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Herbal Support for Cardiovascular Health
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in North America. Contributing physiological factors including high total cholesterol, raised LDL with an increase in oxidized LDL, increased platelet aggregation (leading to the formation of arterial blood clots), increased plasma fibrinogen (clotting factors in veins) and high blood pressure. Specific external influences or “risk factors”, certainly not all inclusive, are said to be; smoking, stress, diet and lifestyle. Long term exposure to these contributing factors leads to uncontrollable oxidation and inflammation, which results in cell destruction and genetic malfunction.
Incorporating a regular exercise program, including cardiovascular involvement, such as brisk walking, along with making healthier dietary choices (eg. Mediterranean, Paleo, Vegetarian) is a solid beginning. Functional levels of vitamins and minerals also play a key role and select herbs offer additional support that specifically results in supporting a healthy cardiovascular system. Epidemiological studies show a strong correlation between the use of some herbs and the protection against the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Garlic has been shown to inhibit enzymes involved in cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis, to decrease platelet aggregation by acting as a mild blood thinner, to prevent lipid peroxidation (oxidation of LDL), to increase antioxidant status, and to inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). According to The Journal of Nutrition, since 1993, 44% of clinical trials specific to garlic have indicated a reduction in total cholesterol while the most profound observation is in garlic's ability to reduce platelet aggregation.
Hawthorn is considered to be one of the best heart tonics available due to exceptional circulatory action. It is effective in therapies for many heart conditions, including arrhythmia, due to its affect on electrolyte utilization. Although hawthorn has not been proven to reverse heart conditions, it will increase and strengthen deteriorated heart muscle. Hawthorn can also reduce cholesterol buildup in artery walls and has blood pressure lowering capabilities.
Cayenne reduces the formation of fibrinogen, stimulates blood flow through vasodilation and lowers blood pressure. Many herbalists suggest that cayenne should be added to all herbal preparations because of its ability to support effective blood flow. With more efficient blood flow, more oxygen is delivered throughout the body. A traditional practise in the event of a suspected heart attack was to administer one teaspoon of cayenne dissolved in water or three droppers of a prepared tincture to immediately relax the arteries leading to the heart to provide the much needed blood and oxygen supply to stabilize the situation.
Ginkgo Biloba can have a significant influence on the circulatory system. Ginkgo flavonoids may reduce capillary permeability and fragility and serve as free radical scavengers. The terpenes inhibit platelet aggregation, decrease vascular resistance, and improve circulatory flow without affecting blood pressure.
For individuals worried about their personal family history or simply concerned about the statistics on cardiovascular disease, it is empowering to know the onset of any disease is simply not just the luck of the draw. Specific to heart disease, solutions are absolutely within our control, in the form of healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Marva Ward is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP) and works for Puresource as the National Product Educator for the NOW brand of supplements in Canada. As a holistic practitioner Marva is in constant pursuit of evidence based alternative therapies. As the Product Educator Marva develops and conducts in-store training sessions and bi-weekly conference call training for retailers across Canada as well as attending and speaking at community consumer events.
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