Do you have healthy blood? Are your blood vessels healthy? How can you find out? What lifestyle choices can you make to stay in bloody good health?
Healthy Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a leading cause of death for over five hundred thousand people in the United States per year. Depending on sources, between ⅓ and half of US adults have hypertension. This is not good!
Healthy blood pressure ranges from under 120 for systolic and under 80 for diastolic. High blood pressure is > 130 or > 80. Over long periods of time, hypertension damages your heart and blood vessels. About 10-15% of adults are prescribed high blood pressure medication. About 20% of adults are taking other medications which make their high blood pressure worse!
To avoid high blood pressure, stress less, get frequent exercise, keep your body fat percentage in an ideal healthy range (men < 20, women < 25). Also, Don’t Die from Diet! Unsurprisingly, the map of states with large percentages of at-risk adults looks surprisingly similar to the map of state obesity levels.
Test your blood each year as part of your annual physical. The results compare your blood composition with healthy ranges. Your physician will make recommendations if you are out of range. Developing an annual blood test history is useful to identify problems and take corrective actions.
If injured, having a heart attack or you have another reason to need a blood transfusion, medical providers will ask for your blood type. Make sure to know what it is and make sure that your friends and family can provide it, if you are unable. This will save time and possibly your life in an emergency situation.
The reason knowing your blood type matters is because certain different types of blood cannot be mixed safely.
Hopefully, your physician already knows your blood type and has recorded it within your medical records. Check to make sure! Another good reason to know your blood type is if you are traveling and require treatment away from your hospital.
Beyond checking with your doctor, other ways to determine your blood type include donating blood or purchasing an at-home blood typing kit.
Healthy Blood Cell Aging
Your approximately 30 trillion red blood cells live for an average of 120 days until they are cleared by macrophages. During their lives, they carry oxygen to your tissues and remove potentially harmful DNA fragments from your bloodstream. Red bone marrow creates your red and white blood cells.
White blood cells or leukocytes are the primary protectors of your body against infections and diseases. They make up about 1% of your blood, in contrast to 40-45% from red blood cells. White blood cells survive for about 1-3 days.
Bone Marrow Aging
Unfortunately, like every organ system, bone marrow undergoes changes with age. Marrow space occupied by hematopoietic tissue ranges from 40–60% in young adults to 20–40% in older people, with the remaining space being taken up by yellow bone marrow which stores fat. (Yellow bone marrow contains the stem cells that produce bone and cartilage in your body.)
2021 research results from the Jackson Laboratory, one of seven designated US Cancer Research institutes, indicates that bone marrow levels can be maintained by reducing the decline in IGF-1 which occurs with aging. Lower levels of IGF-1 cause bone marrow stem cells to focus more on producing red blood cells than white ones, impacting the effectiveness of the immune system.
Surprisingly, lowered IGF-1 production is associated with longevity because it limits the risk of developing certain cancers and reduces cellular stress. Thus, raising IGF-1 to keep up youthful levels of blood cell production has negative consequences. Hopefully, upcoming medical discoveries can find a way to both keep bone marrow production youthful and limit the cancer and cellular stress risks. Bone marrow rejuvenation shows promise as one of them, however transplantation is neither convenient nor scalable.
Additionally, according to 2022 research from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, and others, in elderly people, a small number of dominant enlarged stem cell clones—as few as 10 to 20—contributed as much as half of total blood output. Dr. Emily Mitchell, lead researcher on the study, said: “Our findings show that the diversity of blood stem cells is lost in older age due to positive selection of faster-growing clones with driver mutations.” The lack of diversity increases the risk of diseases.
At least until easy bone marrow rejuvenation techniques become available, the Cleveland Clinic recommends eating a diet rich in protein (lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, milk, eggs) combined with making sure to maintain healthy levels of iron and vitamins B9 and B12.
Of note, with a healthy lifestyle and in the absence of disease, people can produce enough blood cells to live 120 years.
Blood Plasma Cleansing
Red and white blood cells take up about half of your blood, so what is the rest? The answer is your blood plasma, made up of 90% to 95% salt water. The primary and most critical plasma protein is albumin. Albumin controls when molecules move into tissues from the bloodstream and out of tissues to be disposed of as waste.
