More research continues to come in, linking endothelial dysfunction to multiple sclerosis. Pub med has hundreds of new papers.
When I first began looking into how Jeff's MS was related to his vascular system in 2007, I read many papers on pubmed which discussed the "endothelium." A dysfunction in the lining of our blood vessels was implicated in chronic diseases of inflammation and hypoperfusion, such as MS. I noticed that there were many modern day environmental factors that caused problems with endothelial health and blood flow. Endothelial dysfunction was linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease and neurodegenerative disease.
Fast-forward seven years, and there are health stories on the endothelium in the mainstream press every day. Here's a sampling from just last week----
Tomato Sauce helps fight heart disease Of 36 patients with heart disease, those taking the pill every day for two months saw their blood vessels widen by 53 per cent. This was due to improved functioning of the endothelium, the inner wall cell lining of blood vessels, scientists believe. link
How the brain regulates blood flow Hillman found that the vascular endothelium, the inner layer of blood vessels, plays a critical role in propagating and shaping the blood flow response to local neuronal activity. While the vascular endothelium is known to do this in other areas of the body, until now the brain was thought to use a different, more specialized mechanism and researchers in the field were focused on the cells surrounding the vessels in the brain.link
Eating Strawberries may lower blood pressure Strawberries are rich in antioxidants, which may lower blood pressure by relaxing the endothelium, the lining inside blood vessels. Relaxing the endothelium widens the arteries, reducing pressure.link
So, now that we know the endothelium is truly important---how is our current environment impacting our health? And what can we do about it?
Here's what I wrote in 2007:
I truly believe endothelial dysfunction is the disease of modern man, and is responsible for the increasing rates of chronic disease in industrialized nations.
To provide a contrast and by means of example, I present a day in the life of two women, separated by only 200 years in time.
19th Century- Life as it been lived for thousands of years-
You and your husband get up from bed as the sun rises and the rooster crows. You both get dressed and head outside together to milk the cows and feed the livestock. You work the pump at the well, get a drink of water, which comes from a fresh spring underground. The physical exertion of pumping water and carrying it, lifting the feed and milking the cows has worked up a good sweat. You gather some fresh eggs from the henhouse, and head inside to cook breakfast. The meal includes coffee or tea made with spring water, fresh milk from the cow, eggs and toast with apple preserves, jarred last fall.
The children rise, get dressed, eat and are soon out the door to walk to school. Your husband heads off to his work in the barn. There is laundry to be washed and hung on the line and gardening to do. You spend over two hours out doors, in the sunshine. Again, hard work and more exercise. This is not a life of leisure!
Fresh fruits and vegetables are eaten in season and canned and jarred for off season. There isnʼt much meat, but an occasional fish from the stream or chicken from the henhouse. Grains are whole, and you add flaxseed to the bread. Root vegetables and greens are plentiful. Mealtime is spent together as a family. After dinner, and after the dishes pots and pans are cleaned, the family sits together and reads or plays board games. Soon the sun sets and itʼs time for bed. Everyone is tired from the dayʼs activities and ready to sleep.
21st Century--Our Modern Life
You rise in the dark to the incessant buzz of the alarm clock. Itʼs a quick shower in chlorinated and fluoridated city water and blow dry before heading to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. You get your water from the tap and microwave a breakfast sandwich of processed ham and cheese to go. You check your e-mail on the laptop and holler to wake your husband and the kids and hurry them up- thereʼs no time to waste! They get dressed, grab their backpacks and eat their microwaved breakfasts as everyone piles into the van.
Itʼs off to school where you drop them at the door. Then you get back on the freeway to sit in traffic. Love those fumes! Youʼre starting to get a headache. Trapped on the road, you try to make good use the time by calling clients and checking your phone. Your stress levels are now through the roof of the van. You get to the office late and have to deal with everything that has been piled on your desk. No time for the gym, and lunch is going to be a bag of peanut M&Ms and a can of Coke. You never see the light of day, except through your office windows. By the time you get home, itʼs dark and the kids are fighting over the Playstation.
You still need to make dinner. Your husband has texted you, heʼs running late and will miss dinner...again.
You pile the kids back in the van and head to a fast food place. Itʼs drive through and the kids donʼt mind. Youʼre famished and get a double cheeseburger, since you skipped lunch, how could it hurt? You get everyone home and get the kids doing their homework. Itʼs nine pm before you know it, and your husband finally gets home. He walks in and just wants to sit in front of the TV, heʼs exhausted. You get the kids bathed and into bed. Itʼs 11pm before you fall into bed, head pounding. You have trouble sleeping, and it seems like by the time you finally drift off, the damn alarm is ringing again!
I do not mean to over-romaticize or idealize the lives of men and women from centuries ago. Theirs was a very different experience, and it was physically and emotional demanding. People got sick then, very sick, and many died premature deaths. But not many suffered from chronic diseases. Our modern lifestyle is much easier in many ways-- we have automated appliances to do our labor, vehicles to transport us, and conveniences our great, great grandparents could only have dreamed of.
Our modern lifestyle has disrupted many natural and hormonal patterns; such as the circadian rhythm. We no longer use the sun to tell us when to rise and set. And doctors are seeing a deficiency of vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin made by our skin when exposed to sunlight) linked to many diseases. Not coincidentally, lack of vitamin D is one of the causes of endothelial dysfunction.
More science continues to come in, and we've learned how endothelial dysfunction is linked to slowed cerebral blood flow and inflammation. Some of the modern lifestyle/environmental factors which have been linked to endothelial dysfunction are:
1. Lack of UV rays, low nitric oxide and low Vitamin D
2. Lack of exercise and sedentary living
3. Higher stress and cortisol release
4. Lack of REM sleep and regular circadian rhythms
5. Too much glucose and refined sugar
6. Eating transfats and processed foods
7. Toxins, pesticides and heavy metals in air and food
8. Lower intake of whole foods, fruits and vegetables
And not coincidentally, when countries become industrialized or "westernized", rates of chronic diseases rise.
Nevertheless it was the Industrial Revolution (with the widespread use of refined vegetable oils, refined cereal grains, and refined sugars)14,65 and the Modern Age (with the advent of the “junk food” industry, generalized physical inactivity, introduction of various pollutants, avoidance of sun exposure, and reduction in sleep time and quality coupled with increased chronic psychological stress)14,38,65,146,152,153,160 that brought about the most disruptive and maladaptive changes, which may have serious pathophysiological consequences. link
Take care of your endothelium and it will take care of you.
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