Saturday, August 30, 2008


People should think more about their blood vessels. In particular, consider the single layer of cells known as the endothelium that line them. Roughly fried eggish in appearance, healthy endothelial cells maintain a Teflon like coating that allows for the smooth passage of blood. Under siege, however, say as they're scraped across asphalt when you fall off your bike, endothelial cells act like Velcro and raise little chemical flags that attract white cells and clotting factors to stick to their surfaces.

Unfortunately, certain factors in modern life cause this same Velcro response in your blood vessel lining. Doughnuts, french fries, cigarette smoke, air pollution, unflossed gumlines, and waisted fat (i.e. the metabolically active fat that clings to your midline) all send your endothelium into high-level alert.

'Use it' or 'lose it' definitely applies to your endothelium. The more pressure and friction exerted by the circulating blood during exercise, the more the cells flatten and align in the direction of blood flow, thus expanding the vessel and increasing the delivery of oxygenated blood. The most important factor that stimulates the release of endothelial relaxing factor is increased blood flow. When flow decreases on a regular sit-on-your-butt sort of basis, the cells increase their volume, lose their alignment, and heap up like cobblestones thus creating a bumpy, narrowed passage.

Blood vessels love:
  • Normal blood pressure
  • Exercise
  • Mono-unsaturated fatty acids
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Oatmeal
  • Dark chocolate
  • Grape juice
  • Air filters
  • Vitamins C & E
Blood vessels hate:
  • Hypertension
  • Inactivity
  • Saturated and trans-fats
  • Fast food
  • Obesity
  • Particulate matter in the air
  • Periodontal disease
Your choice: cobblestones covered in Velcro or fried eggs coated in Teflon. What's in your blood vessels?


Ruth said...

Wow! I love the way you explain things.

Wendy said...

I'll second that! And - I'm always glad to hear that dark chocolate is goooooood for you!!

dada said...

Thanks Doc for the reminders to spend less time on our duffs and more on our healthier habits!

KGMom said...

I was getting all depressed reading about choosing between cobblestones covered in Velcro or fried eggs coated in Teflon. Then I got to DARK CHOCOLATE.
I can do dark chocolate. Thanks for giving me a small window of hope.