Unfortunately, as you age, your blood plasma fills with protein debris which biologically interferes with youthful healthy processes in your body. Recent research has shown that cleaning the blood plasma allows the tissues and organs of your body to dispose of more unhealthy waste products as well.
Doctors Michael and Irene Conboy are raising funds to run clinical trials to determine the impact on aging of an advanced version of a two-hour, FDA-approved, routine, blood plasma filtering procedure called plasmapheresis or Therapeutic Plasma Exchange (TPE). For more, see Keep Health’s article on Rejuvenation and Regeneration. They call their new filtering approach, “next gen-apheresis”.
The pioneering AMBAR® (Alzheimer Management by Albumin Replacement) clinical program, based on periodic plasma exchange with albumin, is proven to delay cognitive and functional disease progression in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s patients. Periodic plasma exchange eliminates beta-amyloid protein, so that it does not accumulate in the brain and cause neuronal damage. Albumin, a protein made in the liver, is provided because it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping to slow the progression of the disease. They measured 12 areas of cognitive functioning over five months and every single one of them improved; memory, visual acuity, spatial, speed of processing, etc. The control group consistently worsened.
Dr. Michael Roizen, the Chief Wellness Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, noted that if you want to jump ahead and try TPE, you can just go to a plasma donation center and donate units of plasma once a week. (The number of units will depend on your body size. Each unit is 200ml.) FDA approvals for TPE for anti-aging will take at least until 2025, if it works. If you meet the lengthy blood plasma donation eligibility requirements, then plasma donation centers initially pay you around $1,000 for eight visits. Six visits are enough to reset your related youthful biomarkers according to preliminary results from Dr. Dobri Kizov’s early human testing results through the Lyfspn venture.
Plasma donation is somewhat uncomfortable, but becomes a manageable routine over time. The initial visit takes about 2.5 hours. Subsequent visits are about an hour each. Plasmapheresis takes about 45 minutes of that. You’ll find quite a diverse range of people in a plasma donation center! For those wondering, hospital costs are around $300 / unit for plasma.
Healthy Blood Vessels
Not only must you keep your blood healthy, you need to keep your blood vessels healthy. How might you do this?
2018 Harvard Medical School research showed that a combination of mitochondrial-boosting supplements plus exercise substantially improved vascular health in aged mice, well above exercise alone. The trial group taking supplements without exercise didn’t do well either!
Meanwhile, Georgia State researchers discovered that the ketone molecule β-Hydroxybutyrate, produced during fasting, helps remove senescent vascular cells and boosts stem cell production of healthy vascular cells. For more on fasting, see Keep Health’s article, The Fast and the Furious.
Can you determine if you have weak blood vessels? Areas of weakness in your blood vessels can lead to bulges or aneurysms. These can rupture, causing significant internal injury and potentially death. Companies such as Human Longevity offer body scans for early detection of brain aneurysms. If discovered early, treatment options are available.
A less dangerous, but rather unpleasant condition is varicose veins. To avoid getting those, the Mayo Clinic recommends:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Getting regular exercise.
- Eating a high fiber, low salt diet.
- Avoiding wearing high heels and tight hosiery.
- Changing your sitting, standing and lying down positions regularly.
If the above solutions do not work for you, Prellis Biologics is working on 3D printing human tissue with fine-levels of vasculature such as capillaries. It’s not bloody likely they’ll be able to rebuild your body soon, but perhaps someday.
Bloody Good Conclusion
This concludes today’s article. As your reward for reading and taking care of your health, have a bloody good time watching the original vampire movie, Nosferatu, which debuted over a hundred years ago in 1922! Some people unscientifically claim there are mental benefits of watching horror movies. The horror movie industry certainly prefers to promote that. If horror movies aren’t for you, then reward yourself by skipping the blood-chilling experience and not having your heart rate spike to over 130 BPM during the most scary scenes. Here’s a 2021 chart of the impact of some horror movies on viewers’ blood pressure. Unfortunately, they didn’t test out the impact of watching Nosferatu or the hilarious spoof, Love at First Bite. If you are bloody well up for it, test yourself and post your results in the comments section of this article.