Heart-related issues are omnipresent, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be treated in practical ways.
From its meaning alone, when one hears cardiovascular health, which signifies health surrounding the heart and blood vessels, the impact that it can have on one’s life is implied.
The American Heart Association notes that cardiovascular disease (CVD), a disease that can include heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems, accounted for 840,678 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, which equates to one out of every three deaths. CVDs claim more deaths than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined; between the years of 2013 and 2016, 121.5 million Americans had some form of CVD.
The presence of CVD and cardiovascular issues in general is a frightening reality to say the least, but practitioners can do their part to put patients’ minds at ease, whether it be by offering them beneficial solutions, or providing them with scientific research that is backed by evidence.
As noted above, health issues surrounding cardiovascular topics are countless, but high blood pressure could be an initial focal point.
“One of the most common cardiovascular issues is high blood pressure,” said Cheryl Myers, chief of scientific affairs and education, Wisconsin-based EuroMedica. “With our inflammatory diet and sedentary lifestyles, it can be an astonishingly easy condition to develop. Of course, along with high blood pressure comes more damage to the arteries, a further spiral of inflammation and oxidative stress, and additional risk to oxidized LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, arterial blockage, stroke and many other conditions.
“High blood pressure and cholesterol imbalances are also tied to metabolic syndrome, which overlaps with diabetes and weight issues,” Myers added. “Unfortunately, there are few conditions, cardiovascular or otherwise, that occur individually. That is one of the many reasons that integrative practice is so critical: it addresses conditions holistically rather than mechanically.”
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! (among other publications) and Natural Practitioner editorial advisory board member, was in agreement with Myers, noting the direct relationship between high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.
“Excessive sugar and caloric intake, inadequate magnesium intake, and low vitamin D from inadequate sunshine all contribute to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome,” he explained. “These can contribute to angina, stroke, hypertension, heart failure and diabetes/insulin resistance. These are all interrelated conditions. For hypertension, increasing dietary potassium intake as well as magnesium are very important.”
Then there is homocysteine (Hcys), an amino acid, which is normally broken down by folic acid, along with vitamins B6 and B12. If the blood contains high levels of this amino acid, this could signify heart disease, a vitamin deficiency or even a rare inherited disorder, according to MedlinePlus.
“… High blood levels of homocysteine signal a breakdown in this vital process, resulting in far-reaching biochemical and life consequences,” stated Silvia Pisoni, marketing manager, Gnosis S.p.A, Italy, who referenced a healthy diet, sports and decreased stress level as solid remedies for a healthy cardiovascular system. “As a matter of fact, the link between homocysteine and cardiovascular disease is well established especially in [the] elderly. High Hcys concentrations inhibit the proliferation of vascular endothelial cells, decrease the antioxidant activity of superoxide dismutase on endothelial cell surfaces and impair endothelial function. They are also implicated in the pathophysiology of essential hypertension. Hyperhomocysteinemia exerts its deleterious vascular effects through production of free-reactive oxygen species that cause oxidative stress as a result of antioxidant/prooxidant imbalance.”
Atherosclerosis also cannot be forgotten, being that the arteries makes up such a major portion of the body.
“One of the areas gaining recognition as a cardiovascular risk marker is atherosclerosis, which is a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries,” said Christopher Speed, senior vice president of global sales and marketing, NattoPharma (Norway and New Jersey). “Over time, plaque (primarily made up of calcium) hardens and narrows the arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of the body. Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs and kidneys. … According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, or even death.”
Speed noted that various diseases that impact the arteries could develop, including:
• Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries.
• Carotid artery disease (CAD) occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries on each side of your neck (the carotid arteries).
• Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs if plaque builds up in the major arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs, and pelvis.
• Chronic kidney disease (CKD) can occur if plaque builds up in the renal arteries.
Natural remedies in this space are quite extensive—according to Bruce Perry, president, Nutrasal, Inc. (Arizona), some of the more popular ones consist of:
• Vitamin B6
• Vitamin B12
• Vitamin D3
• Vitamin E
• CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10)
• EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate)
• Grape seed extract
Ayush Herbs offers Carditone, a branded product that is in high demand from customers.
