I really never got to know my paternal grandfather; in fact I only met him once. He was divorced from my grandmother before my birth, and died at 62 years of age of a massive myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack. I was only 10. I always felt robbed for not getting to know him. My other grandfather, who had been a much larger part of my life, passed away at 72 after several heart attacks and major strokes. They both should have lived much longer, but their lives were cut short by their blood clotting when it shouldn’t have. I hate to say it, but my grandfathers became a statistic.
According to Harvard Medical School, every 60 seconds an American dies of a heart attack or stroke; another report put it at every 34 seconds. They also found that one in five have high blood pressure, with millions that have had heart attacks and strokes and are now being treated.
There are a number of culprits for these dangerous cardiovascular insults—including congenital problems, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, plaque, and inflammation—but in nearly all cases, the final assassin is a blood clot, or thrombosis. I am convinced that today my grandfathers would have a much better chance of living, maybe even decades longer. Surgical advancements have saved some people who were actually declared clinically dead. There are now prescription medications that thin the blood and relax the vessels. The problem with these approaches is there are always unintended consequences, and by the time they are employed, you’re already a patient. Here’s an example.
When my father was in his eighties, he was placed on Coumadin, a common prescription blood thinner. While he was cleaning his garage one day, he bumped his thigh with a bag of cement he was moving. He said he hardly felt it, and kept on working. As he went to bed that night he did notice a sizable bruise, but no discomfort. When he awoke in the morning his entire leg was purple and cold. He was rushed to the emergency room and ended up spending over a week in the hospital. He had almost bled out—unintended consequences.The big question is how can we keep from becoming a patient, or worse, a statistic? The pharmaceutical approach is to take a low dose of aspirin daily to thin the blood. But nature has given us some great helps to actually make the blood slippery and combat inappropriate clotting if we would just use them. One of the most commonly used natural products is fish oil from cod, salmon, and krill, but there are also many effective plant-based solutions.
- The allium family of herbs (garlic and onions) contain sulfur. They’ve demonstrated to be as effective in dealing with blood pressure issues as some of the bestselling medications. Garlic is anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, relaxes blood vessels, and decreases platelet clumping.
- Vitamin E encourages circulation in the smaller vessels as well as gradually dissolving clots.
- Turmeric, or curcumin, fights inflammation and the formation of dangerous plaques.
- Ginger is a bold tasting spice that Dr. Oz says promotes circulation, lowers high blood pressure, and discourages clot formation.
- Ginko Biloba is a one of the more popular natural supplements that dilates the vessels and makes the blood less sticky.
- Tree or Wood Ear Mushrooms are popular in Chinese Traditional Medicine. They thin the blood and inhibit clotting similar to aspirin.
- There are a number of other plants that help keep the blood flowing, like alfalfa, chamomile, red clover, willowbark, clove, bromelain, capsicum, dong quai, and fenugreek.