It is well known in the general public that “thick blood” can lead to high blood pressure. Most people are familiar with the use of blood thinners like warfarin for this issue. In fact, many people have either first hand or with a loved one temporarily used blood thinners as part of a surgery or other medical procedure. However, most people don’t really know what “thick blood” is and how it can raise blood pressure.
What is Thick Blood?
Defining thick blood is and isn’t as simple as it sounds. Thick blood may be defined as blood that is more viscous due to various factors. However, for the most part, thick blood is a result of more clotting factors in the blood stream. This may make the blood slightly more viscous but the real issue is that it leads to more clotting in the arteries. The type of clotting I’m talking about here is the same clotting that could cause a stroke or heart attack. However, this type of clotting also happens all over our bodies every second of the day as part of our normal function. The problem with “thick blood” is that it puts us at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and/or other cardiovascular disease over the long-term.
How Does Thick blood Raise Blood Pressure?
Thick blood raises blood pressure because of two main mechanisms. In the short run, when blood is more viscous it requires more pressure from the heart to push it throughout the arteries. Secondly and more important over the long run, thick blood causes inflammatory damage to the lining of the arteries, which leads to atherosclerosis and plaque formation. These mechanisms harden the arteries and reduce the space for blood to flow through.
What Causes Thick Blood?
Many of the causes of “thick blood” are aspects of our life that we can control like nutrition and blood sugar regulation. Many of these causes also lead to inflammation, which enhances the long term cardiovascular concern. The most common causes of include poor blood sugar regulation (pre-diabetes), diabetes, pro-inflammatory diets, smoking, and excess alcohol intake. There certainly appears to be genetic factors at play that may be separate to causes that we can control.
How Do You Treat Thick Blood?
The naturopathic treatment for “thick blood” focuses on identifying and treating the factors that contribute to making the blood thick in the first place. Instead of relying on blood thinners for long-term use, I try to make it possible for a patient not to need to depend on them. Most of this work involves identifying sources of inflammation in a patient’s diet and environment. When we need treatment for “thick blood” it is very important to recommend what is in the patient’s best interest. This may actually be a prescription for a blood thinner. However, there are other options we can consider if a prescription is not needed. The nutrients to consider include fish oil, wobenzyme, serrapeptidase, and curcumin to name a few.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Barlow please contact his office at 250-448-5610.
Last week a prospective new patient emailed a question to me about blood pressure treatments that inspired me to write this week’s column. The initial question asked was about my general approach to treating high blood pressure. The follow up question wondered if natural treatments could be as effective as medications and if the natural route was even worth pursuing. I think these questions were great ones to be asked because this is on everyone’s mind who has an issue with high blood pressure and is seeking advice on the non-prescription side of things.
All doctors, MDs or NDs, are trained to think of blood pressure in two very basic ways. First of all, is the blood pressure so high currently that we need to prescribe something immediately or else a consequence might happen? Secondly, is the blood pressure suspicious but we have time to figure things out further? Typically, NDs and MDs should treat the patient with critical high blood pressure very similarly with some type of immediate intervention. However, the big difference is usually with the patients who are not in a critical situation but may have a chronic blood pressure concern.
The most important first step in treating someone with suspected high blood pressure is to ask them to take a few weeks to obtain at least 20-50 individual blood pressure readings at home, work, or the pharmacy. They should get these readings mostly at random times so we can get a sense of where their blood pressure is during their typical day. No matter what the answers are, the readings are much more accurate than 1-5 readings in the office. In fact, at our spring convention in 2014, UBC Pharmacy School instructed the NDs in attendance to quit relying on office readings and focus on several home readings instead.
Once we have established that blood pressure is higher than it really should be the most important next step is to try to figure out why. If we just jump into treatment, whether it’s natural or prescription, we are merely treating the symptom and the patient is likely to depend on that treatment for the long-term or even lifelong. Blood pressure is largely regulated by only a few mechanisms in the body. Therefore, the key to successful treatment is to see if one of those mechanisms is being harmed and blood pressure is rising as a consequence.
