HOW TO MAINTAIN CARDIOVASCULAR & HEART HEALTH
Health conditions related to the heart and circulation are commonly known as cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or heart diseases. However, CVD embrace different types of heart problems including coronary heart disease, heart attack, angina, congenital heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, and atrial fibrillation.
PREVALENCE OF CVD
Unfortunately, CVD is still the UK’s (and the world’s) number one killer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 18 million individuals died from cardiovascular diseases in 2016 (31% of all global deaths) while in the UK, 460 people die from CVD every single day!
LIFESTYLE & ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS THAT INCREASE THE RISK OF DEVELOPING CVD
The following important lifestyle and environmental factors are known to increase the risk of developing CVD:
- An unhealthy diet (high in animal and refined foods) leading to hardening of arteries, high LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides levels. High cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis, a dangerous accumulation of cholesterol and triglycerides (another bad fat) on the walls of arteries.
- Nutritional deficiencies (lack of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) due to poor dietary habits, use of popular stimulants, chronic stress, and avoiding good quality nutritional supplements increase the risk of CVD.
- Lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle contributes to CVD because the heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in human body it needs regular physical activity to maintain its strength, normal function and healthy condition.
- Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to people who have never smoked. This is so because various chemicals (especially carbon monoxide) found in cigarette smoke damage the interior layer of arterial walls, thus weakening them, reducing their elasticity and making bad cholesterol and triglycerides much easier to accumulate in such damaged places contributing to heart attacks and strokes.
- Overload of harmful free radicals from chronic stress, poor mental health, anxiety, irritability, consuming junk food, air pollution, and other sources contribute to CVD by damaging arterial walls and cellular mitochondria.
- People with chronic high blood glucose level, diabetics, and those who are overweight can have a big impact on cardiovascular health.
HEART HEALTH SUPPORTING NUTRITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS AND LIFESTYLE
– Address the key cause of high cholesterol and the coronary artery disease (CAD) by avoiding or significantly reducing consumption of animal foods containing meat, milk, dairy products, fish and eggs, as well as foods that contain a combination of milk, eggs, sugar and refined proinflammatory oils or margarine.
- Eat more unrefined plant foods especially raw fresh vegetables (leafy greens, beets, carrots, etc.), vegetable smoothies, vegetable juices, oatmeal (without cow’s milk or sugar), barley, oat bran, legumes (beans, lentils, and chick peas), sweet potatoes, garlic, onion, cabbage, etc.
- Instead of cow’s milk and dairy use plant-based milk substitutes and products such as unsweetened almond milk, organic soya milk, oat milk, coconut milk, organic Tofu, non-GMO soya yogurts, coconut yoghurts etc.
– Since also diabetes (high blood glucose levels) contributes to atherosclerosis and high blood cholesterol levels, because prolonged and untreated high blood sugar levels damage small blood vessels, you need to check your blood sugar a few times to make sure it is normal. Apart from that, too much sugar in the blood also reduces the levels of the powerful vasodilator, nitric oxide in blood vessels. As a result the blood vessels are narrowed elevating blood pressure and risk of heart attack or stroke.
– Avoid drinking hard water (high in inorganic calcium carbonate). Calcium in hard water contributes to the hardening of blood vessels leading to heart attacks and strokes. In order to check whether your water is hard fill a clean empty plastic bottle about halfway with water. Add 10 drops of a dish washing liquid and shake vigorously. If the foam quickly disappears, the water is hard and if it stays, the water is soft (good). But even if water is soft it doesn’t change the fact that there are still many dangerous contaminants present in it. The best way to remove them (including inorganic minerals such as calcium) is buying a water distiller and drinking only distilled water with a pinch of a sea salt or pink salt.
- Exercise at least 60 minutes every day.
- Learn to control stress and train yourself to think positive.
- Avoid stimulants, foods with refined sugar, margarines and refined proinflammatory oils. Instead of sugar you can use dried fruits (dates, figs, raisins, etc.), moderate amounts of raw organic honey, xylitol, erythritol, or stevia. Margarines and refined oils replace with avocado, raw organic coconut oil, fresh cold-pressed flax oil and olive oil.
KEY NUTRIENTS BENEFICIAL IN PREVENTING CVD
The good news is that many heart and circulatory conditions are caused by risk factors that can be controlled, treated, and modified through a healthy lifestyle including unrefined diet, regular physical activity, stress control and other.
