Is your blood like wine or ketchup? Does it flow freely through your arteries like a fine Bordeaux or creep along like a cheap bottle of sticky Heinz?
The medical term for sticky thick blood is hyperviscosity, and although it might seem like a silly idea to compare your blood to alcohol and condiments, studies confirm having sticky thick blood is a huge risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. And the reason why is simple – sludgy blood is significantly harder for your heart to pump around your body, and far more likely to clot and cause heart problems.
Mainstream medicine typically turns to drugs
Conventional doctors deal with the sticky blood problem by recommending daily aspirin (see my sidebar to learn more about aspirin therapy) for patients with diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol to reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke. And if you’ve already had a blood clot, atrial fibrillation or a heart attack your doctor will likely also insist on a strong blood-thinning medication such as warfarin.
But what if you haven’t already been diagnosed with a medical condition that’s linked to heart attack and stroke? What can the rest of us do to keep our blood flowing like wine?
Aspirin benefits from a natural source
Taking an aspirin a day can thin your blood. So it might seem to make sense for all of us to simply start popping these cheap and easy to get pills. But the truth is aspirin can come with a serious potential side effect. The drug can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding for some users, and for some people it may even do far more harm than good.
Many of my patients are surprised to learn that aspirin is a synthesized version of the active component of an extract from the bark of a willow tree. You can get many of the same benefits of aspirin – much more safely – by taking a white willow supplement instead.
Five natural blood-thinning tricks to try
Fortunately, if you want to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, there are five simple (and safe) natural options you can try.
Give blood: It turns out that regularly donating blood isn’t just a good deed—it’s also good for your blood flow. It helps thin your blood, reducing damage to your blood vessels and possibly preventing blockages.
In one study out of Finland men who donated blood had an astounding 88 per cent less chance of having a heart attack then men who didn’t. This is also likely the reason that menstruating women rarely have heart attacks or strokes.
Add more garlic to your diet: Pungent and delicious garlic isn’t just for cooking. In fact, the herb has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and has been proven to make your blood less sticky. And, of course, keeping blood platelets from sticking together reduces the risk of blood clots. The herb has even been shown to help lower blood pressure slightly in some people (probably due to that free-flowing blood).
Load up on vitamin E: Vitamin E may be another effective way to thin your blood naturally. One study that looked at data from 26 different countries found that people with the lowest vitamin E levels had the highest risk of heart disease and stroke. While another study showed that 100 IU of vitmain E a day could reduce your chances of suffering a heart attack by a third.
If you’re going to try a vitamin E supplement just be sure to choose the natural form of the vitamin, d-alpha tocopherol.
Don’t forget the fish oil: The omega 3s found in fish oil can do a lot more for you than simply make your blood less sticky. They can also reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and improve your brain health while they’re at it.
One precaution – if you’re on a blood-thinning medication such as warfarin, talk with your doctor before taking omega 3s to make sure the combined action of both don’t thin your blood too much.
Get plenty of H2O: This final blood-thinning solution is so obvious that most doctors overlook it – and that’s simply drinking more water. If your blood happens to be sludgy you can make it less ‘ketchup-y’ by diluting it in your bloodstream with simple H20. Especially if you have a history (or a family history) of heart attack or stroke, staying hydrated is essential.
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 8, August 2015