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HEALTHY HEART This is just as important as blood pressure for your health – but how much do you know about it?
By Andrea Downey, Digital Health Reporter
When blood becomes harder to pump it can increase a person’s risk of blood clots – speeding up the development of heart disease.
It is just as important as blood pressure for your health, but new research suggests an alarming number of Brits are unaware of the importance of blood flow.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers among people aged over 45, yet only one in ten thought a healthy blood circulation needed to be considered in heart health, a survey found.
More than half considered blood pressure the most important thing to consider when improving heart health, followed by 47 per cent who cited cholesterol.
The research further reveals that Brits think so little about their blood, that half the population don’t even know their own blood type.
Dr Niamh O’Kennedy, research scientist in cardiovascular health, based at University of Aberdeen, said: “The significance of a healthy blood flow should not be underestimated.
“A healthy cardiovascular system is one with no constrictions in the blood vessels, so no plaque build up due to chronically high cholesterol levels and no compression caused by high blood pressure, and with smoothly flowing blood.
“However, typically, very little thought is given to the blood pumping round people’s bodies.
“This may be because people cannot see or feel it and it isn’t easily monitored.
“They’re only aware that there is something wrong with it when they experience a major health scare – such as a heart attack, stroke, DVT or pulmonary embolism.”
Shockingly, the research found that five per cent of Brits thought blood flow was consistent – thinking if their heart is pumping blood then it must be flowing fine. But that is not always the case.
There are a surprising number of lifestyle, environmental and hormonal factors that can impact anyone’s blood flow throughout the day – by making their platelets sticky and their blood harder to pump. The factors include poor diet, over or under exercising, stress, smoking and alcohol.
When the platelets get sticky and the blood becomes harder to pump it can increase a person’s risk of blood clots – speeding up the development of heart disease. Blood clots can also lead to other serious conditions such as stroke.
Nitric oxide, found naturally in our bodies, helps to calm blood platelets, allowing blood to circulate smoothly, and keeps blood vessels relaxed, helping control blood pressure.Unfortunately, most people start producing less nitric oxide from the age of 40, and earlier than that if they have consistently high blood sugar, do very little exercise, are overweight, pregnant, or smoke.
Dr Kennedy added: “You sow the seeds of cardiovascular disease risk as young as your adolescence and twenties, but they lie dormant while your body is in peak condition, able to resist triggers for inflammation and producing lots of nitric oxide.”
Dr Kennedy suggested supplements like Fruitflow, a tomato supplement scientifically proven to show similar effects on platelets as aspirin, to help keep blood flow healthy.