Fruitflow explain why having a healthy blood flow is important to cardiovascular health.
What is blood flow and how do we measure it?
Half of Brits over 45 think about managing blood pressure (58 percent) and cholesterol (47 percent) when they consider their cardiovascular health, but only one in 10 cite ‘improving blood flow’ (which means ensuring their blood is circulating smoothly around their body)*.
However, the significance of healthy blood flow should not be underestimated—it’s the third important pillar of cardiovascular health. A healthy cardiovascular system is one with no constrictions in the blood vessels (no plaque build up from high cholesterol levels and no compression caused by high blood pressure), and one with smoothly flowing blood.
It’s important to understand the role of blood platelets—tiny cell fragments which circulate in the blood stream in their millions. These platelets’ main job is to stick together in case of injury and stem blood loss. But blood platelets can become sticky at other times, which leads to a ‘thickening’ of the blood as growing numbers stick together and to the blood vessels, adding stress to the circulatory system. This can happen frequently, even many times a day, if triggered by our lifestyle, environment and hormones. It often goes unnoticed, especially when we are younger.
Measuring blood flow is not straightforward, often requiring hospitalisation or 24-hour monitoring. Techniques to measure the performance of platelets require specialist training and are rarely accessible during routine check-ups. For this reason, it is not usual for us to receive any information about our blood flow or platelet function unless we experience a serious event, like a deep vein thrombosis or a stroke.
However, to find out how healthy your heart and blood flow is, you could consider trying a simple online test at http://www.fruitflowplus.com.
Why is it so important to have a healthy blood flow?
Healthy blood flow is fundamental in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and avoiding dangerous blood clots.
What nutrients does the blood carry?
Any nutrients that the body obtains from food are carried by the blood, at one time or another. If they are in a suitable form, nutrients can be absorbed straight into the bloodstream through the membranes of the mouth or stomach. For example, glucose can enter the bloodstream from these points. More often, the food that we eat requires some level of processing by other parts of the digestive system before it can be broken down into a form that can pass through our tissues and enter the bloodstream through tiny capillaries.
At any one time, the bloodstream will be carrying sugars like glucose or fructose, amino acids or larger fragments of proteins, fats (either as large molecules or as broken-down constituents) and all the various vitamins and minerals we need to keep our systems working. It will also carry any other compounds we consume that may not be classified as nutrients as such. For example, compounds present in plant or animal foods which we do not use for energy, but which still affect the body in various ways.
How do these nutrients help us lead healthy lives?
The nutrients we eat are essential for sustaining life, enabling us to grow and develop normally, and to repair the body during its lifetime. The non-nutrients we eat, which also circulate in our bloodstream, are very important too. For example, fruits and vegetables contain ‘antioxidants’—compounds that are transported around the body in the blood and help respond to surges in free radicals, which damage the tissues, especially as we age. Dairy products contain, as well as the protein and fat that we use for energy, many smaller proteins called peptides, which are absorbed straight into the blood and can affect the immune system and our appetite control system.
As well as simply transporting these compounds around the body, the blood contains cells which affect the fundamental functions of the body and which can be directly affected by the circulating diet-derived contents of the blood. In particular, white blood cells and platelets may contribute to the quicker development of many lifestyle-associated illnesses, as these cells are part of the immune and inflammatory systems and become activated by the underlying presence of conditions such as diabetes, raised cholesterol and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). These conditions can be slowed down or even completely prevented by healthy lifestyle choices. A healthy diet is rich in non-nutrient compounds from plants, which affect the white blood cells and platelets in a beneficial way.
What effect can diet and lifestyle have on blood flow?
There is a surprising number of lifestyle, environmental and hormonal factors that can impact anyone’s blood flow throughout the day, by making their platelets sticky and their blood harder to pump.
This can happen frequently, even many times a day when triggered by our lifestyle (poor diet, lack of exercise or conversely high intensity or endurance exercise, stress, smoking, alcohol), environment (pollution, cold weather) and hormones (pregnancy, menopause, menstruation).
Whilst we are young and healthy, the body bounces back from these daily stresses quickly, so it’s transient. But, as we get older, or if our lifestyle continually causes stress, sticky platelets can persist in our blood for longer. This can speed up development of cardiovascular disease and increase the risk of blood clots forming. This risk increases from the age of 40.
Our bodies have a system in place to control sticky blood platelets, producing chemicals which help to keep them circulating smoothly. The most well known of these is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps to calm blood platelets, allowing blood to circulate smoothly, and keeps blood vessels relaxed, helping control blood pressure.
Unfortunately, most people produce less nitric oxide from the age of 40 and earlier than that, if they have consistently high blood sugar, do very little exercise, are overweight, pregnant, or smoke. Plus, as we enter our 40s it becomes more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. We often work too much and experience high levels of stress and our hormones can start to change from their established patterns. All of these things affect our platelets, reducing how much nitric oxide we produce and how well our natural cardio-protective systems work. As such, our platelets can become persistently sticky and less resilient to stress, which accelerates the development of heart disease and can increase the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.
Can bad blood flow lead to more serious cardiovascular issues down the line? What are the risks of poor blood flow?
When blood platelets become overactive and sticky, this makes the blood coagulate more easily and raises inflammation throughout the body. The increased tendency for the blood to clot can increase the likelihood of dangerous blood clots, resulting in DVT or pulmonary embolism. The raised inflammation speeds the development of Type 2 diabetes, accelerates the risk of heart disease and raises blood pressure.
What lifestyle choices/measures can we make/take to get a healthy blood flow?
Improving your diet and lifestyle will help keep your cardiovascular system strong and your blood flowing smoothly. Enjoy a balanced diet, exercise regularly, control your weight, manage your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and try to relax and reduce stress.
Whilst diet and exercise remains key, natural supplements can have strong benefits. Fruitflow®+ Omega-3, an extract from the jelly around the seeds of sun-ripened tomatoes, has been specifically developed to help aid smooth blood flow. It’s a completely natural, clinically proven dietary antiplatelet, which means it works to smooth the blood platelets, and so helps to protect against hyperactivity and unwanted blood clots.
Can a healthy blood flow improve mental and physical performance?
Physical performance requires a responsive supply of oxygen during exercise, and a period of suitable recovery post exercise. The elasticity of the blood vessels and responsiveness of the heart are both characteristics that decline with age so that as we get older, our response to exercise is not as flexible as in youth. We can recover some of that youthful flexibility by exercising little and often, with medium exertion—not high intensity. It takes time to improve. Recovery from exercise is important and, rather surprisingly, is something that blood platelets influence. When we exercise, we release adrenaline into the bloodstream and this activates platelets. If the intensity of the exercise is high, the platelets can activate the coagulation system for up to 48 hours and also cause an upsurge in low-level inflammation. This prevents the body from recovering as quickly as possible, slowing the benefits of exercise.
Keeping our blood flow healthy by trying to prevent unnecessary platelet activation and the inflammation this causes can help with recovery from exercise, one aspect of heightened physical performance. The benefits may be experienced as less soreness post exercise, better sleep quality, and increased readiness to exercise next time—overall, something known as improved resilience. Some research suggests that improved physical resilience is also linked to mental performance.
* Consumer polling undertaken by 72 point in June 2016, involving 2000 UK respondents aged 45 years and over on behalf of Provexis Ltd.
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