An often overlooked key to good health has to do with the thickness and stickiness of blood, a measurement known as “blood viscosity.”
Like blood pressure, the thickness and stickiness of blood is not the same at all times. In fact, it fluctuates with every beat of your heart, as blood enters and leaves the heart’s chambers.
In order to be healthy, you want thinner, less sticky blood.
Blood should flow like wine, not like ketchup. When it is thick, the oxygen and nutrients it carries can’t get to the cells. Without sufficient oxygen and nutrients, cells age and die prematurely, setting the stage for a wide range of disease conditions.
People with cancer and heart disease, and people who suffer strokes all have thick blood. People with chronic infections have thick blood as well.
Conversely, when your blood is healthy and thin, your cells are able to obtain more oxygen and nutrients, resulting in better health and more energy.
To better understand the importance of thin versus thick blood, consider your home’s water pipe system. When water is clean (thin), it flows freely through the pipes and out through your faucet whenever you need it. And because of how easily it flows, the water doesn’t damage the pipes themselves.
But when water is contaminated and thick like sludge, the flow is much slower, requiring more energy and force to get it to move. This can result in clogged, damaged, and even burst water pipes.
The same thing happens in your cardiovascular system and its miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries. Thin, healthy blood flows freely, requiring a reduced output of energy from the heart.
But as it thickens and becomes stickier, more energy is needed to move it, and the more likely it is that cellular debris and other waste matter will begin to stick to the blood.
This, in turn, will increase blood pressure levels and can damage arterial walls leading to buildup of debris inside the vessel and simultaneously depriving cells of oxygen and nutrients they need. In addition, the cells cannot eliminate waste building up inside them.
As this happens, inflammation levels in the body rise. In order to repair the damage to arterial walls, the body secretes plaque around the damaged sites, which narrows the arteries and increases blood pressure even more.
For all of these reasons, we encourage you to have your blood viscosity measured by your doctor. An effective indirect way of estimating blood thickness is to have your doctor order a cardiac CRP (C-reactive protein) blood test, which gives an indication of inflammation in the body. If it is very high (over 4), that indicates your blood is too thick.
To improve blood viscosity levels, take nutritional supplements such as fish oil, garlic, gingko biloba, vitamin E, and a supplement called nattokinase, which is an enzyme extract derived from fermented soybeans (natto) that has long been used in Asian countries.
These supplements are important if you live a sedentary lifestyle, and especially if you are in your 40s or older.
Because lack of exercise can increase blood viscosity, as can a poor diet, be sure to also get regular exercise. Doing so can go a long way toward keeping your blood thin and healthy.
Posts by Michael Galitzer, M.D. and Larry Trivieri Jr.
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