The Blood Thinner Cure

Below is a condensed version about five pages long of the material in The Blood Thinner Cure book

The Blood Thinner Cure
Kensey and Turkington, 2001

Here is the book’s hypothetical account (in JBG’s words) of the underlying phenomena: Various things (eg, smoking, cholesterol) cause the blood to thicken. Thick blood makes the heart work harder, raising blood pressure and stressing the arteries, especially those near the heart. The arteries adapt by becoming thicker and less flexible; that is, they harden – arteriosclerosis. Hardened arteries “give” less with each heartbeat than healthy arteries, making the heart work still harder and raising blood pressure still further. Vicious cycle. The lessened “give” also causes blood flow to become turbulent, especially at places where the arteries branch. The turbulence tends to wear away the artery lining at the places of turbulence, resulting in actual lesions. With the aid of platelets in the blood, the arteries adapt by forming calluses over the lesions, narrowing the arteries – atherosclerosis. This causes flow to become even more turbulent. Second vicious cycle. The calluses in an artery can grow to the point of essentially closing off the artery. Or a piece can break off in one place and travel to another to cause a sudden, complete closure. Complicating the entire story is the fact that blood is “viscoelastic” in character, meaning that its viscosity changes in a counterintuitive way with its speed of flow: When the heart contracts, sending blood forward in a forceful surge, the blood becomes thinner; between beats, when the flow greatly slackens, the blood becomes very much thicker.

Note that the book was published in 2001. That means that mentions below of things like “recent findings” do not mean what they say, and today’s views on some things may be different from what is transcribed here; indeed, there are some things where my own views are different from what is transcribed here (eg, re the purported value of aspirin). A few parts of the book not of interest (eg, a section on smoking) are not covered here. The Diet section is omitted because much of its information is out of date (and wrong).

The remainder of this document consists of extracts from the text of the book, mildly edited by JBG, and transcribed to this form with the generous and talented help of MOG.

Part One [the problem]

People with very low blood pressure do not have heart attacks. There is no such thing as too low a blood pressure, as long as you’re not having other symptoms such as weakness or fainting.

In any complex fluid–whether its blood, ketchup, or paint–the thinner it is, the less work it takes to pump it. Therefore, the thinner your blood, the easier it is for your heart to pump it around your body, the less your arteries will have to stretch, and the less injury the arteries will sustain.

Blood is almost fifty per cent red blood cells, although the actual concentration (called the hematocrit) varies from one person to the next. The higher the concentration of red blood cells, the harder your heart must work to pump the blood. A ten percent increase in your hematocrit means a 25% increase in your blood’s thickness.

The second most important factor that determines blood thickness is how flexible your red blood cells are. Because red blood cells are almost three times as big as the capillaries through which they travel, they must be flexible.

The flexibility of a red blood cell is most affected by two variables:
*The age of the cell
*What is dissolved in the surrounding plasma.

One of the reasons why pre-menopausal women have such a low incidence of atherosclerosis is that they lose blood each month, which triggers the production of new, flexible young red blood cells. Basically, the younger your red blood cells, the more flexible they are. Old, stiff, red blood cells not only make the blood thick, they make it abrasive, worsening the damage inflicted by turbulent flow.

The plasma that surrounds the blood cells can turn to sludge in the presence of chronic infections and inflammations. When there is inflammation in the body (from artery damage itself, long term inflammation, or infection from any cause), the blood becomes thicker and stickier.

Cholesterol does not directly cause atherosclerosis, but it does increase viscosity. In addition, many diseases increase blood thickness by making red blood cells less flexible (as in diabetes or kidney disease) or by increasing their concentration (as in sleep apnea).

As the artery’s lining is injured, it releases C-reactive protein (CRP) into the blood stream. Measuring this protein’s level indicates how much injury is occurring. Researchers know that the higher the concentration of CRP the more likely a man is to have a heart attack or stroke. High CRP levels also predict future heart disease among healthy women. Measuring CRP may presently be one of the most accurate ways to screen for risk of heart attack or stroke because blood levels of this protein begin to rise six to eight years before a first heart attack or stroke.

Part Two [steps toward solution]

Blood donation. For now, the easiest way to thin your blood and make it healthier is to donate blood regularly. Not only will this help make your blood thinner, but also your blood pressure will probably drop, easing the wear and tear on your arteries. We’ve already seen stunning evidence from Finland in which men who gave blood were four times less likely to have heart attacks. Other studies have found similar results, claiming from a two- to tenfold reduction in heart attacks among men who gave blood.

Racehorse breeders have been using this technique since about 1910. Breeders discovered that if they removed blood from a racehorse and then let the horse recover for a few days, the horse would run faster than it could before.

If you’re healthy and you weigh at least 110 pounds, you can donate a pint of blood every eight weeks, according to American Red Cross guidelines. You will give a little less than one pint of whole blood. (The average adult has between 8 and 12 pints of blood and can easily spare one.) Just avoid lifting, pushing, or picking up heavy objects for at least four or five hours after giving blood. You may remove the band-aid after 24 hours. Your body replaces blood volume, or plasma, within 24 hours, but it takes 4-8 weeks for red blood cells to be replaced.

Aspirin. Basically, aspirin is a drug that stops platelets from sticking to injured surfaces, keeping them from clumping together as they normally do to form blood clots at the sites of injury. Once aspirin affects a platelet in this way, it can never become sticky again.

Recent research suggests a link between viruses (especially CMV, a member of the herpes family) and atherosclerosis, an idea that supports the role of inflammation in the plaque-forming process. When there is inflammation in the body (especially long-term inflammation), the blood gets thicker and more viscous. This is why people with inflammatory conditions, including arthritis, allergies, asthma, lupus, and frequent viral or bacterial infections, would benefit from taking a daily aspirin tablet. Theoretically, at least, aspirin should reduce the quantity of antibodies and immunoglobulins in the blood and therefore reduce blood thickness.

