Transport Network inside the Body
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Cardiovascular system is the transport network inside the body. It consists of highways, roads and streets. Veins and arteries play the role of “highways” by carrying blood cells and the plasma throughout the body. The pressure of the blood flow inside the blood vessel which is produced primarily by contraction of the heart muscles is called “Blood Pressure” [BP].
If this pressure is elevated, it is called “Hypertension” and is considered as a “silent killer” as usually it hardly shows any symptoms.
What are the two measurements of BP?
The two measurements are called Systolic and Diastolic pressure. It’s because the pressure results from two forces; the first force occurs as the heart pumps blood into the arteries which is called Systolic pressure. The second force- Diastolic pressure occurs when heart rests between beats. According to the Ayurvedic medicine, the body consists of three main doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha and it is Vata which is responsible for the circulation of the blood.
According to the American Heart Association Guidelines:
- Normal blood pressure: Systolic – 90 to 120 mmHg / Diastolic – 60 to 80 mmHg
- Prehypertension: Systolic – 120 to 139 mmHg / Diastolic – 80 to 89 mmHg
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: Systolic – 140 to 159 mmHg / Diastolic – 90 to 99 mmHg
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: Systolic – 160 to 180 mmHg / Diastolic – 100 to 110 mmHg
- Hypertensive crisis: Systolic – > 180 mmHg / Diastolic – >110 mmHg
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Dietary factors –
Food is digested by “digestive fire- Jatharagni” and absorbed into plasma- Rasa dhatu. It nourishes all the other tissues and maintains blood and circulates all over the body. Over consumption of oily, fast food or with preservatives and chemicals cause impaired digestion, thus leads to accumulation of ama– toxins, and further leads to high blood pressure.
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Another interesting and overlooked cause of high blood pressure is food allergies. In 2004 a record of 3,740 gluten intolerant adults on a gluten free diet reported that their blood pressure is significantly lower than the general population.
Soft drink, refined fructose and sugar consumption increase phosphate depletion of the liver cells which ultimately causes increasing uric acid. Uric acid is an inhibitor of nitric oxide- the natural blood pressure lowering agent.
Potassium (K) helps to balance Sodium (Na) level in the cells. This is essential to maintain blood pressure, cardiac function as well as to prevent clotting inside the vessels, whereas lower level of Na can help lowering high blood pressure. Lack of Potassium consumption in the diet may cause accumulation of Sodium in the blood. High Sodium content in the diet also cause fluid retention which increases the blood pressure.
Sedentary lifestyles –
The more a person weigh, the more blood he needs to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction and as the volume of blood circulated increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
“Belly fat” – intra-abdominal fat surrounding the abdominal organs is highly metabolically active tissue with powerful damaging effects and is linked to hypertension. In fact, researchers believe that excess belly fat is a greater risk factor for chronic heart failure than overall obesity.
Smoking raise the blood pressure immediately. The chemicals in cigarettes damage the lining of the artery walls. It causes narrowing of the arteries and increasing the blood pressure.
Many common over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause high blood pressure. e.g. contraceptive pills, ibuprofen, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory painkillers and antidepressants. The blood-pressure-raising effects of these drugs are more pronounced particularly in people with preexisting hypertension, renal failure and elders.
Loss of sleep –
Staying up late at night strains the body enormously. Exposure to light at night dramatically affects body’s production of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain primarily during sleep. Exposure to light when melatonin secretion is highest [1AM – 2 AM] is particularly harmful and it raises blood pressure levels.
Stress and Anxiety –
Stress activates several biochemical pathways, sympathetic nervous system, which controls the release of two hormones – epinephrine and norepinephrine, elevate heart rate and constrict blood vessels. Stress also activates the renin-angiotensin system, which regulates blood pressure. Moreover, stress causes increased production of angiotensin 2, which is also linked to hypertension.
Dietary Solutions –
Diet plays a major role of lowering blood pressure. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and reduced amount of saturated and total fat lowers the hypertension.
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- Leafy green vegetables: Spinach, Kale, Lettuce, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, Mustard greens, etc. are high in minerals and fiber and low in calories. They also contain a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants; beta-carotene and lutein which fight plaque inside the blood vessels, thus helping in lowering blood pressure.
- Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage and Bok choy are high in glutamic acid – the most common amino acid found in vegetable protein. It reduces the blood pressure and also the chances of stroke.
- Carrots: High in beta-carotene and Potassium, maintains and regulates the normal blood pressure. Carrots can be juiced with a few herbs like mint or parsley, to maximize the benefits.
- Sweet potatoes: Rich source of fiber which helps to flush out cholesterol from the blood stream.
- Tomatoes: A good source of Potassium and Calcium, and contain many vital vitamins like A, C and E. They also contain lycopene, an antioxidant, help to lower high blood pressure. Lycopene prevents LDL cholesterol from sticking to the blood vessel walls, which protects the heart from raising blood pressure.
- Bitter Melon/ Bitter gourd: A good source of amino acid called citrulline and it is essential to increase the amount of nitric monoxide and vitamin C, which helps to eliminate active oxygen to maintain nitric monoxide longer in the blood vessels which reduces blood pressure.
- Celery: Contains 3-N-butyl-phthalide which has been tested to lower blood pressure; it also regulates blood flow by relaxing the muscles and it is also known to reduce weight.
- Garlic: Reduces bad cholesterol and also found in research that it lowers the blood pressure.
- Onions: Contain quercetin- an antioxidant flavonol which reduces hypertension, prevent heart disease and stroke.
- Oregano: Contains the compound carvacrol which has been proven to be effective against blood pressure.
- Cardamon: A study demonstrated that blood pressure was effectively reduced by using cardamom. It also improves antioxidant status while breaking down blood clots but without altering blood lipids and fibrinogen levels significantly.
- Cinnamon: Prevents heart disease and diabetes.
- Banana: Rich in Potassium.
- Prunes: Contains high Potassium and low Sodium levels.
- Melons: A rich source of Potassium and Magnesium, which aids in bringing down the blood pressure. The carotenoids present in the melon, prevent hardening and narrowing of the vessel walls, thereby reducing the chances of constricted flow of blood through them.
- Berries: Blueberries, Strawberries and Raspberries are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and antioxidants. Blueberries contain a compound called pterostilbene which helps in preventing the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
- Citrus Fruits: Grapefruit, lime, lemon, oranges and tangerine etc. are full of vitamin C, phytonutrients and bioflavonoids. The phytonutrients and bioflavonoids are anti-inflammatory in nature, and prevent clots inside the vessels. Bioflavonoids also help controlling cholesterol.
Please consult your Ayurvedic doctor for the best herbal cure.
- Gokshura: Diuretic and ACE inhibitor.
- Sarpagndha: By the action on the vasomotor center, it leads to generalized vasodilatation, with a lowering of blood pressure.
- Gulkand [sweet preserve of rose petals]: Have a soothing and calming effect both physically and mentally.
- Hawthorn Berry: Opens the coronary arteries and stimulates good blood circulation. And also keeps the arteries and veins from hardening, causing blood clots and strengthens the heart muscle to make it more effective in pumping blood throughout the body.
- Olive Leaf: Maintains good blood circulation and helps in lowering blood pressure and preventing an irregular heartbeat.
- Gingko Biloba: Helps in improving blood circulation by preventing the arteries from getting blocked.
- Turmeric: Contains curcumin that helps to lower cholesterol in the body. And improves the flow by preventing blood clots. It is also good in strengthening the blood vessels and aiding liver disorders.
May all Beings be Healthy!
Dr. Indunil Weerarathne