Your Endothelium: Why it’s your Key to Health

endothelium

What do you know about Endothelium Health? You might be wondering what exactly the endothelium is and why should you care about it.

In this article, you’ll learn about endothelium and blood vessel health, and how you can look after yours.

Endothelium Explained

Your endothelium is the thin layer of cells lining your blood vessels, heart and lymphatic system. If laid out, your endothelium would cover the area of over four Olympic swimming pools, and weigh around 1kg.

The cells have a flat or squashed appearance, and the lining is only one cell thick, meaning it’s vulnerable to damage. But despite their size, endothelial cells are hugely important to your health. Although until now you might not have been aware of its existence, your endothelium is vital to keep you alive.

Your Endothelium and Your Health

The importance of healthy blood vessels is no secret. Perhaps the most well-known function of the endothelium is to keep the inside of your blood vessels smooth so plaque deposits don’t build up. Think of it as a non-stick lining on your blood vessels.

However, these little cells are so much more than simply a lining. They also act as gatekeepers, allowing nutrients and oxygen to pass through into your bloodstream where they’re delivered to body cells as needed. They respond to and secrete chemical signals, too, sensing changes to the composition of your blood and lymph and sending messages to your body to react appropriately. This is because the contents of your blood must be carefully balanced to function properly. So endothelial cells are involved directly or indirectly with many body processes including hormone balance and your immune system.

One other important function of your endothelium is to regulate the diameter of your blood vessels. If they’re too narrow, your blood pressure will rise, and they will be more likely to be blocked by a blood clot. In turn, if your blood doesn’t flow freely around your blood vessels, your heart will be forced to work harder.

Your endothelium controls the diameter of your arteries with the help of a substance called nitric oxide. The cells release this substance to help the muscles around your blood vessels stay relaxed. Less nitric oxide causes contracted blood vessels and high blood pressure. In turn, nitric oxide helps the endothelium to remain healthy by reducing inflammation.

Another of nitric oxide’s useful functions is to reduce the likelihood of your blood clotting when it shouldn’t by making blood platelets less sticky. 

Endothelial Dysfunction

Damage to the endothelium is known as endothelial dysfunction and it’s believed to be a forerunner of atherosclerosis.

The responsiveness of endothelial cells tends to decrease with age. Because they regulate the amount of blood flowing through your arteries as well as where the blood is sent, less blood flows through your system when cells lose their responsiveness. Production of nitric oxide reduces with age, too, because it’s made less efficiently. 

Your Endothelium and Cholesterol

As you’ve learned, endothelial cells can easily be damaged. This can be due to certain types of cholesterol. When you have your cholesterol measured, you’re usually provided with two values –  LDL and HDL. HDL is generally thought to be the protective type of cholesterol, with LDL not so helpful. When LDL is damaged or oxidised by free radicals, it can cause changes in your immune system, sparking off inflammation which damages your endothelium.

Damaged endothelial cells are no longer smooth leading to accumulations of fats, minerals and cholesterol called plaques on blood vessel walls. It’s a particular issue if the LDL particles are small and dense, when HDL is low, and when the endothelium suffers from oxidative stress from smoking or a diet low in plant foods.

Help for Your Endothelium

  • Omega 3 oils have been found in research to improve endothelium health. They’re found in oily fish and some nuts and seeds.
  • Certain antioxidants, particularly those found in grapes, apples, black and red berries and green tea can not only protect endothelial cells from damage but also support nitric oxide production.
  • Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant, protecting your blood vessels from damage and preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
  • Enjoy pomegranate. It contains components helping to produce nitric oxide. In rodents, it’s been shown to improve cholesterol ratios and reduce atherosclerotic plaques.
  • Low levels of Vitamin D and magnesium are related to reduced production of nitric oxide. Consider a supplement of vitamin D during winter.
  • Quit sugar! High levels of sugar in your blood can encourage oxidative stress and so damage your endothelium. This is why Type 2 diabetes can be so damaging to blood vessels.
  • Certain foods can boost nitric oxide production, including beetroot, spinach, rocket, kale, cabbage, rhubarb, watermelon and garlic.

Natural Support for Your Blood Vessels

With your endothelium being so important for your health, you’ll want to keep it healthy. We can help with personalised nutritional, supplement and lifestyle solutions tailored especially for you.

Contact Embracing Nutrition for help with endothelium health

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