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Keeping a Strong Cardiovascular System

The Cardiovascular System is made up of your heart, blood vessels and blood. The function of this system is to carry oxygen and nutrients to all of the organs so they can function and survive.


For example, without enough oxygen, glucose and nutrients your thinking will slow down, your mental processing will become confused and you may act strangely, or make poor decisions. A great example of this is in mountain climbers with Acute Mountain Sickness. Your muscles and  organs, like your intestines, heart, liver and kidneys also need oxygen to function. When they stop functioning, poisonous toxins can get back up in your system, and eventually the organs will start shutting down. 



The heart, and blood vessels work together to make sure the blood carries the oxygen and energy to the rest of the body. It is simple to feel this process in action. When you walk fast, or jog, your muscles need more oxygen and energy to fire. Your heart starts beating faster to move the blood through your system faster.


A Strong Heart


Someone who runs a lot has a very strong heart. This means that the heart doesn’t have to beat as fast to pump the same amount of blood forward. Each pump is stronger.


The blood vessels do their part too. They get wider or narrower to shunt blood from the digestive system while you are running or back to it when you are eating. They also try to maintain the right amount of pressure for the blood to be pushed through effectively. 


A healthy person with a strong heart and healthy veins will have a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure because the system does not need to work hard to move the oxygen and nutrients to the brain, muscles and organs. 


Heart Stressors


There are many acute and chronic factors that can affect this system. For example, if you are suddenly injured or scared, your body will prepare for you to run or go into survival mode. The vessels will shunt blood away from your organs to your muscles so that you can run. In this process, your blood pressure will go up. Your heart rate will also go up to push the blood through faster. This response to a sudden stress is for survival, and your body is meant to return to a rest mode after the danger has passed.


For a lot of us, there are always “dangers” threatening our body. Financial instability, a bad relationship, an important and busy job, having kids, driving, and all sorts of daily interactions can make us stressed, and our bodies respond. 


When the cardiovascular system is always stressed, then the blood vessels are always going to be engaged and trying to shunt blood to where it needs to go. This is chronic high blood pressure. The heart is also responding by beating fast. This system was not meant to be in a state of stress all the time, and over time it starts to wear out. Organs just won't get everything they need.


This is not a sudden thing, but over years, everything stops functioning so well, and chronic illnesses, disease, and heart problems start to occur. 


In addition to stress, a lot of diets can be incredibly hard on the cardiovascular system. Too much red meat and cholesterol can artificially block blood vessels, making the heart work harder to pump blood through and sometimes completely cutting off blood supplies to vital areas. Some diets don’t have the electrolytes, nutrients or energy in them to keep the heart beating smoothly or running well. This leads to problems with the electrical activity in the heart and can cause your heart to beat irregularly which means the blood is not being pumped forward effectively. 


On the flip side, it is possible to push your body too hard when being active. It takes a lot, but extreme endurance athletes and high altitude athletes put a lot of stress on the system, and over time it can wear out for them too,

 

Unfortunately some people have a genetic predisposition for a weaker cardiovascular system, and no matter what you do, you have some heart and vessel disease. 


The Good News


The good news is all of this can be managed. Even with a genetic predisposition, a stressful job or other factors, you can ease the overall stress on this system. There are many medications that can be taken to lower blood pressure, and normalize a heart rate and rhythm, but there are a number of lifestyle choices that can heal the root cause of the problems. 


The three main lifestyle factors you have control over are Diet, Activity, and Stress. 



Eat a Nutritious Diet


First, diet really does make a difference. A diet high in vegetables and that has a wide variety of nutrients will not only make sure your system has energy, and nutrients to function, but will also make sure the blood vessels are clear for the blood to flow through. Diet really is the base for health and the cardiovascular system is incredibly impacted by diet. Whole, unprocessed foods are best. Scroll through my blog to find some great recipe ideas.


Stay Active


Activity is so important for so many reasons. Your heart actually benefits from being under certain amounts of stress especially from physical activity. Daily walks can be one of the best things to do for your heart. Getting your heart rate up for 60 minutes a few times a week, can make your heart much, much stronger. Each pump will be more efficient, and your heart and blood vessels will be able to tolerate higher levels of stress on the system without causing damage or disease. 


Decrease Stress


Finally, stress is a huge factor that everyone faces. There may be some ways to reduce stress in your life, but this can be a very hard change for some people to make. You may not be able to just change jobs, or your financial situation. Emotional trauma can not only cause a lot of stress, but can take a long time to heal and learn healthy ways of coping.


If cutting stressors out is too hard, you can always start by trying to add activities that decrease your stress. Art projects, meditation, walking, playing with a pet, laughing with friends all decrease stress and let the heart rest for a bit.


Any lifestyle changes can be hard to make especially if you aren’t confident as to which ones are right for you. If you have been diagnosed with heart, or blood vessel problems and need help in understanding what you can do to make a difference, in your quality and length of life, reach out for a conversation. 


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