The most important players of our High blood pressure scenario are our arteries. In order to deal with the disorder we should know a few things about them:
Just like most of our whole body, our arteries are little miracles. They are the supply chain of our body.
Like a tree, they grow from your heart and branch into smaller and smaller arms and twigs into the remotest areas of our body.They nourish our cells and provide oxygen and vital nutrients to each part of our body.
Combined, they stretch out to some 100,000 km of pure length!
To visualise this amazing concept, just take a look at your hand. Put it up straight above your head for one minute. Then put it again all the way down. You will see, how all our vital juice runs back via all the branches and twigs to nourish the hand. It should be red now. Areas of your body which are not properly nourished, show a white or blueish colour, healthy areas should be red when pressed and pressure released.
In order to make this constant supply reliable and possible, a constant pressure must be exerted. Otherwise cell Nr. 10000004 might just not get enough oxygen once in a while and not function properly. This might just be one of our precious brain cells! “Hello, you, heart, I can not think properly right now because I am not getting any juice”.
The pressure is also needed to provide nourishment despite the forces of gravity. Otherwise, again, we would have to carry our brain better where our buttocks are. Now, this task is performed, as we know by the pressure exerted by the heart.
Veins are unlike arteries
For the topic of high blood pressure we are only concerned about arteries and capillaries (the smallest twigs). The veins are solely occupied with the transportation of waste matters back from the cells and are not subjected to heart pressure. Their stream is guaranteed by the work of our muscles and the sucking function back to the heart. You can tell the veins from the arteries, because the colour of the blood running through veins is not red, but rather of blueish colour. However, they are not the object of my blog.
Though all of our arteries, arterioles and capillaries are vital, the most critical arteries or branches for us are
1) the ones supplying our brain which have to run through our already crowded and rather narrow neck. They are called the carotid arteries, maybe you have heard it before.
2) the ones supplying our heart which also relies on constant nourishment for proper functioning. These are the coronary arteries as they look like a crown or a corona.
Why critical? Because whenever one or the other is clogged, it becomes a life threatening situation for us!
The largest of our arteries is a thick branch reaching all the way from our heart down to our gutts. It can be as wide as the mouse for your computer. This one is called the aorta. This is our main stem.
How do they work?
Before I will get into the factors influencing arteries and high blood pressure, I will explain how these branches and twigs look like and work.
Now, as you can see, unlike a tree, our branches do in fact have muscles. Thus, they also differ from any pipeline. Muscles, as you all know ,can contract and expand. Just take your arm muscles, which you can flex and tighten! The muscles of the arteries work the same way! They can contract to narrow or relax to widen the passage for our blood.
A layer of elastic skin protects this musle inside and outside, which has to be nourished as well.
When our arteries are healthy, they are elastic and easily contract and expand according to demand. The more an artery goes into contraction, the more it exerts pressure on the fluid inside, thus, it runs faster. The more it expands or relaxes, the more the pressure is gradually taken away and the fluid runs more slowly.
Let us visualise this concept: Imagine you were all cuddled up and warm. Now you go with your bare feet into snow or ice cold water. What happens? Yes, you freeze, I know, but besides that? Your feet become white (don’t wait until they are blue please!). Now, this happens, because all the little capillaries (smallest branches) in your feet have all contracted and the blood flow is constrained.
Now, take the same feet again, and put them into a hot water tub (rather warm not boiling!). What happens? Due to the warmth, you capillaries have expanded again. Blood and nourishment were supplied again, your “circulation has improved” . Your feet become warmer and alive. They should be all red! If your feet react this way your arteries should be fine!
Arteries have to be elastic, that is their muscles have to work properly, to be able to withstand the alternating pressure exerted by the pump, i.e. your heart. If they weren’t they would eventually burst.
Factors which influence the health of our arteries
Factors which influence this elasticity are numerous. Here are the most important ones:
Fitness of muscles
Let us start with the obvious one. As any other muscle you can train, you can also, believe it or not, train these tiny muscles. When you walk, bicycle or swim, and relax again, the mucles of your arteries are exposed to differing moderate rises and declines of blood pressure. The muscles have to expand and contract accordingly. The more they are exercised the more they keep their elasticity. Consistency is the key!
Another way of exercising these tiny muscles is to change climate zones! When you expose yourself to moderate warm areas and then to moderate colder areas, the muscles of your arteries have to exercise as well, as they contract and expand! Please see more in my seminar!