An example of this involves the kidney as the kidney plays a major role in regulating blood pressure. If the kidney does not receive enough blood supply it will cause the release of blood pressure-raising hormones called rennin and aldosterone. Certain blood pressure medications like ramipril (Altace) work on lowering these hormones. However, this approach in no way identifies or treats the reason the lack of blood flow to the kidney. It merely, inhibits the signal from the kidney to the cardiovascular system. In my opinion, the better long-term strategy should focus on identifying the underlying reasons for poor circulation to the kidney.
It’s our daily lifestyle habits that we should examine first to see if they are leading to poor circulation to the kidney. These include poor nutrition, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, digestive disorders, food allergies/sensitivities, sluggish liver metabolism, atherosclerosis.
Natural treatments are very successful at treating high blood pressure because they revolve around identifying the cause of high blood pressure and supporting the body’s mechanisms for regulating blood pressure. In next week’s column, I will expand on the other mechanisms in the body for regulating blood pressure.
Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no question that Tom Brady is performing at or near his best into his late 30s. This past weekend, at the age of 37 he won his 4th Super Bowl and his 3rd Super Bowl MVP award. Not bad for a guy who was largely overlooked coming out of University and drafted 199th overall in his draft class. So now that he’s won so much, married a super model, and made more money than he’ll ever need, why doesn’t he just retire before he get’s too old and/or injured. It’s because of two main reasons. First of all, he still has the desire to play at the pro level. Secondly, he believes the human body can compete at this level as a quarterback up to around age 45. This is music to my ears! In this week’s article we will look at five things you can do to keep your body in the best shape possible to compete against the 20-somethings.
1. Early to Bed
Tom Brady knows the importance of sleep when it comes to playing at your best later in your career. Sleep is when we regenerate most of the damage we’ve done during the day. Our best sleep comes when we promote and enhance deep sleeping patterns. The deeper we sleep, the more we produce growth hormones through the night, which increases recovery. One of the best ways to sleep deeply is to go to bed before you get a second wind. For many of us, this means going to sleep before 10 PM.
2. Early To Rise
Tom Brady is notorious for giving his teammates a hard time if they straggle to the gym at 6:00 AM or later. He and many of his teammates start their workouts at 5 AM. The morning should be the most productive time of day for most of us. When we wake up in the morning and over the next few hours, our bodies produce about 10-25 times more cortisol than we do at bedtime. This is one of the most significant parts of the circadian rhythm. When you take advantage of this natural healthy rhythm by exercising in the morning you give yourself the best chance to maximize your workout.
3. Post-Workout Nutrition
The food and nutrients you consume after working out are potentially as important or more important than the actual workout itself. Many young athletes merely throw as much food as they can into their bodies after exercise. However, this usually results in less than ideal healing because of the inefficiencies of too much food. The extra work required of the digestive system directly shunts resources away from the muscles and their recovery. Working with a health professional to figure out your ideal post workout nutrition is a worthy investment.
4. Support Your Organs
Tom Brady recently developed a training center right beside the Patriot’s stadium. One of the main reasons for doing so was Traditional Chinese Medicine. Brady has been working with a TCM practitioner to ensure his entire body, from both the Western and Eastern perspectives, is at its finest. It’s not just muscles that need to be at their finest. Your liver, kidney, lungs, lymphatic system, adrenal glands and thyroid should be assessed for optimal function.
5. Planning for Success
Most of us would not be shocked to hear that Tom Brady is a planner. However, I was initially shocked to hear about the detail of his planning. Between himself, his trainers, and health care practitioners, he has just about every detail organized from immediately after the season until training camp. To me, this highlights how important goal setting can be. If you want to peak at a certain time, you should figure out what you have to do day by day, workout by workout in order to get to that peak.
I’ve read a number of articles about Tom Brady’s desire to play at a top level into his 40s. I see no reason why most of us can’t be near the top of our condition into our 40s and possibly beyond. As we age, we probably have to work smarter in order to reduce the inefficiencies we could have overcome more easily when we were younger. If you are interested in maximizing your potential regardless of your age I strongly suggest you work with health care professionals who can help set you up for success.
If you have any questions or would like to book a consultation wit Dr. Barlow you can contact him at [email protected] or 250-448-5610.
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