Health Hotline Magazine | February 2023

W hat do strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, vascular in cardio vascular ). Each of us has around 60,000 miles of blood vessels tucked inside our bodies—enough to wrap around Earth twice—and like so many highways, interstates, and back roads, arteries, veins, and capillaries are the routes that blood, oxygen, nutrients, lymph, and hormones are delivered to all of our tissues and organs, and cellular waste is removed. This is the body’s circulatory system, and keeping its vessels healthy are critically important, not just for cardiovascular health, but for whole-body health. The vascular system plays an important role in the functioning of other body systems, including the respiratory system, digestive system, and kidneys and urinary system. Vascular disease is the weakening or blocking of blood vessels, which a ects blood flow, and can a ect many parts of the body, including the brain, the lungs, the eyes, the kidneys, the GI tract, and of course, the heart. Use these strategies to keep your blood vessels strong, flexible, and free flowing. FIRST THINGS FIRST: DIET & LIFESTYLE. As you may suspect, the same diet and lifestyle habits that support overall health are the same ones that will support vascular health: regular movement (walking is great!), manage stress, don’t smoke, minimum alcohol consumption, and a diet loaded with colorful plant foods that supply plenty of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Beets are a particularly good choice for vascular health—there are phytonutrients in beets that increase the body’s natural production of nitric oxide (NO), one of the most important compounds for blood vessel health. NO regulates vascular tone and blood flow, helps relax blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure, reduces arterial sti ness, and inhibits platelet adhesion, which plays a role in the development of atherosclerotic lesions. One study including hypertensive subjects found that just a little over a cup of beetroot juice each day improved blood pressure, endothelial function, and reduced arterial sti ness over the course of four weeks. Another note on diet and vascular function: It is important to eat in a way that maintains healthy blood sugar balance—chronically elevated blood sugar is highly damaging to blood vessels. For example, some of the most common complications that arise from diabetes include vascular complications of the kidneys and eyes, peripheral vascular disease, and cardiovascular disease. Even those without diabetes but with poor glucose control have a higher risk of stroke, indicating vascular dysfunction. Build a healthy foundation with diet and lifestyle, and supplement it with these research-backed nutrients. Bonus: Beyond vascular health, each one of these nutrients promotes health in multiple other ways, including reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, supporting optimal brain and immune function, gut health, detoxification, and energy production. EPA & DHA. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are well known to support cardiovascular health, and one of the ways in which they do this is via their action on the vascular system. EPA and DHA reduce inflammation and oxidative damage within the blood vessels, improve endothelial function (the endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of blood vessels and controls vascular relaxation and contraction, blood clotting, and platelet varicose veins, and erectile dysfunction have in common? They are all diseases of the vascular system, the vast network of veins, arteries, and capillaries that run through the body (it puts the

adhesion), may reduce the formation of blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke, and may prevent or reduce the formation of plaque. Aim to get 3,000 mg combined EPA and DHA daily. OPCS. An easier way to say “oligomeric proanthocyanidins,” OPCs belong to the family of antioxidants called polyphenols and are most commonly found in plant sources we can’t eat, like pine bark (Pycnogenol ® is the trademarked name) and grape seeds. OPCs are unique because they preferentially bind to capillary walls, where they promote capillary strength, healthy function, peripheral circulation, and decrease permeability. Research has shown that supplementation with OPCs improves venous insu ciency, a condition in which blood pools in the legs, causing aching pain, heaviness, swelling, and varicose veins, increases venous tone in patients with varicose veins, and improves diabetic retinopathy (vascular disease of the eyes). Human studies have found e cacy with a dose of 100 to 300 mg daily. RESVERATROL & QUERCETIN. These phytonutrients belong to the family of antioxidants called flavonoids, and are found in plant foods (grapes and wine in the case of resveratrol, and onions and apples in the case of quercetin). Both of these flavonoids have been shown to be especially beneficial when it comes to vascular health. Like beets, resveratrol increases the production of nitric oxide in the endothelium, while inhibiting the production of endothelin-1. Endothelin-1 is a potent vasoconstrictor that causes fibrosis (thickening) of the vascular cells and increases inflammation and the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which cause oxidative damage; overproduction of endothelin-1 is implicated in the development of vascular disease and atherosclerosis. Like resveratrol, quercetin also reduces both oxidative damage and inflammation in the endothelium and inhibits the production of endothelin-1. Research has also found that it inhibits platelet aggregation (blood clots), improves vasodilation, reduces high blood pressure, and improves overall endothelial function. Interestingly, initial research is showing that quercetin may also mitigate the accumulation of senescent (aging) endothelial cells; these aging cells can drive endothelial dysfunction. While doses in studies of both resveratrol and quercetin vary, an average dose is 250-500 mg daily. B VITAMINS. Homocysteine, an amino acid created by the body when it metabolizes other amino acids, can cause major damage to the arteries when elevated, and is considered a classic risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis, where inflammation damages the lining of the arteries, leading to increased permeability and eventually, the formation of plaques. Enter the B vitamins. Specifically, vitamins B6, B12, and folate (folic acid) break down homocysteine, keeping levels in check. If you have elevated homocysteine, levels can be e ectively reduced with supplemental B vitamins. One meta-analysis that included 7,474 stroke patients found that supplementation with the B vitamins significantly reduced homocysteine levels and “resulted in significant reduction in stroke recurrence as well as a combined incidence of vascular events, including recurrent strokes, myocardial infarctions [heart attacks] and vascular deaths.” Because the B vitamins work together, look for a B-complex supplement to ensure you get optimal amounts of all the Bs. For references, email

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