A year ago yesterday was the anniversary of a very scary time for me.
That night, the phone rang just after 11. Since no one ever calls me at that hour (they know that by 10 p.m., I’m out like a light), I knew immediately it had to be an emergency.
And it was.
One of my very good friends had been rushed to the hospital via ambulance and the doctors said she had suffered a stroke.
When I got to the emergency room, her mom and husband were standing over her bed, shell-shocked, her children were in the corner, pale and shaken and she couldn’t move her right arm. Her words were slurred, her face was drooping and there was no way to know if she would ever recover.
A year later — a long year of doctor’s visits, therapy sessions and a lot of prayers — my friend is just about back to her old self and we are all so thankful to still have her. Her stroke has been a wake-up call.
It turns out that the cause of her stroke was atherosclerosis.
The dangers of clogged blood vessels
If you haven’t heard the term before, atherosclerosis is when platelets in your blood begin to stick together, forming clumps and clots, and your arteries become clogged with plaque, blocking blood flow. And, like in my friend’s case, part of those clumps and clots can break off and travel either to your brain, causing a stroke or to your heart, resulting in a heart attack.
In fact, the artery-clogging plaque of atherosclerosis are behind most heart attacks and strokes.
Unfortunately, it’s also extremely common. Not only do half of us have plaque clogging our blood vessels by the time we’re 40, with each passing year adding to your risk, this plaque is the leading cause of death and illness in the United States. And if you’re carrying around any extra weight, you’ve got even more to worry about since obesity is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis development and progression.
Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent the buildup of plaque in your arteries, like exercising regularly and carefully controlling your blood sugar.
And now, thanks to a new study by at the NYU School of Medicine, there’s one more option in your toolbox for atherosclerosis prevention…
Olive oil for better blood flow
The researchers used food frequency surveys to determine how often 63 participants ate olive oil and compared it to their platelet activation.
They found that those who ate olive oil at least once a week had much lower platelet activation than participants who ate the oil less often. And that’s a good thing: less platelet activation means fewer clogs.
So those who enjoyed olive oil more frequently also had the lowest levels of clotting and clogging.
“People who are obese are at increased risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, even if they don’t have diabetes or other obesity-associated conditions. Our study suggests that choosing to eat olive oil may have the potential to help modify that risk, potentially lowering an obese person’s threat of having a heart attack or stroke,” said lead study author Sean P. Heffron, M.D., M.S., M.Sc., assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.
Keeping your blood flowing
So, if you want to keep your blood flowing to prevent clogged arteries and the heart attacks and strokes that can come with it, add olive oil to your diet at least once a week. But, of course, more is better.
To help promote healthy blood flow, I also rely on three well-studied nutrients:
- Vitamin K2 — This vitamin acts like a shuttle service, taking calcium to your bones where it belongs so hopefully less of it goes rogue and ends up inside your arteries. And as an added bonus, it’s been shown in studies to promote HDL (good cholesterol), lower total cholesterol and enhance blood flow.
- Nitrosigine® — This supplement supports the activation of nitric oxide (NO) in the lining of your blood vessels. NO signals arteries to open to receive blood flow and then relax again — which helps maintain healthy circulation.
- NSK-SD® Nattokinase — Nattokinase helps to break down fibrin, one of the sticky things that contributes to blockages, to allow blood to flow smoothly.