Practicing a prevention strategy earlier on is significant in derailing heart-related problems.
The numbers for those who are affected by cardiovascular disease every year are daunting, breaking it down: 610,000 people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) die of heart disease every year—that’s one in every four deaths. Considered the leading cause of death in men and women, cardiovascular disease is when blood vessels become extremely narrow or blocked, which can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or a stroke. Other conditions that fall under this umbrella can involve the heart’s muscle, valves and rhythm. And the most popular death-causing condition of the cardio parasol is coronary heart disease, taking the lives of 370,000 people yearly.
It is also understood that there’s a link between C-reactive protein (CRP)—a compound that’s created by the liver in response to inflammation—and atherosclerosis and heart disease, triggering an increase in CRP levels. A simple blood test can be taken to analyze a person’s CRP to determine their risk for heart disease. Even when prevention is possible by taking a simple blood test, unfortunately the numbers don’t stop there. With that said, 47 percent of Americans have at least one modifiable risk factor. Dr. Shailinder Sodhi, a Natural Practitioner advisory board member and president of Washington-based Ayush Herbs, Inc.
said those risk factors are, “High blood pressure (13 percent of global deaths yearly), high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, being overweight, a poor diet and lack of physical activity (6 percent of global deaths per year).” A modifiable risk factor is one that can be prevented whereas non-modifiable risk factors can’t, such as age, gender and family history.
With age brings physiological changes where the heart muscle can relax and miss beats, allowing it to work less efficiently. Age-related deviations can make the problem and treatment more complex. As for gender, men are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease than pre-menopausal women. However, post-menopausal women are on an equal playing field with men in developing heart disease. The reason: low estrogen levels are apparent in post-menopausal women. According to the American Heart Association, it’s thought that estrogen has a positive impact on the inner layer of the artery wall, helping maintain the flexibility of blood vessels. With that said, the idea of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for post-menopausal women may come into play. The American Heart Association does not recommend the use of HRT because it does not show that it has the capability of reducing the risk of heart disease. Proving this, the Journal of The American Medical Association analyzed the most commonly used HRTs among post-menopausal women in the Unites States; it was found that total health risks were still equally present. Covering the last base, having a family history of heart disease increases a person’s risk, even more so if a first blood relative has coronary heart disease or a stroke before the age of 55 for a male relative or before the age of 65 for a female relative. According to the American Heart Association’s statistics, other genetic risk factors include the fact that African-Americans experience a higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. In addition, one in three Hispanics will battle high blood pressure and almost half will encounter high blood cholesterol.
With that said, it’s crucial to develop a prevention strategy. Michael Ozner, MD, board certified cardiologist and author of The Great American Heart Hoax, Heart Attack Proof and The Complete Mediterranean Diet advised, “Sit down with your personal doctor and develop a prevention strategy before you get sick. That prevention strategy has a lot to do with leading a healthy lifestyle, along with proper checking of risk markers.” A strategy shouldn’t wait till a cardiac event. Dr. Ozner continued, “People have this idea that will wait till they have this problem to take care of it. And 50 percent of people with heart attacks make it to the hospital.” There is no specific age for developing a heart-attack-proof strategy, simply put, the earlier the action, the better. Of that strategy, a healthy diet and physical activity are fundamental components.
Feeding the Muscle
The phrase, “you are what you eat,” holds true, especially when there’s a high consumption of nutrient empty foods. Foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol should be avoided. A diet that’s rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, fiber, oily fish and plant-based protein is recommended, specifically the Mediterranean diet. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2013, which involved a group of participants who were considered a high cardiovascular risk and they had to follow the diet as a primary prevention strategy. It was found that consuming a Mediterranean diet while supplementing with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts decreased the amount of negative cardiovascular events. Aside from eating healthier food options by which the diet provides, it’s thought that the diet is pro-heart due to the abundance of omega-3 fatty acids.
