergies, heartburn, digestive ailments, and arthritis. Today, it's gaining research attention for prevention and treatment of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
According to a recent study, a daily intake of turmeric helps blood vessels dilate fully. It also helps protect the arteries from inflammation - a primary cause of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Including turmeric in your diet is easy to do: Sprinkle turmeric into soups, dressings, over meats, roasted veggies, scrambled eggs, or smoothies. To help your body maximize absorption of turmeric's key compounds, add it to healthy fats (e.g., olive oil) while they are warming and take with black bepper.
If heart disease runs in your family, or you have other risk factors, ask your health practitioner about taking a curcumin supplement. Ideally, look for one with high bioavailability, meaning it's easy for your body to process and absorb from the digestive tract.
Bioflavonoids are naturally occurring plant compounds used in natural medicine to help enhance the action of vitamin C, support blood circulation, and treat allergies, viruses, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. They act as pigments (coloring) in plants and as antioxidants in humans.
Bioflavonoids are present in many plant foods and extracts, such as citrus fruits, rose hips, and medicinal herbs. While bioflavonoids have a variety of actions, the most notable is as an antioxidant, gobbling up inflammation-causing free radicals that circulate throughout the body. When combined with vitamin C, bioflavonoids support healthy blood vessel function, as well as protect vitamin C from chemical breakdown, thereby boosting the body's immune system.
The anti-inflammatory benefit of bioflavonoids is particularly important in preventing heart disease. Atherosclerosis is one condition that bioflavonoids can protect against. Research on bioflavonoids is expanding and results have been promising. For example, studies show that regularly consuming high quality sources of bioflavonoids - at least two servings of citrus fruit daily - can improve markers of healthy blood vessel function.
If you have allergies or food sensitivity to citrus fruits, or are taking other medications, talk with your health practitioner before taking a bioflavonoid supplement
Wild-grown and sweet, bilberries are the dark purple cousin of the blueberry. And they have found their way into every imaginable culinary delight: jams, pies, sorbets, liqueurs, and wines. Medicinal use of bilberry dates back to the early Middle Ages. Tea brewed from bilberry leaves was used to treat diabetes. European herbalists used the fruits as a remedy for bladder infections and a variety of stomach and gastrointestinal complaints. In modern herbal medicine, extracts of bilberry fruit are used to treat atherosclerosis and other circulatory system problems. The fruit's rich pigments act as powerful antioxidants in the body and may help protect against heart disease, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress that can lead to other health problems.
To benefit from the health enhancing effects of bilberry, enjoy a cup per day of the fresh fruit (blueberries are a perfect substitute if you can't find bilberry). For a delicious tea, simmer 1 Tb. dried berries in 2 c. of water for 20 minutes; strain and drink. Extracts of bilberry should be standardized to contain a specific percent of anthocyanidins - check with your health practitioner for the appropriate extract for your well-being.
Regular aerobic activity, such as swimming, hiking, walking, and jogging, as well as group exercise classes, such as Zumba, can enhance your quality of life and promote lifelong fitness and good health.
Studies show that people who participate in daily aerobic fitness activities . . .
- Decrease their risk of heart disease and chronic illness
- Experience lower blood pressure and improved efficiency in the muscles used for breathing and circulation
- Maintain a healthy body weight, including lean muscle, by burning fat for energy
- Enhance muscle balance, coordination, and agility
- Manage stress effectively and recover better from stressful events
GETTING STARTED: STEADY PROGRESS REAPS BENEFITS
A 20 minute stroll after dinner or during your lunch break is a wonderful first step toward improving the health of your heart and lungs and enhancing muscle endurance. As you become comfortable with more movement, begin following The American Heart Association's recommendations for enhancing overall cardiovascular health:
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week
- OR - 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week
If you haven't exercised in a while, first consult with your physician and a personal trainer at a YMCA, JCC or reputable fitness center. Take Note: if your physician recommends exercise for lowering blood pressure or cholesterol, the AHA suggests an average of 40 minutes of aerobic activity three or four times per week, at moderate-to-vigorous intensity.
Choose an activity you enjoy and you'll be more likely to stick with it. You'll also be more likely to maintain an exercise routine when you work out with a partner or small group. Steady progress provides more benefit than going "all out" and suffering an injury. Be patient. Give yourself several weeks for your body and mind to adjust to your healthy behavior change.