There are many factors affecting blood viscosity. Blood viscosity refers to a measurement of stickiness and thickness of the blood of a patient. Blood viscosity is a crucial hemodynamic biomarker because it determines friction against blood vessels, quantity of the oxygen that is delivered to organs and tissues as well as the degree of the working of the heart. Blood viscosity is a considered as a direct measure of the ability of blood to flow and it can be modified using naturopathic therapies.
There is a correlation of blood viscosity with risk factors of cardiovascular disease such as smoking, age, sex, inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, low and high density lipoprotein cholesterol and high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol among others. High blood viscosity is an independent indicator of the cardiovascular events in the body. According to several artery studies, elevated levels of blood viscosity are strong predictors of stroke when all major risk factors have been controlled.
In determining the factors that affect blood viscosity, plasma and water are considered as Newtonian fluids. This implies that viscosity of plasma and water remains at constant level regardless of whether they are flowing slowly or fast. On the other hand, whole blood is not a Newtonian fluid. Its viscosity keeps changing with velocity. Other elements of blood apart from plasma and water are white cells, platelets and red cells which increase the viscosity of blood further.
Out of these, the red cells are the ones that affect blood viscosity the most. Increased amount of red cells in the blood causes a relative increase in blood viscosity. Hematocrit causes about 50 percent difference in blood viscosity from normal viscosity to high viscosity.
Another factor that affects blood viscosity is erythrocyte deformability. This refers to ability of the red blood cells to elongate a high velocity as well as fold and bend to pass via slender passage ways in the capillaries. When red blood cells have high flexibility they cause low blood viscosity. Young red blood cells have higher flexibility than older ones. Erythrocyte deformability is usually the second factor that determines viscosity of blood after hematocrit.
The other factor that affects blood viscosity is erythrocyte aggregation. This reflects tendency of the red blood cells to attract each other and stick together. The tendency of the red blood cells to aggregate is usually complex. Both red blood cells deformability and plasma proteins have a role to play in erythrocyte aggregation.
Temperature also affects blood viscosity. About 1 degree centigrade increase in temperature of the body decreases blood viscosity by 2 percent.
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