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and oily fish like salmon, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil are prime sources for both. The mechanism of action of these healthy fats have been seen to, “prevent arrhythmias, lower plasma triacylglycerols, decrease blood pressure, decrease platelet aggregation, improve vascular reactivity, and decrease inflammation,” according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Due to that, the American Heart Association informs individuals to consume oily fish twice a week and for those who suffer from coronary heart disease to eat one gram a day of EPA, including DHA from food sources or supplements.
And like most muscles, the heart becomes stronger as it is exercised and those who are continuously active reap the benefits of that. The American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) said, “Aerobic exercise training programs can result in modest decrease in body weight and fat stores, blood pressure, total blood cholesterol, serum triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Moreover, the combined results from randomized clinical trials indicate that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation in patients who have had a heart attack results in a 20 to 25 percent lower death rate.” Ultimately, exercise isn’t just heart beneficial but for overall wellness. The ASCM advocated exercising three times a week for 30 continuous minutes per workout session, “at an intensity approximating 70 to 85 percent of an individual’s measure maximal heart rate. Nevertheless, the prescribed heart rate for exercise training should be 10 or more beats per minute below the intensity that evokes abnormal signs or symptoms.”
Fight or Flight
As previously mentioned, lifestyle factors can negatively impact a person’s health—more so when it’s stress induced. When the body is under stress adrenaline can raise a person’s heart rate, blood pressure and energy supply, but when stress is constantly present the fight-or-flight switch remains on. It’s obvious that the relationship of stress and heart health is well illustrated yet how it increases the risk of heart disease is still being comprehended. Indicated by the journal of Nature Review Cardiology, “short-term emotional stress can act as a trigger of cardiac events among individuals with advanced atherosclerosis. Those who experience work-related stress and individuals who are socially isolated or lonely have an increase risk of a first coronary heart disease (CHD) event. Among patients CHD, acute psychological stress has been shown to induce transient myocardial ischemia and long-term stress can increase the risk of recurrent CHD events and mortality.”
Also how stress is perceived, low versus high, can impact one’s heart health. The American Journal of Cardiology analyzed 23 articles regarding perceived stress and heart function, and it was concluded that the scale of a person’s observed stress was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
If an ample amount of stress is experienced on a day-to-day basis, relaxation techniques should be practiced. Dr. Sodhi shared findings from Nutritional Epigenomics of Metabolic Syndrome, “Yoga and regulated breathing exercises help reduce stress, promote weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity and support healthy blood vessels.” Other relaxation techniques should include listening to music, guided imagery and deep breathing.
Traditional treatments like blood pressure and cholesterol lowering medications that include beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, angiotensin II receptor antagonists and statins have been on the fall out. “The hype regarding statins lowering cholesterol to lower the risk of strokes and/or heart attacks is slowly being proven to not be effective,” Dr. Sodhi said. “It would be difficult to lower cholesterol in the long run without adverse effects.”
Natural approaches offer a lifestyle shift and one that is healthier—allowing for proper supplementation when warranted. So to further promote heart health once a proper nutrition and exercise, plan is all said and done, Florida-based Sancilio & Company offers three omega-3 fatty acid products, Ocean Blue Oemga-3 2100, Ocean Blue MiniCaps and Ocean Blue MiniCaps +D3.
Frederick D. Sancillo, PhD, founded Sancillo & Company in 2005 with the focus of “finding medicine in common natural materials and looking for uses of natural substances to “prevent” rather than “cure diseases.” Because of that, the company has worked to bring advanced omega-3 fatty acid supplements to the market. For starters, Ocean Blue Omega-3 2100 is a proprietary blend of omega-3 ethyl esters and it delivers a high concentration of EPA, DHA and DPA per capsule. It’s formulated to minimize fish odor and taste; packed inside each capsule is natural orange oil and vitamin E. It also may assist in the maintenance of brain health, eye health and joint health. And Ocean Blue MiniCaps and Ocean Blue MiniCaps + D3 can meet a person’s daily needs of omega-3s while the vitamin D3 option has a role in regulating blood pressure, inflammation and glucose stabilization—all of which are important for cardiovascular health.