Aspirin alone will not prevent vascular disease. The other factors that cause atherosclerosis–high blood pressure, high blood viscosity, and the force of the heart’s contraction–cannot be controlled or reversed by taking aspirin.

Hydration. Once you realize you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. You need to drink enough water so that you don’t get thirsty in the first place. As you breathe, sweat, and move around, you’re losing water into the atmosphere. That fluid must be replaced.

When it comes to your heart, drinking plenty of water actually lowers blood pressure, softens and liquefies blood cells, and helps the cells move through your arteries more easily. And yet, while water is critical in keeping the blood thin and flowing smoothly, the thirst sensation probably doesn’t correlate with blood viscosity any more than with dehydration. You can go for hours without any fluid, to the point where your blood is getting thick as molasses, and still you might not feel thirsty.

For many years, doctors prescribed diuretics (drugs that help you urinate) to lower blood pressure. Many studies have since shown that strokes were often the unfortunate consequence. This isn’t surprising when you consider that using diuretics will make blood thicker.

Heart attacks occur more often in the morning: you are dehydrated and therefore your blood is thicker.

Drinking six to 10 glasses of water a day is good for you. I recommend 12 glasses of water a day. [3 quarts] If you have a weight problem, you’ll need an extra cup of water for every 25 pounds of excess weight. In addition, you should increase the amount of water you drink if you exercise briskly or if the weather is hot and dry.

The good news is that drinking more water is not going to hurt you. In terms of health benefits, few things can match water’s extensive pedigree. Water benefits elimination and detoxification, and helps most of your body’s systems work more efficiently.

Exercise. Exercise stimulates your body to make more blood vessels that can protect you in case one closes off, especially in the heart.

If you start heavy exercise with a heart that is pumping inefficiently, forcing sludge through narrowing arteries, you’re just speeding up the artery injury process described earlier. Some people have a normal resting blood pressure that spikes to fearsome levels during exercise, but you won’t know if you’re one of them unless a cardiologist gives you a stress test.

Start out slowly, and gradually build up your exercise time and frequency. Any activity you choose, however modest, is better than nothing.

As little as thirty minutes of moderate activity on most (preferably all) days of the week helps protect artery health. Casual biking, raking leaves, gardening, and walking, all help. To make exercise a part of your life, choose something you like.

After you get your viscosity and blood pressure under control, and you feel that moderate exercise is no longer enough, you can move into a more vigorous heart and lung conditioning program, eg:
* Brisk, sustained walking
* Jumping rope
* Aerobic dancing
* Serious biking

You should then exercise within your target heart rate range for thirty minutes each session. To calculate your target heart rate range:
1. Subtract your age from 220 [Suppose you’re 40: 220 – 40 = 180]
2. Multiply the result by .6 [.6 x 180 = 108]
3. Multiply the initial result by .8 [.8 x 180 = 124]
4. The span between 3. and 4. is your target heart rate range. [108 to 124]

Stress. Researchers found that patients who responded to stress with the highest blood pressure spikes showed thicker carotid artery walls. The link did not depend on other conditions, such as resting blood pressure, risk factors for heart disease, or the existence of heart disease.

Today, experts believe that the people at biggest risk are those who experience negative emotions such as depression, anger, and hostility. If you are chronically hostile or cynical, your body is more likely to react to stress with larger increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones than people with less hostile feelings. Among people who have a biological tendency toward negative moods, stress appears to trigger a response as if the body were experiencing an actual physical injury. Research clearly shows that stress and many psychological symptoms appear to be directly related to viscosity. The more stress you feel, the thicker your blood tends to be.

The first step to managing your stress is to identify it. Many people underestimate the amount of stress they encounter in their daily life.

Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to help manage stress in your life, eg:
* Journal
* Exercise
* Pray, or just sit quietly
* Get a massage, or take a warm bath
* Go outdoors, enjoy nature
* Laugh; humor can be a powerful antidote
* Seek support; talk things over with friends

Advanced techniques to try:
* Progressive muscle relaxation
* Breathing exercises
* Meditation; yoga
* Biofeedback-assisted relaxation
* Cognitive behavioral therapy

Heart disease patients who learn how to manage their stress with relaxation and biofeedback are 77% less likely to have a heart attack or require cardiac surgery than patients who receive only standard medical care.

Deep breathing is essential for stress management. Of all the things you can do to ease anxiety and stress, forming healthy breathing habits can produce the most dramatic results. Whole books have been written about how to do relaxation breathing. Here is one quick technique:
1. Sit in a chair with feet flat, thighs parallel to the floor
2. Inhale through your nose and breathe deeply, without forcing. Let your abdomen expand. Place your hand on your abdomen to feel it rise and fall with your breathing.
3. Fill your lungs with air with one continuous breath. Feel your chest expand fully and your shoulders rise.
4. Exhale slowly through your nose. Breathing out should take longer than breathing in.
5. Do this for at least a minute. Don’t strain, but concentrate on keeping your breathing deep.

Appendix: Diabetes

Both obesity and lack of exercise contribute to insulin resistance and can lead to diabetes.

High blood pressure and high blood viscosity are about twice as common in people with diabetes.

People who have diabetes tend to have thickened blood. When the diabetes is in poor control and sugar spills into the bloodstream, the red blood cells become less flexible, getting stickier and clumping more easily. Platelets, another blood component, also stick together more in people who have developed diabetes, even in the early stages of the disease.

People with Type II diabetes can often manage their condition with diet alone, aiming for healthy weight, lower levels of blood fats, normal blood pressure, and control of blood sugar.

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