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Cardiovascular System

Compared to other systems, our cardiopulmonary vascular system is complex, consisting of a network of "lines and channels" that keep us alive.  Here we examine the roles of blood pressure, cholesterol metabolism, fat metabolism and water balance in keeping the body's cardiopulmonary vascular system healthy and efficient. We look at how blood pressure is regulated and also covered is the function of cholesterol and fat in the body and the nutrients required for their proper metabolism. Finally, water's role in the body is discussed, including how the body maintains a healthy water balance and the nutrients involved in this process.

 BLOOD PRESSURE: This is the force exerted by blood as it presses against and attempts to stretch the walls of blood vessels, particularly the arteries. Blood pressure's numeric reading is determined primarily by three factors: the rate of the heartbeat, the strength of the heartbeat and the amount of blood that passes through the vessels. Resistance to the blood by the arteries is the result of the chemical properties of blood itself and the size of the arteries serving the blood.

STRESS: If stress, either internal or external, causes an increase in heartbeat, the following sequence occurs. The heart increases its beats per minute, pushing more blood through the ventricle into the arteries at a faster rate per minute, which increases the pressure on the walls of the arteries. This higher pressure is detected by the pressure-sensitive nerve cells in the arteries which send messages in the form of nerve impulses to the brain.

The brain responds to the message by telling the heart to slow down, normally decreasing the blood pressure and defusing the situation. The nervous system continually monitors blood pressure in this manner, in an effort to maintain a normal flow of blood.  This is called a feedback system.

FEEDBACK SYSTEM: This is any circular situation, or loop, in which information and the status of an operation are continually reported to a central control area. The manner in which the brain and nervous system interact is a good example of a feedback system. For this process to work properly, all its component systems must also be in proper working order. The blood vessels, the nerve cells and the brain's neurotransmitters all must function together to maintain homeostasis of the blood pressure.

CHOLESTEROL & FATS: Cholesterol is a fat. Fats, referred to medically and nutritionally as lipids, are essential for good health. Triglycerides, also known as neutral fats, are a source of insulation, protection, energy and energy storage molecules in the body. Phospholipids, fats that contain phosphorus, are the major lipid component of cell membranes and are found in high amounts in the brain and nerve tissues.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FATS: A fat is a substance containing one or more fatty acids that is the principle form in which energy is stored in the body. A certain amount of fat is necessary in the diet to provide an adequate supply of essential fatty acids to the body and for the efficient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from the intestine. A surplus of carbohydrates, proteins or fats in the diet is all converted to triglycerides and stored in fat tissue.

METABOLISM OF FATS: Metabolism is the term used to describe the chemical and physical changes that take place within the body that enable it to grow and function.  Fat metabolism is related to basal metabolism--the point at which the resting body breaks down nutrients and liberates energy.  The proper metabolism of these compounds is an important aspect of good health.

METABOLISM OF FATS AND CHOLESTEROL: The healthy metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins is one of the most important aspects of good health. There are two main types of metabolism: building up, known as anabolism; and breaking down, known as catabolism.

In anabolism, smaller molecules such as amino acids are converted into larger molecules, such as proteins. In catabolism the opposite is true. Larger molecules, such as glycogen, are broken down to smaller molecules, such as glucose.

Because it serves different functions in the body, cholesterol must be metabolized on a continual basis. It is a component of cell membranes. The adrenals use cholesterol as a precursor for steroid hormone production. In fact, all steroid hormones in the human body are derived from cholesterol. Cholesterol is also a precursor of vitamin D.

All growing animals, humans included, need adequate cholesterol because of the role it plays in basic nutritional well being of the body.  Of course, an excess of cholesterol is not beneficial because it could upset the body's homeostasis. 

ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: Most triglycerides contain more than one kind of fatty acid, polyunsaturated (PUFA), saturated and monosaturated, and most food fats are mixtures of different triglycerides.

The body has a specific need for PUFA since they cannot be synthesized in the body.  Linoleic acid is the PUFA needed for healthy cell membranes and serves as a precursor for the formation of other fatty acids necessary within the body. Arachidonic acid is the PUFA that is a major precursor for prostaglandins, a group of chemically active, hormone-like compounds that influence innumerable body processes.

 

Calcium a mineral important for neuromuscular excitability and the transmission of nerve impulses.

Potassium a mineral vital in the transmission of nerve impulses, an important action in the operation of the blood pressure feedback system.

Vitamin D which helps the body utilize calcium efficiently. 

Vitamin B-6 necessary for the proper functioning of the pressure-sensitive nerve cells and cardiac muscles involved in the operation of the blood pressure feedback system.

L-Taurine a free-form amino acid, known to affect several biological functions, including cardiac contractility.

-Eat meals with a balance of proteins and complex carbohydrates. For example, turkey or chicken breast with beans, brown rice or lentils.

-Consume raw fruits and vegetables; broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, apples, strawberries, grapefruit and watermelon are also low in calories, high in water and minerals such as calcium and potassium.

-Drink plenty of water

-Eat good fats, like avocados, olive oil and raw nuts, but in moderation

-Avoid processed foods, white flour products, salt and white rice

-Cut consumption of alcohol, soda, candy and products with refined sugars

-Avoid fried or greasy food

-Add to your diet - dried fruits, cherries, bananas, broccoli, green peppers, brown rice, buckwheat, seafood, potatoes, avocados, and leafy greens.

-Avoid salty foods, sugars, heavy pastries

-Drink apple juice at dinner

-Be active, get regular aerobic exercise

-Always eat breakfast, make your main meal lunch and don’t skip meals

-Avoid eating before bed and during the night

-Daily 30 minute walk

-Apply a dry skin brush to entire body to stimulate circulation

-Practice hot & cold hydrotherapy for better circulation

-Maintain a healthy body weight

-Avoid tobacco products

-Take time to relax each day

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