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.
During February, American Heart Month, we hear a lot about supporting a healthy cardiovascular and 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 Inside 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, the first order of business is often lifestyle change. We now understand many of the factors that contribute to poor cardiovascular health: pro-inflammatory foods, inactivity, stress and obesity top the list. Smoking and alcohol are also big contributors.
A few simple changes can go a long way toward improving heart health. The main goal: reduce chronic inflammation caused by processed high-glycemic foods.
It’s also a good idea to switch from processed or conventionally farmed meats to healthier sources of protein, such as grass-fed beef, hormone-free chicken and turkey, wild fish, sprouted legumes, raw nuts and seeds. Choose sprouted whole grains: they’re easier to digest, 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. Most importantly, avoid pro-inflammatory trans fats, excess sugar and sweeteners, and processed foods as much as possible, while emphasizing plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruits. Not everyone can be vegetarian; regardless, it’s an excellent health practice to eat as much plant-based food and fresh produce as possible. Also, be sure to drink at least 64 oz of filtered water to support circulation and reduce inflammation.
We all know that exercise is critical for keeping hearts healthy. But rather than forcing yourself to fit a strenuous gym workout into your busy schedule, find an activity you enjoy and create routine that works for you. A brisk walk 20-30 minutes a day can do the trick.
There are many foods that can contribute to healthy circulation. Here are some top recommendations:
- 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.
- Orange juice: Balances blood pressure.
- Turmeric: Reduces inflammation and promotes healthy circulation.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in salmon, sardines other fatty fish as well as flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and other sources, omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides and support good cholesterol.
- 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.
Circulation Support Supplements
In addition to certain foods, a number of herbs, botanicals, nutrients and other natural ingredients can help support circulatory health.
For example, nattokinase is an enzyme that promotes circulation and cardiovascular health. Nattokinase is derived from natto, a fermented soy food that’s popular in Japan.
Hawthorn berry is probably best known for its ability to support healthy blood pressure. However, hawthorn has also been shown to promote healthy cardiac function through additional mechanisms. .
Medicinal mushrooms modulate immunity, but they are also quite good at support healthy blood pressure and promoting circulation.
Padma Basic is based on an ancient Tibetan herbal formula for heart health and overall vitality. This unique supplement has been shown in over 30 published studies to support healthy circulation and cardiovascular function, cellular health, immunity and antioxidant activity.*
Another factor in heart health has to do with excess amounts of the protein galectin-3. PectaSol-C® Modified Citrus Pectin has been shownto bind to galectin-3, and in the process, support circulatory health and healthy blood vessels. PectaSol-C has also been shown to safely remove heavy metals and toxins from the body, another important benefit for cardiovascular and overall health.*
Meditation and mind-body practices have also been shown in studies to support circulation and cardiovascular health. Essentially, 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 promote overall, everyday wellness but also to support quality of life. By adjusting our diet, engaging in regular exercise, finding healthy stress relief and supplementing wisely, we can promote circulation and cardiovascular wellness, while addressing countless other areas of health in the process.