On April 4, 2023, keynote speaker David DeRose gave a presentation on hemorheology at the "Power to Heal" Health Summit of the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. DeRose, an Adventist physician, author, and pastor, sought to illuminate the importance of hemorheology in health and disease.
“Hemorheology” is not a well-known word and is difficult to spell and pronounce. DeRose explained it as “the study of the flow properties of blood and its plasma” and an essential element of staying healthy. “Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation.” His goal, DeRose said, was to describe the connection between hemorheology and at least five critically important disease states in a way likely to motivate a patient or community member to implement lifestyle changes. DeRose also discussed how hemorheology can be used in a faith-community-based health program, and four easily implementable strategies to improve hemorheology.
Why Blood Circulation Is Important
In simple terms, hemorheology is the science that studies how effectively blood flows through the body, which nourishes tissues and eliminates waste. “Optimal hemorheology helps prevent stroke, coronary artery disease, blindness — glaucoma and macular degeneration — and even cancer,” De Rose said. “It also helps prevent cognitive decline, hypertension, diabetes and its complications, weight gain, and arthritis.”
DeRose shared the results of several studies that showed how patients who suffered a transient ischemic attack had high hematocrit and plasma viscosity, among other measurements. The higher these numbers are, he said, the worse the blockages in the carotid arteries are, and the risk of a stroke doubles or triples.
Likewise, a study of patients with glaucoma showed they had significantly higher levels of blood and plasma viscosity and other key measurements. The same can be said of cancer risks, DeRose said. For instance, “in both ovarian and cervical cancer patients, plasma viscosity was a significant risk factor for subsequent thrombosis,” he said. “And according to some studies, viscosity was also a significant risk factor for overall survival in ovarian cancer patients.”
DeRose quoted a specific study in which its authors explained that blood viscosity “impairs blood-flow properties and may induce hypoxia … that favors thrombosis, settlement of tumor cells, and thus metastasis.”
Other Benefits of Good Circulation
Studies have also shown that lower plasma viscosity improves mental reaction speed and mental alertness. At the same time, other studies have shown connections between poor hemorheology and high blood pressure. One of the reasons, studies show, is that greater resistance to blood flow — poorer hemorheology — may necessitate higher blood pressures to adequately circulate blood.
Something similar happens in relation to weight gain. “Poor blood circulation also leads to decreased tissue oxygenation,” DeRose said, “which eventually leads to less efficient burning of calories and thus to weight gain.”
How to Improve Your Blood Circulation
In the last part of his presentation, DeRose shared tips on how to improve one’s own blood circulation and to help others in the local community do the same. His suggestions included ten simple strategies that most people can implement. They include donating blood, drinking more water, and eating more plant foods, as well as achieving and maintaining an ideal weight, defined as “what you weigh when you are in an ideal program for you,” DeRose said, noting that losing body fat improves blood circulation.
What about daily exercise? “What is better?” DeRose asked. “To be thin and unfit, or fat and fit? Choose the latter,” he recommended. He also suggested, if applicable, to stop smoking, get adequate daily amounts of vitamin D year-round, and get adequate sleep every night. Finally, DeRose emphasized the importance of controlling stress and making dental health a priority.
Blood Circulation and Nutrition
DeRose spent some time developing the connections between blood circulation and nutrition. He mentioned first the role of caffeine, which produces a chemical reaction in the body that make platelets stickier, increases stress hormones, and raises blood pressure.
Phytochemicals are important too, DeRose emphasized. “Phytochemicals are natural plant compounds that are not essential for life yet can affect human health in a variety of ways,” he said. He mentioned anthocyanins, found in red apples, grapes, berries, cherries, tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Anthocyanins have shown antioxidant properties more potent than vitamin E and C, blood vessel relaxation, and anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
DeRose also referred to curcumin, a polyphenol found in turmeric that, among other benefits, can help prevent colon cancer and cataracts, decreases platelet stickiness, and possibly protects against neurogenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. He also mentioned lutein, found in green leafy vegetables, corn, potatoes, and tomatoes. “Lutein is an antioxidant that prevents colon and kidney cancer and melanoma and may protect against macular degeneration,” DeRose said.
A carotenoid called lycopene has also shown antioxidant properties, DeRose said. “Lycopene also lowers LDL cholesterol, [aids in] heart disease prevention, decreases sunburn risk, and prevents several types of cancer,” he said. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, apricots, grapefruit, watermelon, and papaya.
Sugar, Exercise, Sleep, and Stress Management
DeRose also advised people to assess sugar content in products by reading nutrition facts labels. It is essential to keep sugar consumption in check, he said. “Increased intake of simple sugars may worsen blood fluidity, in part, because of correlations with weight gain, worsened triglycerides, and elevated uric acid,” he said.
Regarding body weight, studies have shown that overweight patients had higher levels of plasma viscosity and C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker. On the other hand, aerobic exercise improves blood fluidity. “The more exercise, the better your hemorheology will be,” DeRose said. “Exercise helps blood fluidity by decreasing body fat.”
He quoted Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White, who, in My Life Today, wrote, “Go out and exercise every day, even though some things indoors have to be neglected” (p. 136). “Morning exercise, in walking in the free, invigorating air of heaven, or cultivating flowers, small fruits, and vegetables, is necessary to a healthful circulation of the blood. It is the surest safeguard against colds, coughs, … and a hundred other diseases” (p. 136).
Sleep deprivation also affects blood circulation, DeRose said. A study showed significant changes in the inflammatory markers of people who slept just four hours a night.