Circulatory System & Heart Health
By Jhoane Robinson, Herbalist and Co-Founder of Cedar Bear Naturales
“Lub-dub... lub-dub…” That signature sound of your beating heart is made by the opening and closing of your hearts’ valves as they do their life sustaining job as part of the pump that keeps your body going throughout the seconds, minutes, hours, and years of your life.
The music of your lifeblood beats in your heart and runs through your veins like the Sonny and Cher song, “The beat goes on… the beat goes on… drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain…”
Your heart, the constantly drumming pump of the body, beats between 60-100 times each minute, and about 30 million times each year. When you get to the ripe young age of 66 years old, your heart will have “lub-dubbed” around 2.5 billion times, and pumps around 450 gallons of blood every day! While you really only have about 5-6 quarts of blood, it moves around the body really, really fast. Pretty amazing, eh? And, believe it or not, your heart has its own electrical system to make the beat go on, and on, and on…
Weighing in at 9-12 ounces, the heart is a muscle that is about the size of your fist and is located just to the left of the center of your chest. (Where your teacher had you place your hand when you pledged allegiance to the flag as a kid.)
“Lub-dubbing” away, your heart is the center of the vast network of your Circulatory System, also known as the Cardiovascular System, which circulates blood and oxygen out to every cell of your body, and back again to the heart. The word Cardiovascular comes from the Greek word ‘kardia’, meaning ‘heart’ and Latin word ‘vasculum’, which means ‘small vessels’. Our blood moves pretty darn fast through these vessels – it takes less than a minute to circulate throughout the entire body!
Along with major blood vessels and valves, the heart has four chambers, the right atrium and right ventricle, and the left atrium and left ventricle. They are divided to keep oxygen-rich blood from mixing with oxygen-poor blood. They have four valves that keep the blood moving in the right direction. The valves have flaps that open and close once during each heartbeat and they are what make that all important “lub-dub, lub-dub” sound.
‘Blood Pressure’ is the pressure of the blood against the wall of an artery. When you go to your doctor and have your Blood Pressure taken, there are two measurements, Systolic and Diastolic. Systole is when the ventricles contract, which forces blood into the vessels to go to the lungs and body. That is the “lub” in the “lub dub”. Then the aortic and pulmonary valves close to prevent the blood from flowing back into the ventricles. That causes the “dub” in the “lub dub”. Diastole is when the heart relaxes so the ventricles can fill back up with blood. Of course, this happens very, very fast, over and over again.
The main job of the Circulatory System is to move blood, oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and other important blood related substances throughout the body. The Circulatory System is made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries carry blood from the heart out to the body’s tissues, veins carry blood from the tissues back to the heart, and capillaries are networks that connect the smallest arteries and veins together. If you were able to take every teeny tiny part of the Circulatory System, all those arteries, veins, and capillaries, and lay them out end to end, they would stretch over more than 60,000 miles. That’s a pretty darn long highway that we have inside us! The lymphatic system is laid out alongside the circulatory system because the two systems work together to keep fluid dynamics going, toxins clearing, oxygen and nutrients moving and all those things that keep life humming along swimmingly.
Blood moves through all Systems of the body, bringing lifegiving oxygen to all cells, clearing carbon dioxide through the Respiratory System’s lungs, nutrients through the Digestive System, hormones through the Endocrine System, and connects every part of our body with every other part. One drop of blood, by the way, has more than 5 million red blood cells and 12 thousand white blood cells. But who’s counting, eh?
If you are an average sized adult, your 5-6 quarts of blood makes up about 8 percent of your body’s weight. Half of that is plasma, which is made almost entirely of water, and moves through both the Cardiovascular System and the Lymphatic System.
Obviously, we can’t live for even a second without our hearts lub-dubbing away, and we want our tickers to keep ticking happily and healthily for a long, long time. It’s our job to take good care of our hearts so they can take good care of us. Here are important ways to keep our hearts and Circulatory Systems in the best of health:
Drink plenty of water. Hydration is essential for heart health. Drink five 8 oz glasses of pure, clean water a day.
Exercise. Just like any other muscle in the body, the heart muscle needs you to exercise to keep it in tip top shape. 30 minutes at least 3 times/week, daily if possible.
Eat plenty of good, nutritious food like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Mediterranean Diet has been determined to be one of the best diets for heart health.
Keep your weight at a healthy level. Don’t overeat at any meal.
Don’t smoke. Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels, as well as the lungs.
Reduce salt intake. If you avoid prepackaged foods and sauces and reduce the amount of salt you use while cooking, that will help bring down excess salt in your diet, which contributes to blood pressure problems.
Lower stress levels. Stress stresses the heart. Period! You may want to do things like meditation, yoga/tai chi types of exercise, get outdoors, do something you love… Things that bring relaxation and joy to your life.
Get plenty of sleep. ‘Early to bed early to rise’ doesn’t just ‘make you healthy, wealthy and wise’, it’s good for your heart.
Get your heart health checked on a regular basis. Make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels are within healthy ranges.
Use Herbs! Support your heart health with natural supplements. Herbs can help build, balance and support heart health in many ways. Following are some herbal heart & circulatory system health supporting suggestions from Cedar Bear Naturales:
Heart Health – Building
These herbal formulas can be used on a daily basis to support your heart health:
Cardio Heart Daily: Helps build and support heart health and supports oxygen uptake in the circulatory system.
Herbal Iron (also Herbal Blood Builder): A highly nutritive herbal formula that gently helps support healthy iron levels in the body, which supports oxygen levels in the blood.
Gingko Memory Blend (also Brain Booster): Helps support tissues and oxygen levels in the brain, bloodstream, and cardiovascular system.
Cholestero Balance: supports maintaining a healthy range of cholesterol levels and the structure and function of the cardiovascular system.
Antioxidant Daily: Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals and environmental pollutants. An excellent formula for building overall health with a wide variety of antioxidants from whole berries and herbs.
Xodine Iodine: Iodine is an essential part of DNA integrity, endocrine function, metabolic balance, immune function, and cardiovascular health. Every cell in the body needs iodine.
Heart Health – Clearing/Blood Purifying
These Formulas can be used separately, or together with any of the above for deeper Cardiovascular support:
Herbal Blood Cleanser: Has a conditioning effect on the blood and gently supports the gallbladder and liver.
Cholestero Balance: Supports maintaining a healthy range of cholesterol levels and the structure and function of the cardiovascular system and hepatic system (liver).
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Anatomy and Physiology© 2004 by Michael J. Vieira Lazaroff.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: September 2018
- How the heart works. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hhw. Accessed Jan. 20, 2017.
https://biologydictionary.net/circulatory-system/ by the editors
Jhoane Robinson is a traditional herbalist, health educator, and Co-Founder of Cedar Bear Naturales, Inc. The former editor and lead writer for a nationally distributed health journal, newsletter, and educational courses in natural and integrative health, she is also a yoga and meditation instructor and an organic gardener.