The the circulatory system (also known as the blood system) is made up of the heart, blood and blood vessels (arteries and veins). It is responsible for taking nutrients, vital hormones, oxygen and water to the cells in the body and removing toxic wastes like carbon dioxide.
It is an astounding super highway that connects with the billions of cells in the human body. According to Chinese medicine, the circulatory system is the leader of all other systems.
What is Blood Made From?
The blood is actually a mixture of a number of components, each having specific function. It contains red blood cells that transport oxygen, white blood cells to fight disease, platelets for clotting and the liquid portion known as plasma, in which everything floats.
A single drop of blood houses five million red blood cells, 250 thousand platelets and ten thousand white blood cells. All these components will travel through blood vessels of varying sizes, the combined length of which can drape around the equator two times!
How Does the Heart Work?
The heart is a vital organ, that pumps blood around your body, every second of every day, for the duration of your life. It is estimated that it beats three billion times during the average lifetime. The (average) heart pumps around two thousand gallons of blood a day, ‘beating’ about one hundred thousand times.
It never stops, well, until you know when! The heart is pumping when you’re asleep, albeit a bit slower, but it is still enduring wear and tear. It’s easy to understand then, why it is vital to keep your heart healthy and functioning at optimal level.
Circulatory Diseases Are the Leading Cause of Death
Due to the critical nature of the system and its vastness, diseases related to the circulatory system are among the leading causes of death around the world.
Arteriosclerosis is one of the system’s most commonly occurring diseases. This happens when fats deposited in the arteries thicken the walls of the blood vessels, which leads to their stiffness. This not only compromises the elasticity of the walls but also narrows the area through which blood can flow, eventually resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
Any artery of the body can be affected by arteriosclerosis inclusive of legs, arms, brain, heart, pelvis or kidneys. Depending on which arteries are affected, different diseases may develop. Arteriosclerosis is caused by a diet rich in saturated (bad) fats and calcium.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, typically known as high blood pressure is another common heart related condition. It occurs when the heart has to work harder due to the narrowing or hardening of the arteries resulting from the natural ageing process, inherited conditions or arteriosclerosis.
The blood pumped through arteries travels under greater pressure than the safe range, thus increasing the danger of heart and kidney diseases, aneurysms or stroke.
What is an Aneurysm?
An aneurysm is a bulging in the wall of the blood vessel. It starts as a tiny spot in the wall of the blood vessel, but with the force of the pumped blood, it expands out of shape. While they can develop at any point of the circulatory system, they are most common along the main artery coming out of the heart (called the aorta).
Aneurysms can cause death within minutes if they rupture.
Common causes include:
- High blood pressure
- or, natural weakness present at birth.
Since these diseases affect the quality of life and shorten life spans, it is important to keep the cardiovascular system functioning at its best. The adverse effects of the most common cardio-vascular diseases can actually be controlled and minimized with some simple lifestyle changes.
Some important steps that keep the circulatory system healthy include reducing stress, staying within a healthy weight range, and exercising regularly. Controlling diet also helps to maintain a healthy blood system. These include limited consumption of alcohol, no smoking, minimizing fatty, fried foods, and using more fresh fruits and vegetables.