Cardiovascular-related issues are no laughing matter. Here’s how practitioners can help their patients prevent or combat problems of the heart.
Cardiovascular issues can pose their will in various ways, whether it is in the form of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and more.
John Hopkins Medicine revealed that approximately 84 million people in the United States suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease. This includes an estimated 2,200 deaths each day, or one death every 40 seconds. To add even more perspective, nearly one out of three deaths in the U.S. result from the disease, and cardiovascular disease causes more deaths than accidents, cancer and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined. Further, it is the number one killer of both men and women.
So what can be done? Using a plethora of natural tools at their disposal, practitioners can assist their patients in finding a solution that will help them avoid becoming another statistic.
Common Cardiovascular Issues
Matters surrounding the cardiovascular system can vary, and sometimes, can differ depending on factors such as age and gender.
Interestingly enough, emotions can also play a role, according to Serena Goldstein, ND who serves on Natural Practitioner’s Editorial Advisory Board. “In children, heart issues tend to be murmurs or arrhythmias, commonly due to genetic abnormalities or structural defects in the heart,” said Dr. Goldstein. “Concerns like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, etc. generally tend to be due to poor lifestyle habits over a period of decades. Stroke, hypertension and congestive heart failure are more common in women due to their decline of estrogen (helps protect blood vessels and against high blood pressure), especially in their 40s and 50s. Anxiety and depression also raise these risks, and women are more likely to be diagnosed than men, and tend to have a broader range of emotional [focus] (it’s just biology). In fact, I had a patient who would have chest pains whenever she thought of her ex-boyfriend—she had a complete workup of physical exam, labs and imaging, but in this case, treatment had to have a more mental/emotional focus. Unsure of why, men tend to have higher cholesterol.”
As previously mentioned, heart disease is the dominant force among U.S. adults, and it is often molded by one’s diet and lifestyle. “Heart disease is the leading disease of adult men and women in the U.S., with obesity and diabetes following closely behind,”1 mentioned Keegan Sheridan, ND, education contributor, for Nevada-based Klaire Labs, who manufactures CoQ10. “In each case, cardiovascular health influences the progression of disease and risk factors associated with each disease influence the status of cardiovascular health. They are all intertwined in this way and, fundamentally, they are linked by diet and lifestyle.”
Dr. Sheridan also discussed the rising epidemic of child obesity, which is resulting in a slew of problems. “Rates of obesity and diabetes are rapidly increasing among children in the U.S.,”2 she said. “Risk factors such as hypercholesterolemia and hypertension, previously almost unheard of in a pediatric population, are now present and growing.3 Sedentary lifestyle and calorie-dense yet nutritionally deficient diets are fueling an epidemic in our children that has them on a path to be the first generation with a shorter expected lifespan than their parents.”4
Another underlying factor is chronic stress, which can be a catalyst for those aforementioned problems. “High cholesterol and high blood pressure remain the most common problems among people and we feel strongly that unmitigated, chronic stress lies at the heart of the both of these issues,” noted Stacey Littlefield, product formulator and master herbalist with Illinois-based Redd Remedies. “Chronic stress, or more specifically, the allostatic load—creates imbalances in basic biological pathways that lead to these problems with blood pressure and cholesterol. Moreover, chronic stress can lead to poor eating habits and poor coping skills, such as cigarette smoking or alcohol use in adults.”
With diet being a focal point in the quest for heart health, it is recommended the patients are conscious of not only what they are consuming, but what they are avoiding as well.
“Following a heart healthy diet is very important, including eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, lean poultry, fish, nuts and whole grains,” suggested Hilton Hudson, MD, FCCP, FACS, with Omax Health in Indiana, who offers Omax3 Professional Strength containing omega-3 fatty acids. “Patients should limit consumption of red meat, whole-fat dairy, shellfish, saturated fats and high cholesterol foods. We recommend eating nuts for heart health: Brazilian nuts and walnuts specifically, and steer patients away from any processed foods.”
Dr. Hudson also recommends that patients:
• Use an application called Fooducate.com, which lets them scan food labels to determine good and bad foods.
• Incorporate 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three or more days a week, such as walking, biking, hiking or swimming.
• Supplement with high-quality omega-3s with a 4:1 ratio of EPA to DHA (if they are not eating fatty fish two or more times a week). Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can help lower triglycerides, reduce blood clotting and help prevent the risk of coronary heart disease.
For patients looking for additional options, omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10 and hawthorn extract are some of the natural solutions that can help combat blood pressure.
“Some of the best researched natural therapies for maintaining normal lipid levels and preventing lipid peroxidation include omega-3 fatty acids, garlic, niacin, CoQ10 and various antioxidants such as green tea, flavonoids and other plant polyphenols such as those [found] in hawthorn extract,” noted Beth Baldwin-Lien, ND, director of medical affairs and education with Connecticut-based Vital Nutrients. “For blood pressure support, omega-3 fatty acids and mineral supplementation (calcium, magnesium, potassium) can have modest effects, along with garlic, hawthorn extract and CoQ10.