“One of the most popular products at Ayush Herbs, Inc. is Carditone,” pointed out John Nowicki, ND, the company’s medical researcher/writer. “Made from a proprietary, doctor-recommended and formulated blend, Carditone has been used effectively by millions of satisfied customers for over 25 years. Carditone is an easy, all-natural way to maintain a healthy blood pressure level and may help blood vessel damage. This formula combines ayurvedic herbs with magnesium, an essential nutrient for heart health, and also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in Western diets. Carditone promotes cardiac health by supporting blood vessel relaxation, optimal fluid balance, healthy circulation and maintaining homeostasis. In ayurveda, antioxidant-rich arjuna has a long history of successful use in strengthening heart function. The herbs have adaptogenic properties which help support a healthy response to stress and maintain overall health and wellness. In addition, the magnesium in Carditone promotes relaxation, supports the brain chemicals that encourage rest, and helps to maintain healthy levels of calcium and potassium, both essential minerals for heart health.”
Dr. Teitelbaum added that the risk of cardiovascular disease can be lowered by decreasing insulin resistance in the following ways:
1. Add 150 to 300 mg of magnesium per day, plus 400 mg of vitamin D. Studies show that magnesium and vitamin D intake are inversely related to metabolic syndrome. Both of these can be found in the Clinical Essentials multivitamin.
2. The herbal remedy Hintonia latiflora has a long history of optimizing healthy insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. This is available in the EuroMedica product called Sucontral D.
3. Berberine (300-500 mg) three times a day at the start of each meal was shown to be as effective as metformin for decreasing blood sugars, and also lowers cholesterol.
In addition to the products mentioned by Dr. Teitelbaum, EuroMedica offers A•D•K2 Cardio Health, a new product that offers a triple threat of fat-soluble vitamins A, D3 and K2, which are beneficial for vascular health and reduction of calcium deposits in blood vessels.
“ …The vitamin A in A•D•K2 Cardio Health is in a retinyl form, which doesn’t require conversion by the body like beta-carotene. The vitamin D3 in the formula helps the body build strong blood vessels and nourish the heart,” Myers explained. “The third nutrient in A•D•K2 Cardio Health is the clinically studied form of vitamin K2, MenaQ7. There’s a complicated interplay in the way that calcium can be absorbed into bones or can create blockages in the arteries, and vitamin K2 can be a major player here. As part of a supplemental regimen, vitamin K2 helps keep calcium from collecting in the bloodstream and instead ensures that it moves into bone tissue, where it [is] most needed. Both vitamin D and vitamin K2 work synergistically for blood vessel elasticity, which may initially lower blood pressure, but will certainly have longer-term benefits for strengthening the cardiovascular system overall. For patients who struggle with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis or have suffered from a stroke (or are at risk of stroke) these nutrients are an excellent addition to their daily regimen.”
Interestingly enough, one could make the argument that in the world of conventional medicine, solutions to cardiovascular health can actually do more harm than good in certain situations.
“Traditionally,” Speed explained, “cardiovascular health has been a reactive approach, meaning once one’s health has declined to a certain point, drugs would be prescribed or surgeries recommended. It’s one of the reasons, for example, that statins are the most prescribed medication for lowering LCL-C levels (cholesterol), and their use has been on the rise over the last few decades.
“ … Take statins as an example: in the process of reducing LDL-C levels, studies have shown they [statins] actually deplete CoQ10 levels and inhibit the ‘synthesis of vitamin K2, the cofactor for MGP (matrix gla-protein) activation, which in turn protects arteries from calcification.’ So while this drug is prescribed for one aspect of cardiovascular health, a side effect is that it simultaneously impacts two important cardio-protective nutrients.”
Speed continued, stating that “statins’ impact on CoQ10 levels are so widely recognized that practitioners often recommend patients on statins offset the side effect by taking a CoQ10 supplement. Yet the revelation about statins and K2 is not as widely recognized (paper published in 2015 in Expert Review Clinical Pharmacology), so K2 supplementation has not become a common recommendation. Yet we hope that standard of care will change in the near future, where practitioners are recognizing the importance of vitamin K2 as a cardio-protective nutrient. Vitamin K2 as MK-7 has a substantial and growing body of evidence showing it safely and effectively simultaneously supports bone and cardiovascular health, and NattoPharma has been the driver of this research, providing our MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 as MK-7 as the source material.”
As one may have been able to foretell, growth is predicted for the cardiovascular health segment.
“The cardiovascular disease market, which includes hypertension, dyslipidaemia and thrombotic events, is set to grow to $146.4 billion by 2022, at a very modest compound annual growth rate of 1.8 percent, according to business intelligence provider GBI Research,” said Pisoni. “Cardiovascular health is one of the most well known and important health segments. The more you know about your health, the more power you have to stay healthy. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and heart. This is clear to all the patients and practitioners that like to use natural active ingredients to protect vessels and [the] heart.”
As the saying goes, numbers do not lie, and the impact of cardiovascular disease has been felt here in the U.S. year after year.
