Keep Your Heart Healthy

Keep Your Heart Healthy

Posted on 21. Jun, 2010 by in Articles

Many people still have the misconception that heart disease is something that happens primarily to men. It’s true that women are fortunate in having the natural heart-protective effects of estrogen prior to menopause. Estrogen helps to keep coronary arteries flexible, and also plays an important role in keeping cholesterol levels low. But during and after menopause, women are more likely than men to be stricken with heart disease. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women, affecting one out of every three women over the age of 65. Fortunately, with the proper diet and exercise, there are a variety of supplements that can help both men and women to keep their cardiovascular systems healthy.

Power Up with CoQ10

It should come as no surprise that the cells of the heart muscle are packed with microscopic structures called mitochondria. In fact, they make up about a quarter of the volume in the heart cells, more than anywhere else in the body. That’s nature’s way of generating the power necessary to drive the heart’s nonstop pumping action over a lifetime.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance your body needs to make energy. It helps people with weak hearts, including such diseases as cardiomyopathy and heart failure. In a recent study, Italian doctors noted impressive improvements after four weeks of giving CoQ10 (100 mg three times daily) to 21 patients with severe heart failure. CoQ10 supplements, ranging from 60 to 300 mg daily, significantly improved the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (such as Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor) inhibit an enzyme involved in making cholesterol. But choking off that enzyme also reduces the body’s ability to make CoQ10. Many of the side effects of statins are related to CoQ10 depletion. CoQ10 supplements can offset drug-related problems, such as liver problems and muscle pain, while also improving heart function. CoQ10 is very safe. Please work with your physician when combining CoQ10 with heart-stimulating medicines; CoQ10 may decrease your medication needs after several weeks.

Not Just for Bones

Most of us associate vitamin D with bone health, but this vitamin’s list of additional benefits is steadily growing. We make prodigious amounts of vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, when we use sunscreen outdoors or spend most of our time indoors, we block this natural means of making this vitamin. Not surprisingly, deficiencies are very common, especially during the winter months.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 62 percent more likely to experience a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. In addition, people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to have hypertension, compared with people who had the highest levels of the vitamin.

walking shorts and without sunscreen) for about 10 minutes, your body will produce about 10,000 IU of vitamin D. Alternatively, take at least 1,000 IU daily, doubling that amount over the winter or if you have a dark complexion. It’s important to have your vitamin D levels checked. Ask your doctor to order this simple blood test at your next office visit.

Essential Vitamin E

An essential nutrient, vitamin E is the body’s principal fat-soluble antioxidant. Research and the clinical experiences of physicians show beyond a doubt that vitamin E is good for the heart. First, it is an antioxidant. Second, it has anti- inflammatory properties—important because coronary heart disease is now considered an inflammatory disease of the arteries. Third, it has mild anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) properties, so it can help reduce the risk of blood clots.

In a 10-year study, researchers found that vitamin E supplements reduced the overall risk of life-threatening blood clots by one-fifth. In women with a history of blood clots, supplements reduced the risk of new clots by almost half. Perhaps the most significant study found that vitamin E lowered the overall risk of fatal and nonfatal heart attacks by about half.

Vitamin E and at least some heart drugs interact in negative ways. Cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce blood levels of vitamin E, and the vitamin may interfere with statin drugs. It may be worthwhile taking one or the other, but not both. As a general rule, the amount of vitamin E needed increases with a person’s cholesterol level—so having high cholesterol means more vitamin E is needed. On average, supplement dosages range from 400 IU to 1,000 IU daily. Always choose the natural d-alpha tocopherol form of E—it is absorbed and utilized twice as well as synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol.

Fish Oil

Two new studies show that taking supplements of omega-3 fish oils leads to a significant reduction in deaths and hospitalizations for cardiac problems. In the first study, researchers analyzed data from 12 earlier studies involving 32,779 patients. The use of fish oil supplements lowered the risk of sudden cardiac death by 19 percent and deaths from all causes by 8 percent. Most striking was a 20 percent lower risk of dying, specifically from heart disease.

In a separate study, researchers tracked the health of 6,975 patients who were asked to take either 1 gram of fish oils or placebos daily for about four years. All of the patients had been previously diagnosed with chronic heart failure. People taking fish oils had a 9 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, and an 8 percent lower risk of being hospitalized for cardiovascular disease.

Consider taking 1,000 to 3,000 mg of fish oil daily. You can buy it in capsule form or as a liquid with a pleasant lemon or orange taste.

The Bs

Together, the 11 B vitamins influence many aspects of health and affect the risk of degenerative diseases, including heart disease. B3, or niacin, is well known for its cholesterol-lowering effect. In a new study, it outperformed Zetia, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug, as an adjunctive therapy for high-risk patients who need more than a statin like Lipitor or Crestor to control cholesterol.

B vitamins are also important for normalizing homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a byproduct of protein found in the blood, and high levels can cause free-radical damage to blood vessel walls and set the stage for cholesterol deposits. These deposits, or plaque, can obstruct blood flow, increasing the risk of coronary artery disease. Studies find that B vitamins are involved in breaking down homocysteine and recycling it back to protein. Folic acid appears to be the most important of these, but vitamins B6 and B12 are also involved.

A high-potency daily multivitamin should provide the basic amounts of the B vitamins needed to prevent homocysteine levels from rising. Separate supplements of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 at higher doses may be needed to lower very high or resistant homocysteine levels.

Diet and Lifestyle

Diet is a powerful tool in keeping your heart and circulatory system healthy. Through diet, you can decrease your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increase your levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol, and lower your blood pressure. To make the transition to a heart-healthy diet, make sure you are including plenty of high-fiber (low-glycemic) fruits and veggies. Apples, carrots, and citrus fruits are especially good sources. Omega-3 rich fish (such as salmon and sardines), green tea, healthy fats (such as olive oil), legumes, nuts, and oats are also heart-healthy options.

Finally, there’s no doubt that regular exercise is critical for cardiovascular health. Your heart is a muscle and needs the stimulus of regular exercise to be strong and healthy. Exercise improves circulation, keeps blood pressure low, helps to decrease cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL cholesterol, and is a great stress-reliever. Plan for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week.

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About the author:

Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter™, is a personal nutrition coach and bestselling author based in Tucson, Arizona. He is one of America's most trusted nutrition and health writers, with 30 years of experience writing about research and clinical experience on nutrition, vitamins, minerals, and herbs. He is the author of The Food-Mood Solution, Feed Your Genes Right, The Inflammation Syndrome, and the lead author of Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance. Jack is also the series editor for the 50-volume User's Guide series of health paperback books (Basic Health Publications). He writes The Nutrition Reporter™ newsletter. Jack is a frequent speaker at nutritional medicine conferences and to consumer health groups.

- who has written 4 articles on Health e Times.


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