Another pro omega-3 company is California-based Nordic Naturals, where mission is to correct omega-3 deficiency with the right supplements, which will help individuals become healthier and stronger. And to do just that, the supplement company offers ProOmega2000, an omega-3 oil that’s concentrated with EPA and DHA in an absorbable form. It’s best suited for individuals who need quality omegas.
Launched in 2013, ExcelVite Sdn. Bhd. (Malaysia) or better known as ExcelVite, is the largest producer of tocotrienol and carotene mixtures that supply phytonutrients to dietary supplements. The company is also the only GMP (good manufacturing practice)-certified mixed carotene and tocotrienal creator, offering EVNol SupraBio, a complex of tocotrienol with a patented self-emulsifying delivery system. Tocotrienols are in the vitamin E family and are made up of four tocopherols and four tocotreinols. This product is one of the most clinically researched palm tocotrienol complexes that have more than 14 studies within the past 10 years, and has the capability to benefit the brain, heart, liver and skin. According to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Nutrition, oral supplementation of tocotrienols from EVNol SupraBio is bioavailable to vital human organs and tissue. Currently EVNol SupraBio can be found at Life Extension as Super Absorbable Tocotrienols and Allergy Research Group as Tocomin SupraBio Tocotrienols.
Sometimes forgotten, herbs can offer numerous health benefits. Because of that, Ayush Herbs has been capable of providing herbs in a dietary supplement format. The company based their herb formulation on traditional ayuverdic groupings where the herbs are grown in the Himalayan environment, offering six heart-boosting products: CoCurcumin, Arjuna Hert, Amla Plex, Guggal Lip, Trifal and Caritone.
CoCurcumin contains curcumin and medium-chain triglycerides. The reason for the pairing is that not a significant amount of curcumin gets absorbed when taken with food; it’s been seen by clinical trials that adding fat to it helps enhance the absorption. Coenzyme Q10 is also within this mixture to help support cell signaling, which is important for healthy heart function.
Next in line is Arjuna Heart, which is composed of Terminalia arjuna. Terminalia arjuna has an extensive phytochemical profile that can beneficial to the heart. Vitamin B6 and folic acid are also in this supplement. Another high antioxidant supplement is Amla Plex, consisting of 38 ingredients to prevent blood lipid peroxidation.
To alleviate cholesterol levels and inflammation, Guggal Lip is made up of a standardized extract of Commiphora mukul. For an all-in-one supplement, Trifal is a combination of three herbs that targets everything from heart health to digestive health. And last but not least is Carditone that has Rauwolfia—supporting blood pressure level within normal range.
Breslow, Jan. “N−3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease1,2,3,4.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006). Print.
Estruch, Ramón. “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet.” The New England Journal of Medicine (2014). Print.
“Heart Disease Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
Rossouw, Jacques. “Risks and Benefits of Estrogen Plus Progestin in Healthy Postmenopausal Women Principal Results From the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Trial.” The Journal of The American Medical Association 288.3 (2002). Print.
Steptoe, A. “Stress and Cardiovascular Disease.” Nature Review Cardiology 9.6 (2012): 360-70. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Healthy Take Aways
■ Individuals should exercise three times a week for 30 minutes each and at an intensity of 70 to 85 percent of their max heart rate.
■ Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, killing 610,000 people yearly.
■ Post-menopausal women are at greater risk for heart disease due to lower estrogen levels.
■ Following the Mediterranean diet is said considered to be a primary prevention strategy.
■ 47 percent of Americans have at lest one modifiable risk factor.
For More Information:
Ayush Herbs Inc., (800) 925-1371, www.ayush.com
ExcelVite Sdn. Bhd., +60 5 2014 192, www.excelvite.com
Nordic Naturals, (800) 662-2544, www.nordicnaturals.com
Michael Ozner, MD, www.drozner.com
Sancilio & Company, (561) 847-2302, www.sancilio.com