“The market for natural products in support of cardiovascular health is growing significantly on an annual basis,” Perry observed. “ … And, modern medicine and allopathic interventions have not sufficiently stemmed the rise in cardiovascular disease and events. As recent information regarding the effectiveness of statin drugs and other interventions is published, more and more of the general population is turning to natural remedies to address the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease. The natural approaches to cardiovascular health beyond a healthier diet and lifestyle include a variety of natural products to support healthy lipid profiles and to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, among other areas of interest.”
In other words, these high numbers indicate that patients are contracting these cardiovascular conditions at a more frequent rate and arguably, medications are not serving to be as effective as they should be.
“There is a great deal of interest in cardiovascular integrative interventions because a) there is a higher incidence of CV disease than ever before and b) there are rarely ‘cures’ to be found in mainstream medicine,” Myers said. “There may be life-saving techniques in mainstream medicine, but much of the focus is on controlling symptoms instead of addressing underlying causes.”
Gnosis S.p.A’s priority lies in homocysteine, which offers its share of cardiovascular benefits via its impact on the arteries among other areas. “We are well focused on homocysteine, Pisoni explained. “Homocysteine is known to mediate cardiovascular problems by its adverse effects on cardiovascular endothelium and smooth muscle cells with resultant alterations in subclinical arterial structure and function. So [an] adequate level of homocysteine is an important goal to reach for cardiovascular health.”
As Speed had referenced previously, when it comes to research, vitamin K2 and MK7 has served as source material. NattoPharma’s “most impactful” study: a three-year cardiovascular study of healthy postmenopausal women.
“Scientists performed a double-blind, randomized, intervention study of 244 postmenopausal women given either 180 mcg of Vitamin K2 as MK-7 (as MenaQ7 by NattoPharma) or a placebo daily for three years. This first intervention trial on MK-7 supplements and cardiovascular endpoints showed that three-year supplementation with a daily, nutritional dose of MenaQ7 was enough to actually decrease arterial stiffness in healthy post-menopausal women,” he said.
Speed continued, “Using ultrasound and pulse-wave velocity measurements (recognized as standard measurements for cardiovascular health), researchers determined that carotid artery distensibility was significantly improved for a three-year period in the MenaQ7 group as compared with that of a placebo group, especially in women having high arterial stiffness. Also, pulse-wave velocity showed a statistically significantly decrease after three years for the vitamin K2 (MK-7) group, but not for the placebo group, demonstrating an increase in the elasticity and reduction in age-related arterial stiffening, again, especially in women having high arterial stiffening.”
As we move forward into 2020, there continues to be an increase in the belief of alternative medicine practices.
“For nearly 60 years,” Perry said, “the general population has been led astray by poor dietary advice based on unproven hypothesis [ses]. As more research is shining the light on some of the flawed recommendations in dietary practices which have triggered significant increases in overweight and obesity, and the metabolic syndromes contributing to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other “Western diseases,” alternative medicine is enjoying an increase in participation and conversion even amongst more allopathic medical practitioners. Even the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Associations are slowly changing their prescriptions for healthy living, which include the incorporation of fats and other dietary choices once advised against. These are welcomed changes in the approach and evolution [of] cardiovascular health and healthy dietary practices in general.”
And now, research that further looks into the why of cardiovascular-related issues is coming into fruition, specifically regarding inflammation’s role in the entire process, which could be more vital than some may realize.
“For decades, the most popular theory surrounding the development of cardiovascular disease involved the role of fat and cholesterol,” Dr. Nowicki concluded. “The most important behavioral risk factors of heart disease and stroke continue to be unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. Although these factors continue to play significant roles, research has explored the reason(s) why cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 leading cause of death for both men and women, and theories have developed surrounding the role of inflammation in the process of heart health. Many of the behavioral risk factors that are associated with heart disease also create a state of inflammation within the body. This suggests that treating inflammation may be a better direction to go when managing cardiovascular health.”
Healthy Take Aways
• The American Heart Association notes that CVD, a disease that can include heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems, accounted for 840,678 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, which equates to one out of every three deaths.
• According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke or even death.
• The CVD market, which includes hypertension, dyslipidaemia and thrombotic events, is set to grow to $146.4 billion by 2022, at a very modest compound annual growth rate of 1.8 percent, according to business intelligence provider GBI Research.
For More Information:
Ayush Herbs, Inc., www.ayush.com
Gnosis S.p.A., www.gnosis-bio.com
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, www.vitality101.com
Nutrasal, Inc., www.nutrasal.com