- The gel-forming ability of Psyllium Husk has the added benefit of regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels (Ganji & Kies, 2009). A study done by Anderson et al. (1999) examined the effects of administering psyllium to men with type 2 diabetes. In this study, Psyllium husk decreased postprandial glucose concentrations and serum cholesterol concentrations in men with type 2 diabetes and hypercholesterolemia (Anderson et al., 1999). In another study, higher daily dose (5g consumed three times per day) of Psyllium Husk, for six weeks resulted in a 29% reduction in blood sugar levels within the first two weeks, in patients with type 2 diabetes (Rodriguez et al., 1998). This indicates that a higher daily dose (at least 10g) of Psyllium Husk can promote lower blood glucose levels. The cholesterol lowering effect of Psyllium Husk is due to its ability in promoting the removal of bile acids from the body.
Psyllium Husk is able to bind to fat and bile acids, and promotes their excretion from the body. In the process of replacing these lost bile acids, the liver uses cholesterol to produce more. As a result, blood cholesterol levels decrease. Psyllium Husk has been shown not only to lower LDL cholesterol, but also increase HDL cholesterol significantly. In a study done by Wei et al. (2009) Psyllium Husk was shown to produce dose and time dependent serum LDL cholesterol-lowering effect in mild and moderate hypercholesteraemic patients. On the other hand, the study by Rodriguez et al. (1998) has pointed out towards HDL cholesterol increasing ability of Psyllium Husk where participants who were taking a higher daily dose experienced increases in HDL cholesterol up to 45.7%.
- Magnesium is required for the formation and activation of ATP (cellular energy) and is essential for heart muscle contraction. NHS Choices recommends men aged between 19 and 64 have 300mg of magnesium a day, while women need 270mg. Life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias and seizures represent the most serious manifestation of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency leads to higher levels of sodium and calcium and lower levels of magnesium and potassium in the heart. This increases constriction of the coronary (heart) arteries, which can induce coronary artery spasms, heart attack and arrhythmias. Autopsy studies have revealed lower magnesium content in heart muscle in those who have died of a heart attack. Therefore, supplementing with well-absorbed magnesium help prevent coronary artery (heart) disease. Research by Dr. Fang, published in the Journal BMC Medicine, revealed that over 45,000 patients with heart disease, heart failure, stroke and diabetes had deficiency of magnesium! The conclusion of the study was quite shocking, because it suggested that only by taking just 100 mg of magnesium daily we can significantly lower the risk of heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
– Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is most famous for being one of the best supplements able to significantly reduce the risk of death from CHD. Studies show that supplementation with CoQ10 strengthens heart, supports vascular function and helps prevent cardiovascular damage caused by free radical. CoQ10 helps prevent low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from oxidizing and from triggering arterial plaque formation. Also patients with heart failure demonstrated a dramatic outcome of 50% reduction in heart attacks and strokes in response to proper CoQ10 supplementation.
Coenzyme Q10 is constantly required in our body cells (including especially heart cells) for energy production in mitochondria (cellular power stations). It is essential for transferring energy from food into ATP molecules and therefore its deficiency in our body can be extremely dangerous as it may gradually lead to a heart failure and eventually to a heart attack. At the same time, CoQ10 functions in heart and brain cells as a super antioxidant which prevents the arterial damage caused by free radicals.
The problem is that as we age the CoQ10 levels in our body (including heart) begin to deplete. Also some drugs, such as statins, lead to the deficiency of this vital antioxidant. In addition, many individuals are often unable to obtain adequate amounts of CoQ10 from food due to unhealthy nutritional habits. But sometimes even if our diet seems to be right the levels of this precious antioxidant may still be too low and as a result we feel week, tired and run down. Instead of using poorly absorbed dry powder,
Coenzyme Q10 should be formulated by dissolving Ubiquinone form of CoQ10 in oil. It is important to emphasise this fact because studies demonstrated that the potency and bioavailability (absorption) of the oil-based Ubiquinone in our body is the same as that of the very expensive Ubiquinol form of Coenzyme Q10.
- Adding Aged (Black) Garlic to CoQ10 may lead to even better results as according to one experiment participants who took a combination of 120 mg of CoQ10 and 1,200 mg of aged garlic extract every day for one year had four times lower atherosclerosis progression. At the same time the markers of atherosclerosis-promoting inflammation were significantly reduced.