Our nervous system
Our nerves are our connection to the outside world. They let us know about pleasure or pain, hot or cold, sour or sweet. They also set a whole range of chemicals free in order to respond accordingly. Now, one of the more problematic issues of our nervous system is the concept of DANGER! Whenever danger or another threat to our body is perceived, millions of actions are performed within a split of a second to let us survive. One of the crucial means to do so is to raise instantly our blood pressure to enable an increased amount of oxygen and nutrient to “jumpstart” our rather lazy physical entity. This is good! Imagine you went hiking and all of the sudden some weired 20 feet creature on two legs with a club and a really ugly unwashed face would just come after you to get your cup cake or even you.
Now, in this situation you do not think! You just act! Luckily, your nervous system instantaneously activates your hormones, which in turn activate your blood pressure to rise in order to pump enough nutrients and ogygen to your legmuscles. Thus, your legs get the quickstart to drop the cupcake and RUN!
Unfortunately, our nervous system is already a few thousand years old and at this age easily fooled! Not only that it perceives any kind of problems, pain, or overload as a potential threat, but it also takes images of danger for granted. Yet, the mechanisms are always the same and have not adjusted accordingly. I am afraid to say, that any washing machine has undergone more of a technical update than our danger – response mechnism. This is no good! Especially, if our nervous system is sending out these alarm messages all the time! This translates into constant high blood pressure, which ruins the elasticity of the artery walls.
Not enough, our brain being part of our nervous system, aggrevates the problem by its own activities. How? Mostly, by worrying about things, creating negative images all by itself.
Hormones in general are our message carriers. They flow through our body and send their information as required. Now, there are message carriers for everything. The more common ones you know are our sex hormones. However, there are plenty of other ones, such as growth hormones, thyroid hormones, stress hormones or antidiuretic hormones. Basically, all hormones have an impact in one way or another on our blood pressure!
The troublemakers in regards to hypertension are stress hormones and thyroid hormones.
The action described before (the gruesome creature chasing you) is only possible by sending out a hormone called adrenalin as a message carrier via our blood stream to notify our heart about an alarming situation. This is why it is called “stress hormone”. The more adrenalin there is in our blood, the higher our blood pressure – always!! Only, when adrenalin is filtered out of the blood after the situation is over, will the blood pressure decline and our arteries relax.
In our modern society, however, we are exposed to more real or perceived alarming or “stressful” (a word about this abused term at another point) situations than we can cope with. Adrenalin is sent out, rushes through our blood, and triggers the blood pressure to rise over and over again.
The other troublesome hormone is cortisol, a hormone which has a vital impact on many body functions. It makes us get up in the morning, makes us feel alert, and lets us strive in life. A higher level of cortisol is evident when we are under constant pressure, whether it is anger, fear, or suffer from grief. This hormone in our blood stream also triggers high blood pressure in the long run, and is more difficult to eliminate. As a result, here again, the arteries are constantly overstressed, making them hard and inelastic. High levels are also responsible for a weakened immune system and brittle bones.
The thyroid is mainly responsible for our overall metabolism rate. If thyroid hormones are overproduced they also increase blood pressure. This has to be tested by your physician.
Female sex hormones
Any change in hormones causes a change in our blood pressure. Examples are pregnancy and equally important the stages of menopause!
High blood pressure is also called “Hypertension” for a good reason. The arteries are under extreme tension most of the time. Have you ever clenched your fist because of anger? All your muscles of your arm start to cramp, the muscles of your jaw, your backmuscles. In the same way, the muscles in your arteries cramp and can not relax anymore, when your anger persists for a long time.
Acidity of our body
Have you ever encountered sore muscles from overexercising. Besides micro damages to the muscle tissue the source of the pain is a result of lactic acid. This acidity renders the muscles stiff and inelastic.
We tend to eat food which is converted into acidic composites, also known as metabolic acids. Usually, these are neutralised by minerals and disposed off by our filter system, yet, when they keep accumulating, they damage our structures, including the muscles of our arteries. This is mainly affecting the elasticity of the muscles. Alcohol, nicotine, refined sugar and white flour are the most common acid suppliers.
Any kind of toxins from our environment, eaten or inhaled can damage the structure of our arteries as well. So called free radicals attack the delicate walls of our arteries as they attack other structures of our body. The more nourishing our food and the more protective anti-oxidants it contains the better for our arteries.
This is just an overview as to how arteries basically work and what factors influence them. Now, it will be easier to understand in my following posts some measures you can take to keep them healthy.
Love thy heart