The heart and circulatory system are amazing. If we put all your arteries, veins and capillaries end to end, they would extend for thousands of miles. Blood vessels reach nearly all corners of the body, bringing in nutrition and oxygen and carrying out waste. But most importantly, the cardiovascular system works 24/7, silently, in the background, as you go about your daily life.
This circulatory inconspicuousness is a blessing and a curse. True, we don’t want to be constantly aware of circulatory function. But on the other hand, it means we often take it for granted. Because it seems so low-maintenance, we often allow ourselves to believe that it requires no support at all. But that attitude is exactly what gets us into trouble.
We hear a lot about supporting a healthy circulatory system. But it’s important to mind these lessons throughout the year. No one in the U.S. today can afford to shrug off cardiovascular health.
What’s Happening In The Blood Vessels?
As the years go by, arteries can build up plaques that lead to blockages. Quite often, these start with a minor injury that attracts an inflammatory response. The inflamed area accumulates cholesterol, dead blood cells and minerals, like calcium. Furthermore, the chronic inflammation causes the cholesterol to become oxidized (rancid). That leads to fibrosis (uncontrolled scar-tissue buildup), causing blood vessels to harden and stiffen. Arteries that were once wide and flexible become tough, inflexible and narrow.
Blocked arteries mean less blood circulating to the body, particularly the heart. If vessels narrow too much or if a plaque deposit comes loose and travels to a critical area, constricted blood flow can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Hardened arteries can also limit circulation to the extremities, a condition called peripheral vascular disease, which causes pain, inflammation and tissue damage.
Preventing Circulatory Issues
When dealing with circulation, your first order of business is lifestyle change. We now understand many of the factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease: pro-inflammatory foods, inactivity and obesity top the list. Smoking and alcohol are also big contributors.
A few simple changes can go a long way toward preventing cardiovascular disease and restoring heart health. The main goal: Reduce chronic inflammation caused by processed high-glycemic foods.
You should also switch from processed or conventionally farmed meats to healthier sources of protein, such as grass-fed beef, turkey, wild fish, sprouted legumes, raw nuts and seeds. Not everyone can be a vegetarian; but regardless, it’s an excellent health practice to eat as much plant-based food and fresh produce as possible. Choose sprouted whole grains: These are more nutrient-dense and less inflammatory than conventional grains. They’re also good sources of soluble fiber, which helps the body remove cholesterol. Emphasize healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil and omega-3s to support circulation. Avoid pro-inflammatory trans fats at all costs.
In addition to staying away from alcohol and tobacco, avoid processed foods. They are often high in trans fat, salt and chemicals. Drink lots of water and find an exercise routine that works for you. At the very least, walk 30 minutes a day.
There are many foods that can contribute to healthy circulation specifically. Here are just a few:
- Spinach: High in potassium and folate; fosters healthy blood pressure levels.
- Broccoli: Helps prevent arterial calcification.
- Asparagus: Reduces blood pressure and helps prevent clots.
- Watermelon: Contains the amino acid L-citrulline, which lowers blood pressure.
- Green tea: Contains compounds that reduce cholesterol.
- Cranberries: Reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol, while increasing the good (HDL) kind.
- Cinnamon: More than a spice, it reduces both bad cholesterol and triglycerides as well as helping to keep blood sugar levels normal.
- Orange juice: Improves blood pressure.
- Turmeric: A spice common in Indian food that reduces inflammation and promotes healthy circulation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fats found in salmon, sardines, tuna and other fatty fishthat can lower triglycerides and boost HDL cholesterol. Other good sources include flax, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.
- Pomegranate: May be the best circulatory food of all, reducing oxidative stress, inflammation and fat accumulation. It has also been found to lower blood pressure.
A number of traditional foods, herbs and other botanicals can improve circulatory health.
First on the list is nattokinase, an enzyme that promotes circulation and can actually reduce the risk of clotting. Nattokinase is found in natto, a fermented soy food that’s popular in Japan.
I also recommend hawthorn berry, which is probably best known for its ability to support healthy blood pressure. However, hawthorn has also been shown to improve cardiac function in heart-failure patients and to reduce angina pain.
Medicinal mushrooms modulate immunity, but they are also quite good at lowering blood pressure and supporting circulation.
These and other ingredients have a synergistic effect when used to promote strong circulation. I recommend a circulation formula that combines these and other botanicals to support overall cardiovascular health.
Another nutraceutical I rely on in my practice is modified citrus pectin (MCP). Inflammation is an enormous issue with cardiovascular disease and excess amounts of the protein galectin-3. Galectin-3 has been found to play a significant role in inflammatory processes.
MCP has been shown in research to bind to galectin-3, reducing inflammation and the arterial hardening that causes so many circulatory problems. MCP is also clinically proven to safely remove heavy metals from the circulation, another important benefit for cardiovascular and overall health.
A Tibetan herbal formula is another standby supplement with decades of clinical research highlighting its cardiovascular benefits. One review study demonstrated the formula’s ability to help reduce leg pain and increase walking distance in patients with narrowed arteries.
Meditation and mind-body practices have also been shown in studies to support circulation and cardiovascular health. Anything that works to relieve stress in a healthy way can help reduce blood pressure, address chronic inflammation and support healthy heart function.
Essentially, circulation is life. We should do everything we can to support a healthy cardiovascular system. This is not only to prevent disease but to support good quality of life. By adjusting our diet, engaging in regular exercise, finding healthy stress relief and supplementing wisely, we can boost circulation and prevent serious cardiovascular issues while supporting countless other areas of health in the process.