A Commonly Held Believe
Would you be in a state of disbelieve since that is what we have always known to be true, have always been told, or have been led to believe? I wouldn’t blame you. It does, at least on the surface, seem very logical. Blood comes into the heart and then it gets “pumped” out and back into our arteries. Simple right, not quite, As Dr. Thomas Cowan elegantly covers in his book Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease. This notion that the heart acts as a pump is easily disproven, in Cowan’s opinion, when you look at how blood circulates through our blood vessels, of which there are basically three types: arteries, veins, and capillaries. This is known as circulation, which is crucial to have a basic understanding of if we are going to determine whether the heart is a pump or not.
One Man’s Idea, Led to Anothers Investigation
What led to Dr. Thomas Cowan to start investigating whether the heart was a pump or not? He encountered Rudolf Steiner’s idea that the three most important “things” for the further of evolution of humanity are: (1) That people stop working for money, (2) that people realize there is no difference between sensory and motor nerves, and (3) that the heart is not a pump. The idea that interested Cowan the most was, of course, that the heart is not a pump. Which drove him to question everything he’d learned about the heart and circulation.
A Description of Circulation
Here is Dr. Cowan’s simple but technical description of circulation:1
“When blood starts it journey through out bodies it exits the heart, it travels through the large aortic arch into the major arteries and then into the smaller arterioles until it meets the “midpoint”, the capillaries.
Capillaries are the one-layer thick transition vessels where nutrients and gases are exchanged between the blood and the cells. The capillary system is massive; if it were spread out, it would cover at least one entire football field.2
After the blood exits the capillaries, it enters the smallest venules in its trip back to the heart. From the small venules, it goes to the progressively larger veins and then finally into the largest veins like the inferior and superior vena cava that bring all of the blood from the body back to the heart and lungs. The purpose of this circulation is to bring oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the cells where it is needed and then bring the oxygen-poor, nutrient-poor blood back to the heart and lungs so that it can be replenished.”
Is the Heart A Pump?
Researchers who have examined the relative velocity of the blood at various stages of circulation3 have found that the blood moves the fastest in the large arteries and veins, where there are fewer channels. And that the blood flows the slowest in the capillaries, because there is so many of them. I like to think of them as being similar to how water moves in rivers vs streams. Here is the amazing part the blood actually stops moving in the capillaries, yes you read that right your blood comes to a complete stand still. This is necessary in order to efficiently exchange gases, nutrients, and waste products. After the blood has come to a stop, it oscillates (moves back and forth) slightly, and then begins to flow again. If the blood stops moving at the midpoint of its journey through the blood vessels, to only then start moving again, what is the force that drives this movement? Is it possible that this force is the “pumping” of the heart? Dr. Cowan does not think this would be possible (and I agree) for the amount of force needed to get the blood flowing again, after stopping at the midpoint of circulation and needing to fight gravity to return to the heart, would have to be immense.
Our Hearts Are Strong, But Not Strong Enough (to Be A Pump)
An article, by the Rodulf Steiner Research Center, published in the 1995 issue of “Frontier Perspectives.” Which is the journal of the Center for Frontier Sciences at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA states:4
“The heart, an organ weighing about three hundred grams, is supposed to `pump’ some eight thousand liters of blood per day at rest and much more during activity, without fatigue. In terms of mechanical work this represents the lifting of approximately 100 pounds one mile high! In terms of capillary flow, the heart is performing an even more prodigious task of `forcing’ the blood with a viscosity five times greater than that of water through millions of capillaries with diameters often smaller than the red blood cells themselves! Clearly, such claims go beyond reason and imagination.”Our hearts simply cannot contract that forcefully.
Questioning How Our Blood Circulates
Another couple questions, we could ask, that could provide a possible answer to how the blood circulates could be. Wouldn’t there have to be some pump located in the capillaries propelling blood forward and upward? Or, is there some “vital force” located in the capillaries that does this pumping. These are both legitimate questions, but one thing is clear (in my opinion): If the blood has stopped moving inside the capillaries, then any force generated by the heart would not be sufficient and thus it must arise in the capillaries. This is just a piece of the puzzle in understanding why the theory behind why the heart is not a pump and if it is not a pump what does the heart act as?
