Importance of the Cardiovascular System Probably almost everyone you know who is not on good nutritional supplement agents is hypertensive, which is likely the number one symptom of heart disease. Heart disease is one of the top causes of death. Figure 1.1: Heart disease is one of the top five causes of death This is not just an issue regarding adults, but it is now affecting kids more and more. In autopsies of kids eight or ten years of age, pathologists are finding an accumulation of plaque in the arteries and veins of the kids, despite their young ages. Understanding the Cardiovascular System It is important to understand a basic description of the cardiovascular system—the body system consisting of the heart, blood vessels, and blood. This system transports nutrients, waste products, gases, and hormones throughout the body, and it plays an important role in immune responses and the regulation of body temperature. The Circulatory System The circulatory system has to be available to pick up digested food and deliver it to all the cells of the body—whether they be muscle, brain, nerve, or heart cells. The waste products have to be sent via the urinary system outside, as seen in Figure 1.2. Figure 1.2: The cardiovascular system delivers nutrients to cells throughout the body The Heart The heart is in the center of the chest, not the left side, which many people assume is the case. Most people know the heart as an organ that pumps blood to the various parts of the body. The heart is also an endocrine gland and an electromagnetic transmitter, and it has about 40,000 nerve cells. Thus, the heart is very important for the transmission of impulses and information as well as for pumping blood.   Figure 1.3: The arteries are red showing they contain oxygen. The veins are blue showing they lack oxygen. Arteries are different from the veins in that they have a much thicker, muscular middle layer. Veins do not have muscles like arteries do and so they have to rely on contractions. Movement of the muscles around the veins pushes the blood flow, as seen in Figure 1.4. The blood flows more easily through the vein when the muscles are contracted. That is why it’s so important for people to exercise because this improves blood circulation. When a person is sedentary, it puts him or her at risk of stasis, which is the blood staying still, thus causing an improper function of the body. Figure 1.4: Movement of blood through veins Think about circulation and the whole system of arteries and veins that go through the body. The heart beats about 50 to 90 beats per minute at rest. If you are someone in top physical condition like Lance Armstrong, it beats about 32 times per minute. Cellular Perfusion The most important factors in the cardiovascular system are cellular and tissue perfusion, which simply means the amount of blood that actually gets to the cells of the body. If the brain lacks blood and oxygen for four minutes, the brain dies. Other parts of the body cannot last long either without having a fresh blood supply because blood supply brings with it hormones, oxygen, and nutrition. This is often part of the problem (or what caused the problem) in most disease conditions— diminished blood flow to the regions that are diseased. It is absolutely critical that blood flow is maintained throughout the body. After the age of forty, the overall tissue or cellular perfusion diminishes by about 5% every ten years. So you have to be aware of this and the fact that other things can jeopardize tissue perfusion—e.g. if you smoke or drink. Stress and emotional problems can also reduce tissue perfusion. Cellular perfusion shows that various parts of the body—different organs, different systems— have different levels of perfusion or amounts of blood flow. When the heart is at rest, the blood flow is a little less than 6,000 milligrams per minute; during exercise, it could go up to 17,500 milligrams per minute. This is about a threefold increase, which is because the heart can actually be stimulated to beat a lot more. The rate at which the cells take up glucose could be accelerated during exercise, stress, or even when you are reading intently; these processes take a lot of energy. Blood flow pretty much remains the same, but energy is used up more—especially when you are using your brain. The brain’s blood flow is maintained at the same level because brain cells are so fragile. They have to have a constant blood flow, and of course no one wants the system dealing with the brain to be jeopardized. It is important to remember that in order for cells to be healthy, they have to have adequate perfusion. And perfusion starts with blood being pumped out of the heart and into the blood vessels. Blood Flow The heart has to pump blood to the body’s cells. It is ideal when there is ample blood flow to an organ or tissue because the cells are getting all the nutrients they need. If there is not ample blood flow, there is a problem. Different parts of the body receive different amounts of blood perfusion. For example, the face is extremely well perfused. If you have a cut on your face, it heals a lot faster than if you have a cut on your foot or on the back of your heel. The two main things on the brain are the perfusion blood flow and the connection between the nerves, which have to connect and communicate with each other in order to function. Without blood flow there is not much communication. This is why it is important to ensure there is adequate blood flow to the brain as well as to other tissues in the body. The same idea applies to a person’s back. Around 20 million people a year suffer from chronic back pain. The most common site for back pain is in the lower back where there is not much circulation, so it does not really heal as well. Of course, the lower back also carries much more of the load of the weight of the body. But if it had more perfusion, it would probably heal better, and you wouldn’t have those problems. So, the key again is perfusion. Blood Pressure  Blood pressure is controlled by a number of centers, see Figure 1.5. The two most important centers are of course two parts in the brain—the medulla and the hypothalamus. These are the two main ways information is transmitted throughout the body. The medulla is the lowest part of the brain where the skull and neck meet. The medulla receives a lot of information, primarily from nerves in the nervous system. Figure 1.5: How blood pressure is controlled The hypothalamus receives most of its information from the hormones in the body. There are about 200 different hormones in the body, and they are constantly sending information to let the brain know what is going on. Hormones help control blood pressure. There are centers in the carotid artery (the main artery that supplies blood to the brain), which senses blood pressure and sends signals to the brain. The aortic arch and kidneys do the same, but the kidneys also regulate how much fluid is in the body. If there’s too much fluid, the kidneys increase excretion of water into the bladder and out of the body to prevent blood pressure from rising. On average a blood pressure of 140 over 90 is the highest limit considered safe. Anything above that is considered abnormal and borderline hypertension. If the kidneys sense that the blood pressure is low, they conserve water and do not excrete it like normal. This is a very finely tuned system that is always controlled by the brain. So remember, the key is the transfer of information through communication. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Information is transferred through the nervous tissue and through the hormones by latching onto cells via receptors. In both cases, all the cells receiving information are made up of receptors. Receptors are made up of Glyconutrients, which contain protein, fat, or eight different kinds of sugars. As a whole, a glycoprotein or glycolipid acts as a receptor. This is similar to your sense organs in the body. They have to be able to receive information and transmit it to the brain. If the brain receives no information or nutrients, it is comatose and on its way to being dead. For the brain to function it has to receive information. In the same way, cells have to receive information on a continuous basis in order to function. Hormonal Supplements Controversy surrounds the subject of hormonal supplements. A recommendation is to start first with the building blocks of those hormones rather than the hormones themselves. The body knows what to do with something when it comes from the outside. Once you introduce your body to a supplement, you can begin taking a fully formed hormone—natural is a lot better than synthetic. But either way, a fully formed hormone can knock your body systems out of balance. Therefore, it is better to give the body what it needs so you do not have to use hormonal supplements. The body has its own intelligence and can take care of the problem using the building blocks in a way that will not affect the balance. Conclusion The cardiovascular system is an important part of the body that helps transport nutrients, waste products, gases, and hormones throughout the body, and it plays an important role in immune responses and the regulation of body temperature. The system functions to the highest capacity when you take care of it. To prevent problems in the heart, blood pressure, and cholesterol, you must build strength. A healthy cardiovascular system can be achieved and maintained through proper nutrition, regular exercise, and taking antioxidants.]]>