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Being Young at Heart
The heart is one of the most fascinating organs. It pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood each day throughout our bodies, so it’s important we protect our heart.
Heart disease includes coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, arrhythmias, angina and others. Heart disease is complex and can be the result of many different factors, including diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, maintaining proper weight, stress, medications, pollutants, and genetic predispositions.
Many cases of heart disease can be prevented or controlled by making certain lifestyle changes, including looking at more comprehensive lab tests and taking specific heart healthy nutritional supplements. For those who are at a higher risk of heart disease, it’s important to mention that we look beyond routine lab tests, which provide us with total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, VLDL and triglycerides. We should also look at lipoprotein (a) (considered higher risk than LDL), homocysteine (a strong oxidant), c-reactive protein (a sign of inflammation), and fibrinogen (a clotting indicator).
Board-Certified Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, is a very prominent figure in the cardiovascular arena. He believes that cholesterol is not the most important factor in heart disease, but that high homocysteine, c-reactive protein and lipoprotein (a) are more indicative of heart disease and that reducing these decreases inflammation.
Nutrients for Supporting Heart Health
Fish oil provides many heart health benefits, including promoting healthy blood clotting, normal heart rhythm, healthy blood triglycerides (circulating blood fats), normal blood pressure, and blood vessel health. The omega-3s in fish oil support the immune system by assisting in reducing inflammatory markers and overall inflammation.
Vitamin D deficiency, more traditionally associated with bone and muscle weakness, may also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Low 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are linked to cardiovascular disease risk factors such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes, as well as major cardiovascular events such as stroke and congestive heart failure.
Research over the past several years shows how valuable vitamin K is in supporting healthy cardiovascular function, blood flow and bone and teeth calcification. Vitamin D3 is important for calcium transport and absorption to keep calcium off the arteries, and vitamin K2 as MK-7 is critical for the formation of a strong bone matrix.
Magnesium is important for more than 350 enzymatic processes in our bodies. It assists in immunity, insomnia, depression, irritability, rapid heartbeat, regulating blood pressure, relaxing smooth muscles, regulating blood sugar, and so much more. Magnesium is extremely important for muscles, and the heart is a crucial muscle.
Vitamin E, is an important antioxidant that protects our tissues. Vitamin E has emerged as a potent anti-inflammatory nutrient, protecting against heart disease and other inflammatory disorders. This fat-soluble vitamin is uniquely suited to intercept free radicals, and protects the fats in low density lipoproteins from oxidation.
There are many important nutrients that support heart health. What you decide to incorporate and how much you should take is best determined by a health care provider.
A special note to those who may already be on heart medications is to check with your naturopath or family physician, as many of these nutritional supplements are mild blood thinners or mild clotting agents and may not be able to be taken with certain anticoagulant medications.
1) Lee and others, “Vitamin E in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer “The Women’s’ Health Study: a Randomized Controlled Trial” JAMA, 2005: (294) 56-65
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center