It’s a culprit in diseases ranging from arthritis to depression
Writing in 1889, the Swiss pathologist Ernst Ziegler observed that“a brief and precise definition of inflammation is altogether impossible.” Even back then, experts like Ziegler recognized that inflammation manifests in different ways, and that its activity can be both helpful and harmful.
Doctors today have a better understanding of inflammation and its role in illness. But their best attempts to define inflammation still lack the precision Ziegler found elusive more than a century ago.
According to the authors of a 2015 British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) study, inflammation is the immune system’s primary weapon in the “elimination of toxic agents and the repair of damaged tissues.” But when inflammation persists or switches on inappropriately, they write, it can act as a foe rather than a friend. Hardly a week goes by in which researchers fail to discover new links between inappropriate inflammation and a common disease or disorder.
Just last week, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study that found the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder contain an overabundance of inflammation-stimulating proteins. The presence of these proteins suggests a novel “connection” between inflammation and ASD, the authors of that study write. And it seems like, wherever doctors look, they find these sorts of connections. From Alzheimer’s and heart disease, to arthritis, cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders, elevated or out-of-whack inflammation is a common thread that ties together these seemingly unrelated ailments. Likewise, research has linked overabundant inflammation to mental health conditions, including depression and bipolar disorder.
To understand how and why inflammation seems to underlie such disparate forms of human conditions, it’s important to recognize that the term “inflammation” refers to a vast array of biological processes. “Inflammation is a broad term for many different types of immune-related responses,” says Dr. Jason Ken Hou, an associate professor and director of inflammatory bowel disease research at Baylor College of Medicine. Basically, inflammation is the body’s response “to anything that’s bad,” he says.
From Alzheimer’s and heart disease to arthritis, cancer and gastrointestinal disorders, elevated or out-of-whack inflammation is a common thread that ties together these seemingly unrelated ailments.
One type of inflammation, Hou explains, is designed to battle harmful bacteria or parasites. “If there’s an infection or an invading virus or bacteria, the body generates inflammation that destroys the invading agents,” he says. Meanwhile, there’s another type of inflammation that signals the body is recovering from injury. When the body is wounded, inflammation floods the injured area with cells and “cell-derived components” that repair, replace, or dispose of damaged tissue, says Valter Longo, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California.
When a person’s immune system is working as it should, these and other forms of inflammation are transitory; they flare up in response to a legitimate threat or injury, and they settle down when that threat or injury has been addressed. But there are countless ways in which the immune system’s many inflammatory processes can go haywire.
In some cases, “inflammation that is normally designed to kill harmful viruses and bacteria can become misguided and start doing damage to healthy cells,” Longo explains. This form of inappropriate inflammation is present in people with autoimmune disorders such as Celiac disease and lupus, and there’s evidence that something similar may be going on in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, he says. Some inflammation may be normal. But too much of it for too long can still be harmful. This seems to be the case when it comes to persistent inflammation caused by chronic stress or injuries.
There’s evidence that imbalances in immune-system activity can lead to harmful or out-of-control forms of inflammation. Hou explains that one branch of the immune system deploys inflammation in an effort to protect the body from parasites, while a separate branch uses inflammation to attack harmful bacteria or microorganisms. “The body likes to balance these, so when one is turned on, the other is turned down or off,” he says.
But if one of these branches becomes over- or under-active, the resulting imbalance can cause problems. This sort of imbalance may help explain why rates of some autoimmune disorders have skyrocketed in recent years. “In modern western societies, we’ve almost totally reduced exposure to worms and parasitic infections, and so as that part of the immune system is not used, the other part may be becoming hyperactive,” he explains.
