Man, gravity can be such a drag, especially when you’re an ‘ageing’ adult like I am, with everything seemingly going ‘south’… I’m sure you know just what I mean.
And apparently, so do today’s scientists – because there are two new studies that serve as cautionary tales of how gravity can work against you as you get older.
It can even lead to some serious health complications!
The first one shows that if you had lower blood pressure in your younger years, you are much more likely to develop dementia later in life… while the second one shows that the taller you are, the higher your risk of blood clots.
What do these two have in common?
Well, they both reflect the stress and strain that gravity puts on your body. And that’s something you’ve got to have a healthy respect for.
But there’s one thing that can combat gravity… and keep what goes up from coming down and staying down… and that’s maintaining proper blood flow.
That concept, of course, is totally lost in the day-to-day medical world! Most mainstream doctors are fixated on a type of medicine that’s dictated by numbers: keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels low and controlling the peaks and valleys of your blood-sugar.
They seem to have forgotten the fact that all your brain and body really want is to be supplied with clean, fresh, oxygenated – and thus healing – blood!
Once you grasp the importance of this simple fact, you’ll start to understand how the paradigm shifts from mainstream medicine to integrative healing.
The good news is that there are many ways of optimizing blood flow so you can nourish your brain with blood… fight the effects of gravity… and optimize your circulation.
Keep it moving… or else
First, let’s talk about the simple study that showed the link between low blood pressure and dementia and was presented in March at a conference sponsored by the American Heart Association.
Doctors at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University followed over 11,000 older people from their 50s to their 70s and found that if you had orthostatic hypotension at the onset of the study, then you were 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia later in life.1
If you get dizzy when you stand, then you’ve experienced orthostatic hypotension yourself. It happens when your blood pressure and heart rate aren’t strong enough to get blood to your brain quickly enough when you go from sitting or lying down to standing.
In other words, it was the people who couldn’t overcome gravity to get blood up to the very top of the body – where they needed it most – who developed dementia later in life.
It may seem obvious, but I feel compelled to reiterate the fact that getting BLOOD to your BRAIN is of paramount importance. And, to put it simply: If you deprive your brain of blood and oxygen for too long, bad things are going to happen!
And, according to this latest study, one of those ‘bad’ things is one of the worst things you can imagine – dementia.
The second study was published in the September issue of the journal Circulation – appropriately so – and found that the taller you are, the higher your risk of blood clots.2
Gravity strikes once again
Swedish researchers looked at data from close to 2.5 million people enlisted in their national registry and found that the risk of blood clots was close to 70 per cent lower for women shorter than 5‘1“, compared to women taller than 6 feet.
And among the guys, the risk of blood clots was 65 per cent lower if they were shorter than 5’3″, compared to men taller than 6’2″.
It all boils down to this: The farther the blood has to travel through your body and the more gravity that’s involved in the equation, the more likely it is that your blood will accumulate and clump into clots.
That is, unless you can keep it moving.
Contents under pressure
The first and most obvious way to address the subject of fighting gravity is to talk about blood pressure.
Unfortunately, most conventional doctors are so hyper-focused on getting your BP readings below 120/80 that they lose sight of the fact that there is such a thing as TOO low when it comes to blood pressure!
This is where I differ from your primary care physician or cardiologist, who may have already told you otherwise.
First and foremost, I do not think the systolic (or ‘top’) number should EVER be below 100. If your blood pressure is consistently this low, you need to get it higher.
Secondly, you should never feel dizzy when you stand – and if you do, then you need to work with your doctor to resolve it. That would mean actually raising your blood pressure.
If you’re currently on blood pressure meds, the most obvious way to do that is for your doctor to lower your dose.
Now, that may take some convincing. Remember, he’s been programmed to think that lower is better. And when he takes a reading in his office, your blood pressure might actually be higher than it is when you’re not surrounded by all those people in white coats (as happens with the phenomenon of ‘white coat syndrome’, as I’ve shared with you previously).
So, take some blood pressure readings at home, write them down, and show your doctor how low your blood pressure is really getting.
But the pressure at which your blood pumps through your vessels is just one piece of the puzzle. We must also consider the amount of blood that’s getting pumped through.
Are your veins running dry?
The other way to beat gravity, nourish your brain with blood, and improve your circulation is to optimize your blood volume.
Blood volume is the totality of blood AND water flowing through your veins, and it governs how hard and fast your heart has to beat to get blood to your brain. If the blood volume is too low or even too high, your heart has to change its pumping rate and strength to deal with the volume.
Without sufficient water, your veins and arteries lack the volume of fluid that you need. In that case, your heart has to go into overdrive by beating either harder (i.e. higher blood pressure) or faster (i.e. higher heart rate).
The physics behind it are relatively simple… but they have enormous health implications. For instance, you can see how the root cause of some peoples’ high blood pressure is dehydration.
To add insult to injury, one of mainstream medicine’s most commonly used classes of high blood pressure drugs is a diuretic that actually purposely dehydrates you!
The first and easiest way to optimize blood flow (and therefore also blood pressure) is to make sure that you are hydrated. Instead of counting out eight glasses of water a day, just drink enough water to keep your urine clear (never yellow or dark).
It could take more… or it could take less.
