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Circulatory Support

The diseases of the circulatory system are those that affect the heart, blood vessels and blood. They include such conditions as:

Anemia

Anemia is caused by a deficiency of hemoglobin in the blood. There are a number of nutritional deficiencies that can cause anemia including:

Genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia can also produce faulty hemoglobin.

The symptoms and signs of anemia include:

The main causes of anemia are nutritional and these may be made worse by blood loss from heavy periods or bleeding from the bowel or following an injury. Poor absorption of nutrients may also cause the problem.

Vegetarians are at risk from iron deficiency because iron absorption is impaired by whole grains, soy and other legumes. However, vitamin C improves the absorption of iron.

Vegetarians are further at risk if they also drink tea, as tannin containing beverages inhibit iron absorption. Coffee has also been shown to reduce the absorption of iron from the food, if the coffee is drunk with the meal.

Iron deficiency should be suspected in children with learning and behavior disorders and this is often overlooked. Deficiencies of iron can cause abnormalities of electrical activity in the brain (EEG) and an impairment of learning. The iron deficiency can produce apathy, irritability, poor appetite, ice craving and decreased exercise tolerance.

Children who are iron deficient also have a higher than normal ability to absorb lead from their food and this can have a cumulative effect on their behavior and learning problems.

What you can do to help

Heart disease

Coronary heart disease is one of the main causes of premature death in developed countries.

Coronary heart disease usually shows up as a heart attack or as angina (chest pain on exertion). The disease typically occurs when fatty deposits (atheroma) build up on the walls of arteries leading to atherosclerosis. This leads to a narrowing of the arteries.

Nutrition has a substantial role to play in preventing heart disease and minimizing further damage to the heart if there has been a heart attack.

Many factors have been identified as contributing to the risk of developing coronary heart disease, including:

Nutrition can help to:

What you can do to help

A number of nutritional supplements can be taken to help prevent and treat coronary heart disease.

Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement at least daily.

Take vitamin C which is thought to lower the total cholesterol level and it may have a beneficial effect on the blood pressure. The antioxidant properties of the vitamin will help to encourage the overall health of the heart.

Coenzyme Q10 has been successfully used in the treatment of angina, arrhythmia and other symptoms of heart disease. It is also an essential nutrient for the heart and an antioxidant. It can help cells produce energy to keep the heart beating. Doses range from 15 to 100 mg per day.

Vitamin E can reduce the 'stickiness' of platelets and reduce the risk of heart disease. Take 400 to 600 IU daily, but seek advice if you have been prescribed 'blood thinning' drugs.

Magnesium (at 450 to 650 mg per day) and vitamin B6 (as a part of vitamin B complex) may help to reduce the likelihood of clots.

Chromium has been linked to lower rates of heart disease and supplements can be taken at 200 to 400 mcg daily.

Other things that you can do to assist:

High blood pressure (hypertension)

As the blood flows around the body it exerts pressure on the artery walls. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when the pressure on the artery walls is above the normal level. This puts the circulatory system under considerable pressure and it may result in a stroke or heart failure if it is left untreated.

High blood pressure is often asymptomatic and is only picked up with some screening or routine recording of the blood pressure. The blood pressure rises gradually with age and mildly raised blood pressure is very common but is by no means serious.

High blood pressure may be caused by a number of nutritional deficiencies including:

What you can do to help

Raynaud's disease

Raynaud's disease is a condition in which the arteries of the fingers or toes go into spasm when exposed to the cold. The symptoms include:

Studies have shown that Raynaud's disease is caused, at least in part, by an essential fatty acid deficiency and possibly a magnesium deficiency.

What you can do to help

Other general advice includes:

Blood clotting in heart disease and other conditions

Clots are formed where there is damage to the lining of the blood vessel. Then cells, called platelets, stick to the damaged lining and release a substance that causes further clumping of platelets. This process can be modified by taking certain vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.

Conditions in which the blood clots too easily

There are several conditions in which the blood clots too easily. These include:

What you can do to help

Take vitamin B 6 (40 mg per day) which reduces blood stickiness.

Take vitamin C (200 - 1,000 mg per day) which has a beneficial effect upon blood fats, particularly cholesterol, and appears to reduce blood stickiness in people with coronary heart disease.

Take vitamin E (200 - 800 IU per day) which is known to correct blood stickiness. It is a natural anticoagulant. Selenium works well with vitamin E and may also be of assistance.

NOTE: People on anticoagulant medication such as Warfarin can only take vitamin E under medical supervision because of vitamin E's natural anticoagulant properties.

Take evening primrose oil (500 mg, 2 - 8 capsules per day) which affects the factors that reduce cell stickiness.

Take Zinc (10 mg per day).

Herbs such as garlic and ginger have also been shown to be beneficial.

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References

Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

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Nutritional measures, including the informed use of supplements, can play a significant role in both prevention and treatment of diseases of the circulatory system.