(NaturalHealth365) Over the course of an average lifetime, the human heart beats an astounding 3 billion times, pumping blood through a network of arteries, veins, and capillaries totaling a stunning 60,000 miles. We may take these phenomenal inner mechanisms for granted, but we do so at our own risk. The all-important circulatory system ensures that oxygen-rich blood reaches the organs and tissues and clears away carbon dioxide and waste products. In addition, efficient circulation facilitates better coronary health, quicker healing of wounds, sharper mental function, and a more effective immune system.
Fortunately, natural nutrients and supplements can go a long way toward keeping veins and arteries healthy and functional. For example, recent research supports the ability of grape seed extract to significantly boost blood flow efficiency. So let’s look at three of the most effective natural substances for supporting healthy circulation.
Omega-3 fatty acids support healthy circulation, enhance workout recovery
Omega-3 fatty acids, naturally found in fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are believed to have anti-inflammatory and heart-protective effects. These beneficial fats support healthy circulation by promoting the release of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow. In addition, omega-3s inhibit the tendency of blood platelets to form into clumps and clots, thereby helping to keep blood free-flowing.
In a study published in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, scientists found that fish oil supplementation significantly increased blood flow to the legs of healthy male participants after exercise – and concluded that supplementation could benefit those undergoing high-intensity workouts. For maximum benefit, look for fish oil that contains both EPA and DHA, considered the two most beneficial types of omega-3s. Natural healers typically advise fish oil amounts of 500 mg to 1,000 mg a day but consult your integrative doctor before supplementing.
Ginkgo biloba supports healthy circulation with two groups of beneficial compounds
For thousands of years, healers in traditional Chinese medicine have recommended ginkgo biloba for improving vein health. Modern analysis has supported this ancient use, revealing that ginkgo biloba is rich in antioxidant flavonoids – which scavenge harmful free radicals – and terpenoids, which dilate blood vessels and promote blood flow. Ginkgo biloba is available in capsule and liquid form, with natural health experts advising products standardized to contain 23 to 32 percent flavonoids (also called heterosides) and 6 to 12 percent terpenoids.
Herbal healers typically recommend amounts of 120 mg to 240 mg a day to promote healthy circulation – but consult your experienced integrative doctor before trying ginkgo biloba. (Important: ginkgo biloba extracts are made only from the leaves. The fruits and seeds of the ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, may be toxic and should not be eaten). In addition to promoting healthy circulation, ginkgo biloba is also believed to offer cognitive and memory benefits.
Grape seed extract improves blood flow and protects health of arteries
Derived from the seeds of grapes, grape seed extract contains high levels of proanthocyanidins, a group of purple/bluish plant pigments also found in blueberries and other “superfoods.” Proanthocyanidins have been “wowing” researchers over the past few decades with their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities – so it’s not surprising that they benefit circulation. In addition to decreasing oxidative stress, proanthocyanidins are believed to protect the delicate walls of arteries, regulate blood pressure and reduce the “stickiness” of blood platelets, making them less likely to form clots.
In a 2019 double-blind controlled study published in Nutrients, researchers found that grape seed extract reduced arterial stiffness, increased elasticity, and lowered blood pressure in a group of adults with prehypertension or elevated blood pressure. In a separate study, healthy young women who took grape seed extract for two weeks experienced 40 percent less leg swelling after six hours of sitting.
Grape seed extract is antibacterial and antifungal, meaning it could potentially improve the balance of gut bacteria and protect the body against pathogens and “nasties” such as S. aureus and Candida fungal overgrowth. Yet another “plus” for grape seed extract is that it may help support healthy cognitive function as people age. Typical amounts may range from 300 mg to 800 mg a day – but get the “go-ahead” from your integrative doctor before supplementing.
Optimize blood flow naturally
You can help keep the highways and byways of your circulatory system clear by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet rich in antioxidant-laden, fiber-containing organic fruits and vegetables (particularly nitrate-rich dark leafy greens and anti-inflammatory cherries and berries), along with sufficient quantities of healthy omega-3 fats.
Good to know: ginger, walnuts, turmeric, and cayenne pepper also receive high marks from natural health experts for their ability to stimulate healthy circulation. If you still smoke, quitting is one of the most vital steps you can take for circulatory health. You can also improve vasodilation through regular exercise. Finally, it’s important to manage stress through natural means, such as guided meditation, biofeedback, yoga or acupuncture.
Look at it this way: Protecting the health of your arteries and veins is a way to say “thank you” to your hard-working circulatory system.
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