The other way to optimize blood volume is for the blood to have enough blood! I rant and rave when I see a patient whose primary care doctor allows them to be a little anaemic. This lower volume of blood puts extra stress and strain on your heart.
If your bloodwork shows that you’re anaemic – even just a little – don’t let your doctor tell you it’s ‘no big deal’. It IS a big deal! Because you need plenty of both water AND blood to beat gravity at its own game.
Fortunately, there are many ways of preventing and correcting anaemia. I do use iron, but only if my patient specifically has low iron (or ferritin) levels.
I’m also a big believer in the use of B vitamins to enhance blood levels and red blood cell quality. That’s why B vitamins are at the top of my list of vitamins to take!
I also work with my patients to find out why they are anaemic. Please note that vegetarianism is a BIG cause of anaemia – and hence, I’m not the biggest fan of this diet and prefer the protein-rich Paleo diet.
The other leading cause of anaemia is the slow loss of blood from the gastrointestinal system – and the biggest culprit behind those stomach bleeds (and other ‘leaky gut’ issues) is the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Send your blood ‘upstream’
There’s another weapon to use in the plight against gravity, and that’s enhanced and optimized circulation.
Getting blood from your heart and lungs to the rest of your organs (especially your brain)… and then back to your heart… is of paramount importance.
Moving blood from the ‘north’ to the ‘south’ of your body – and back again – can pay only positive health dividends.
But the veins of your body do not have any mechanism to get blood back from your feet to your heart and thus your brain. The best way we can accomplish this goal is to walk! (And, in cases when you can’t walk, all you can do is flex your calf muscles.)
Sometimes, though, you can’t stretch your legs out or get up for much of a stroll – like on a long car ride or flight, at dinner in a restaurant, or during a movie, performance or wedding.
So, one of the other techniques that I have found to be quite successful is the use of compression socks, which are woven in cyclone-like fashion to improve your circulation and keep blood from settling in your legs – so you can get more blood back to your heart and brain.
These socks help you cheat gravity – even while you’re sitting! You can find them pretty much anywhere online, in major stores, and even in sporting goods stores.
If you find compression socks too tight… if you don’t want to spend the extra money on them… or even if you can’t bear the ‘fashion statement’ that they make (or, rather, don’t make)… then there is a simple alternative. But it might make you look sillier than wearing a pair of special socks.
All you’ve got to do is raise your legs above the level of your heart for 10 to 15 minutes a day. That will take gravity out of the equation – or even allow you to use it to your advantage – and give your heart ‘a break’ for a few minutes.
Usually, you’d lie on the floor and put your feet on a chair, but you could also lie down on the couch (or bed) and prop your feet up with enough pillows to get them above the level of your heart. Then, just allow gravity to let the blood to easily flow to your heart and brain.
You can even channel gravity to a whole other level by using something called inversion tables. These are devices that allow you to hang upside down, which forces healing and nourishing blood to your brain.
Some people swear by this technique for alleviating back pain!
Thin your blood – and keep it there – in 4 easy steps
So, how do you know how much blood you have… and whether it’s enough?
Blood volume is expressed in the blood testing by the haematocrit (sometimes abbreviated on your lab tests with the letters of HCT).
I aim for my patients to have ‘average’ (per lab guidelines) haematocrits – especially because while having too little blood is a problem, you also don’t want to have TOO MUCH blood.
This is when your haematocrit is too high – and it’s the opposite of anaemia.
When your blood volume gets too high, it can become too thick – like ketchup – and too sticky. And your heart has to work too hard to pump this ‘sludge’.
Sticky and ‘sludgey’ blood are obvious risk factors for blood clots, but they can also be the culprits behind high blood pressure.
If the haematocrit is consistently too high on my patients’ blood testing, I recommend the following four-step plan:
- Try to eliminate the root cause of the elevated blood levels – which is usually smoking or snoring (sleep apnoea).
- Take natural blood thinners, such as fish oil or nattokinase.
- Drink enough water to help dilute the ‘sludginess’.
- If the haematocrit remains elevated despite these measures, donate blood.
You can easily employ some of these tactics at home to ward off blood clots… and dementia as well!
I also want to bring up the obvious fact that if your arteries have blockages, your heart is going to have to work even harder to get blood to your brain and heart.
I’ll admit that treating and preventing the arteries from being narrowed and clogged is easier said than done – and since most people who come to me already have some level of blockage, we have to employ techniques such as chelation therapy to improve their circulation.
Defy gravity without drugs
As far as optimizing blood flow and getting blood to your brain, I would not be able to sleep tonight if I didn’t include at least a quick note about exercise.
For a lot of people, exercise is hard and not ‘fun’ – but you should learn to love it, because exercising guarantees that blood is going to flow all around your body and to your brain!
In fact, getting physical activity is the best way for tall people to prevent blood clots, because it forces the blood to flow from the legs to the brain and prevents the blood from being too stagnant.
Finally, caffeine has the ability to constrict and squeeze the blood vessels and thus force blood to go to places in your body where gravity wouldn’t normally take it. But although some people treat caffeine like a drug (at least to ‘treat’ sleepiness and fatigue), remember that there’s NO pharmaceutical or over-the-counter drug that can easily combat gravity.
But drinking water, wearing tight socks, hanging upside down, exercising, and even donating blood can.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.