OUR health and life, believe it or not, depend on the consistency of our blood. Our blood has to be just right — not too thin, not too thick. When blood is too thick, it sticks to walls of the arteries and accumulates to block them as time goes by, as in heart attack and stroke. When it is too thin, bleeding could occur. As a general rule, the blood of the newborn or young children is simply “perfect,” not too thin or too thick, clean and unadulterated, and these youngsters are in terrific health. Some of us adults who behave by watching what we eat and by exercising, managing stress properly, abstaining from harmful substances like tobacco and dope, and who drink alcoholic beverages only in moderation, are reaping the benefits of better health and “a more prolonged and sustained youth,” compared to those who abuse themselves.
Blood’s vital roles
Besides carrying oxygen our blood also carries with it important hormones and other substances our body manufactures in its built-in “pharmacy,” in response to our daily activities, reactions to situations, or reactions to illnesses. Example of this is the auto-production of insulin by the Islets of Langerhans in the beta cell of our pancreas when we ingest carbohydrates (sugar) like rice, bread, and sweets. As long as we do not persistently overeat and abuse this wonderful privilege of having these God-given “perfect” and mind-boggling organs and systems, our inherent ability to maintain homeostasis (good internal physiologic balance) will keep us in good health.
When we eat cholesterol-laden or fatty food, especially red meat, egg-yolk, dairy products, butter, etc., our blood becomes thick. When the blood is extracted and tested, it will have the consistency of milk. It is thick and white with fats, and prone to clotting. The other situations which will thicken the blood and promotes clotting are: cigarette smoking, fear and anxiety, stress, following and accident or injury (where our body tries to protect itself from bleeding, or at least, minimize bleeding by making the blood thick, instantaneously and automatically).
The thick blood that circulates within the arteries will then act like a fresh sticky, gooey, cement substance that is painted against the intima (inner wall) of the arteries throughout the body. This layer of “cement” that coats the arterial channel accumulates and becomes thicker and thicker as years go by. When the tiny caliber of the coronary (heart) arteries, or the carotid and cerebral (brain) arteries is so compromised by this build-up of cholesterol plaques, it will make the arterial channel tight and obstructed. This then restricts and prevents normal flow of blood to the heart (causing chest pains or heart attack), to the brain (causing stroke), etc. Thick blood that clots in the leg veins could travel to the lung and cause fatal pulmonary embolism (massive clots blocking the artery to the lungs).
The other enemy of our body is inflammation. Anything that causes inflammatory response from our immune system, like dental carries, gum diseases, wound in any part of the body, infection in general (including gastro-intestinal illnesses) and auto-immune conditions, negatively impacts the cardiovascular system, and new studies show any of those infection could increase the risk for dementia, like Alzheimer’s. Inflammation also leads to thickening of the blood.
Although the body is normally strong, “tough,” and resilient, the constant insults and aggravation we subject it to usually cause us health problems, sooner or later, and especially as we grow older.
Indeed, the human body is amazing, to say the least. The organs are “normal” in size and function in a marvelous, almost magical way, very efficiently. The human body is really “perfect,” until we, humans, repeatedly abuse it, a self-destruct behavior majority of us are guilty of most of the time, knowingly or unknowingly.
What manmade invention can do these marvels, or even come close to what God has created? The human body never ceases to amaze me, even at this time in my career as a cardiac surgeon. More than ever, I have learned to respect and admire the human body.
The artificial kidneys (dialysis machine), for example, is about the size of small refrigerator, as compared to our natural kidneys, which are smaller than our clenched fist but which function a lot more efficiently (for free), with no bad side effects as they work, unlike the man-made kidney. The artificial heart, about 8 times the size of an adult heart, is a lot less efficient, cannot function without a power source, not as durable as our natural heart, and has a lot of complications with its use. Indeed, nothing can beat the magnificence of the human body.
This also goes true with our blood, which no artificial or experimental blood can match, much less, beat. It is the precious liquid “gold” in our circulation that sustains us and keeps us alive and healthy. However, if we abuse our body and allow (actually induce) our blood to thicken dangerously by our bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle, we will eventually get what could be expected.
While there are available blood thinners (like aspirin, other more potent pills, and fish oils) and cholesterol-lowering drugs like the “statins,” there is nothing more natural, safer, cheaper, and with negligible “side-effects” than watching our diet (low carb, a lot of vegetables, high protein, and pushing ourselves away from the table less than full), daily exercises, good hydration, stress management and relaxation, abstinence from tobacco, disciplined alcohol intake, taking low-dose (81 mg) “baby” aspirin daily if prescribed by your physician, and having a regular medical and dental check-ups. These are indeed practical natural DIY (do-it-yourself) ways to maintain good health and maximize longevity. Artificial means could be risky, life-threatening, and quite cost prohibitive.
The million-dollar question now is: How thick is your blood?
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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and anti-graft foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com, philipSchua.com Email: [email protected]