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Crucial for Heart Health: Circulation

By on February 2, 2015
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While often under the radar for heart health compared to reducing risk factors for a heart attack in Canada, improving circulation is also crucial for heart health.

Almost everyone perceives the heart to be the most important organ aside from the brain. Our hearts beat over 100,000 times per day for the sole purpose of circulating five litres of blood per minute through our bodies! Blood circulation delivers oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissue, and also removes waste products from our body. If our heart stops, circulation stops – and we die. But long before that happens, we may struggle for years with less than optimal health due to inadequate circulation. 

Yet, if you were to ask Canadians where they rank good circulation as a health priority, in many cases it would be low on the list. When we think of cardiovascular health we tend to think about reducing risk factors for a heart attack. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure are examples of this. Vigorous blood flow has little to do with these risk factors – it is a result of a cardiovascular system that is healthy overall. The heart is critical to that but healthy blood vessels and capillaries are just as important. Are we taking this aspect of our cardiovascular health for granted? 

In Germany where my father Sam Ibrahim trained as a pharmacist before coming to Canada, robust circulation is considered a health priority. More than once he told us in German that “Kreislauf ist alles”, meaning “circulation is everything”. He brought this focus on healthy circulation to his Canadian pharmacies, where he used herbal medicines to treat thousands of patients until he retired a few years ago. 

We know a healthy heart and a strong system of blood vessels are the key to good circulation. Many people have experienced obvious symptoms related to poor circulation, such as cold hands and feet. But even moderately poor circulation can lead to organ degeneration, build-up of toxins, low energy, and impaired sexual function. An article in the August 2007 edition of Rheumatology discusses mounting evidence that vascular pathology plays a role in the initiation and/or progression of osteoarthritis. Yet, in North America circulation as a health concern is largely under the radar and rarely discussed in the media.

Benefits of a Healthy Circulatory System
So, let’s look at some of the benefits of a healthy and vigorous circulatory system. Most obviously, the purpose of circulation is to provide oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and body tissues. The delivery of oxygen and nutrients is called perfusion, and it is critical to our bodily functions. Poorly perfused organs are literally starving, and over time will lose their functionality. The reverse is also true, vigorous circulation will result in noticeable health improvements. Higher energy levels, improved mental alertness, robust sexual performance, better digestion and even more regular bowel movements are among the many benefits. 

Herbs & Foods for Improving Circulation
Circulation can be improved by natural methods. Several medicinal plants have been shown to be highly beneficial:

Hawthorn is known to increase the ability of the heart muscle to contract, making the heart a more efficient pump. Circulation improves with continued use as more blood flows from the heart muscle into the arteries and capillaries. A side benefit is that hawthorn helps the heart use less oxygen, meaning that it becomes easier to sustain exercise without becoming “winded”.  More activity leads to even better circulation – a virtuous circle!

Garlic has been used for medicinal purposes for more than 5,000 years. Known to aid in maintaining overall cardiovascular health, garlic helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It also aids in the lowering of cholesterol and triglyceride levels, improves the ratio of good to bad cholesterol, and inhibits blood clotting. Garlic acts to improve circulation by regulating blood viscosity, or the thickness of the blood.

Bilberry is widely known as a medicinal plant that will help the eyes (it is also sometimes referred to as “eyebright”). It’s no coincidence that the eyes contain thousands of tiny blood vessels called capillaries. Bilberry is used to improve microcirculation by strengthening the capillaries, such as those found in the eyes and other organs.

Cayenne pepper has antiplatelet effects and is effective in treating excessive blood clotting, elevated lipid levels and poor circulation. Cayenne dilates the blood vessels and speeds up metabolism due to high amounts of capsaicin. This increases circulation and blood flow to all major organs.

Farid Ibrahim is president of Nutrition Plus Products Inc., which supplies Kardovite and other premium natural health products to health food stores across Canada.

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