In one form or another, inflammation is the immune system’s go-to weapon against almost anything it perceives to be a threat to the human body or brain. When a person is free of disease, inflammation has done its job. But when problems arise, it makes sense that inflammation would somehow be implicated. Because inflammation is so closely tied to the immune system, any behavior outside the norm is bound to cause illness. For now scientists are still exploring the ways it changes the body, for better and for worse.
Source: Article by Markham Heid (https://elemental.medium.com/why-does-inflammation-seem-to-underlie-all-sickness-64a2bef84f99)
You probably already know that high cholesterol and blood pressure are major risk factors for heart disease. But do you know about inflammation? Recent research shows it plays a key role, and that working to reduce it can prevent heart attacks and strokes.
“Just like we’re targeting blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose, we also need to target inflammation,” says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate director of preventive cardiology for the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. “We all should be making an effort to reduce chronic inflammation in our bodies.”
To protect your heart from the damaging effects of inflammation, here’s what you need to know.
Studies Point to Inflammation
Two decades ago, researchers discovered that high levels of inflammation were associated with an increased chance of having a heart attack or stroke. However, what they didn’t know was whether anti-inflammatory treatments could prevent those events from occurring.
In 2008, the JUPITER study found that for older adults who did not have elevated blood cholesterol but who did have elevated blood levels of inflammatory markers, treatment with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs reduced the number of heart attacks and strokes. But it wasn’t clear whether that was because statins reduced inflammation or because they further lowered bad cholesterol, since they do both.
However, a recent clinical trial called CANTOS studied an injectable antibody type of anti-inflammatory drug in people who had a prior heart attack and who also had elevated inflammatory markers despite statin treatment. This landmark study finally proved that targeting inflammation without changing cholesterol levels can have a significant impact. People treated with the novel anti-inflammatory treatment reduced their likelihood of subsequent heart attacks or strokes by 15 percent. It also decreased the need for major interventions such as angioplasty and bypass surgery by 30 percent, proving that addressing inflammation to prevent heart disease is essential. Additional studies are now looking at whether older, cheaper medications taken by mouth (colchine and methotrexate) can have similar heart protection benefits.
The Role of Inflammation in Heart Disease
Inflammation is part of your body’s immune response to an illness or injury. When you have a wound or an infection, inflammation helps fight off germs and facilitates healing. Buildup of cholesterol and other substances in your arteries (called plaques or atherosclerosis) can set off an inflammatory response, too.
“For short-term conditions, inflammation is helpful,” explains Michos. “But sustained low levels of inflammation irritate your blood vessels. Inflammation may promote the growth of plaques, loosen plaque in your arteries and trigger blood clots — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.”
When a blood clot blocks an artery to the heart, you have a heart attack. If the blood clot blocks an artery to the brain, the result is a stroke.
Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Changes
“The good news is that you can control inflammation by avoiding factors that activate your body’s inflammatory response,” says Michos. “And, these same lifestyle choices decrease bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure and reduce high blood sugar, too.”
Here’s what you can do to reduce inflammation:
- Quit smoking: Smoking damages your blood vessels and promotes atherosclerosis. By quitting, you can cut your heart disease risk in half.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight increases your risk for multiple diseases. But carrying excess fat around your belly is a red flag for heart disease risk. A type of fat that accumulates in the belly (called visceral fat) secretes a molecule that causes inflammation.
- Increase activity: Exercising for as little as 20 minutes a day can decrease inflammation. You don’t have to do an intense sweat session: Moderate workouts, such as fast walking, are effective.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Processed and fast foods produce inflammation. Whole foods, on the other hand, are anti-inflammatory. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and fatty fish.
Chronic inflammation doesn’t produce symptoms — the only way to measure it is with a blood test, and most people aren’t regularly screened for inflammation. Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to lower that risk factor, although doctors may also prescribe a statin drug for those with a higher risk of heart disease. Your doctor can determine your risk level and what next steps are most appropriate for you.