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) is one of the B vitamins that help to break down proteins and fats converting them into energy. It raises good cholesterol HDL, lowers triglycerides and bad cholesterols LDL and VLDL. Being a vasodilator Niacin causes blood vessels to widen thus lowering blood pressure and preventing heart attacks or strokes. Unfortunately, since niacin (nicotinic acid) is a vasodilator it also causes the skin blood vessels to dilate leading to a warming effect and redness of the skin called hot flushes as well as other sensations such as tingling and itching. Fortunately, this effect usually lasts for only last up to about 20 to 30 minutes and is not dangerous. In addition, if larger doses of niacin are taken regularly, the body gradually builds up a tolerance and minimizes this effect.
– Vitamin D may help reduce blood pressure and risk of stroke and heart attack according to multiple studies. Unfortunately, there are also few studies that seem to deny this discovery but it is because participants of those trials must had been deficient in vitamin K2 and magnesium without which vitamin D supplements are ineffective. Try to increase the blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to at least 50 or more ng/ml. After you rich the healthy levels keep on taking about 5000 IU of D3 per day.
Please keep in mind that due to soil depletion and other factors almost all people today are deficient in Magnesium and therefore Vitamin D supplements must be taken with good magnesium (such as magnesium citrate) as in people who are deficient in this mineral even highest daily doses of vitamin D will bring no benefits and will even increase magnesium deficiency, because vitamin D requires magnesium for its conversion in liver and kidneys. Apart from Magnesium, Vitamin D supplements also need Vitamin K2 (not K1 but K2), especially when high doses of vitamin D are taken for a long time. Taking vitamin K2 will prevent calcification of blood vessels (and hypertension) or kidney stones caused by long-term overdosing of vitamin D. I myself always recommend vitamin D3 supplementation due to the huge deficiency but it should always be accompanied by proper intake of vitamin K2 and good magnesium.
– Vitamin K2. One of the most important activities of vitamin K is to protect the entire cardiovascular system by preventing calcification of the arteries. In one study Vitamin K2 reduced blood vessel calcification whereas vitamin K1 did not. This effect is more beneficial when Vitamin K2 is combined with Vitamin D3 and Magnesium. Vitamin K and vitamin D work to increase a substance called Matrix GLA protein (MGP) which protects blood vessels from calcification by congregating around the elastic fibres of the arterial lining and guarding against calcium crystal deposition.
– Vitamin E can help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke as it reduces blood clotting, although this effect is dose-dependent and it is not clear how much vitamin E thins the blood. It is suggested that people who are taking blood-thinning drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin) should avoid taking large doses of vitamin E without a professional consultation.
- Amino acid L-arginine is used in our body to make Nitric oxide a potent vasodilator which helps normalise blood pressure and improve blood circulation. It also helps reduce risk of heart attack and stroke by widening arteries.
- Red yeast rice has been used for centuries in China as both food and medicine. It is made by fermenting certain type of yeast over red rice. Red yeast rice contains chemical called Monacolin K that is similar to statin – the most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication.
– Ginkgo biloba thins the blood and has fibrinolytic effect which means it may help dissolve blood clots.
– Ginger belongs to the same family as turmeric and contains salicylates, acids found in various plants. Acetyl salicylic acid (aspirin) is derived from salicylate and is often to help prevent stroke by thinning blood. However, natural foods and herbs containing salicylates, such as ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric, garlic, oregano, licorice, ginkgo, onion, avocados, and cherries, also help thin the blood and prevent it from clotting without causing bad side effects.
If you are already on a blood-thinning medication, you must consult your doctor before taking the listed above supplements that are known as blood thinners. Taking them together with blood-thinning medication may increase the risk of internal bleeding. According to Dr Andrew Weil, MD, “If you do decide to use one of these substances in conjunction with anticoagulant drugs – to possibly lower your dose of that medication – you have to be extremely careful that you’re not getting too much blood-thinning activity. One of the major Coumadin (warfarin) side effects is an increased risk of bleeding (often signalled by blood in the stool or urine, bleeding gums, or easy bruising). Because natural substances with blood-thinning activity may also carry this side effect, taking them together with anticoagulant drugs may further increase the risk of bleeding. For these reasons, if you’re taking an anticoagulant drug along with a natural blood thinner, do so only under the supervision of your physician, who can monitor your bleeding and clotting times“.
Written by Slawomir Gromadzki (MPH)
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