“To help maintain normal levels of homocysteine (a pro-oxidant and irritant to the lining of the arteries that leads to microinjury and atherosclerosis) vitamin B12 and folate can help—and the methylated forms methylcobalamin and methylfolate are preferred for anyone who may have impaired methylation status,” she continued. In fact, Vital Nutrients offers a plethora of products for cardiovascular health, including magnesium citrate.
But why are the popular omega-3s, magnesium and CoQ10 effective, patients may ask? For one, omega-3s can help fight inflammation, while the latter pair are energy producers.
“Omega-3 fish oils are anti-inflammatory and reduce [the] likelihood of plaque rupture; magnesium and CoQ10 are critical for energy production,” said Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN, scientific director for Essential Formulas in Texas. “CoQ10 is usually critically deficient in patients with congestive heart failure—[the] heart cannot produce enough energy to drive fluids through the vascular system. Magnesium is also a natural muscle relaxant. Magnesium deficiency increases muscle cramps—a muscle cramp in the heart is a heart attack.”
Essential Formulas offers Reg’Activ Cardio Wellness,* which happens to contain CoQ10 and Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3, which has been found to support healthy glutathione levels in the cardiovascular system. Omega-3 fatty acids can even be described as multipurpose, as they not only help with inflammation, but can be effective toward improving immunity and mood among other issues.
“Without a doubt, omega-3 fatty acids have shown remarkable benefits,” said Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs for Wisconsin-based EuroMedica. “Essential fatty acids (EFAs) hold cells together and protect them against invaders. EPA and DHA from fish oil improve heart health and blood profiles, relieve pain through anti-inflammatory action, enhance immunity, elevate mood, alleviate the symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and menstrual pain, promote brain and vision development in infants and children, and help treat depression.
“So getting omega-3s is truly essential,” she continued. “But the delivery of these nutrients is also essential, and can make the difference between patients actually getting the therapeutic benefits they need, or giving up on a regimen because they find it unpleasant or ineffective.”
One product Myers mentioned that has been widely recommended by practitioners is EuroMedica’s EurOmega-3, which “provides omega-3s bound to phospholipids for better absorption and utilization by the body, plus the additional benefits of the phospholipids themselves and peptides.”
Practitioners may also want to consider the Reishi mushroom. New Jersey-based Mushroom Wisdom utilized the Reishi mushroom when creating its Super Reishi product, which like omega-3s, can help combat various deficiencies.
“There are many herbal and nutritional remedies that support cardiovascular health, but one that stands out for its very holistic activity is the Reishi mushroom,” explained Mark J. Kaylor, a consultant for Mushroom Wisdom and founder and guide at Radiant Health Project in Georgia. “Most commonly thought of as an immune supporting remedy (like medicinal mushrooms in general), Reishi, because of its supportive whole body and systemic actions, makes it a useful remedy for not only prevention but for maximizing health and vitality of the cardiovascular system. For these same reasons, Reishi is a strong choice to consider including in a Western medicine or natural medicine approach. If the body’s overall vitality is enhance[d] then treatments in general will tend to be better received, regardless of the type of treatment. Also, a number of Reishi’s benefits are useful holistically to help with cardiovascular health, for instance, its stress balancing actions—we all are aware of the costs that chronic stress places on the heart.”
For a number of reasons, many patients are beginning to look to natural alternatives that support cardiovascular health. “People are starting to realize that standard medications to treat cholesterol are minimally effective at decreasing heart attack deaths for those without a history of heart attack or angina,” noted Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a member of Natural Practitioner’s Editorial Advisory Board and the author of numerous books such as From Fatigued to Fantastic! and Pain Free 1-2-3. “For example, statins for primary prevention (treating a high cholesterol with no history of heart disease) only decreases heart attack deaths about 5 percent. In comparison, owning a cat associated with a 30 percent lower risk of heart attack death and eating a small bit of chocolate every day with a 45 percent lower risk. Meanwhile, medications for heart failure are also not adequately effective. On the other hand, natural remedies are very effective.”
In fact, since diet is highly involved in maintaining proper heart health, consumers are continuously looking to implement dietary supplementary techniques—a significant percentage of supplement purchases are in the cardiovascular category.
“Heart disease is largely influenced by diet and lifestyle, and for this reason, many people are interested in diet-based therapies, including dietary supplementation, to address cardiovascular risk factors and promote heart health,” said Dr. Sheridan. “According to recent estimates, over 70 percent of condition-specific dietary supplement purchases are focused on heart health, with the total market of heart health supplements estimated at $2.5 billion.”5
Indeed, the natural market presents promise, and this could not be possible with out patients’ curiosity to explore beyond the mainstream.
Tips and Research
The significance of eating the proper foods cannot be stressed enough, as Dr. Goldstein recommends “focusing on the foundation of health-consuming whole foods, with a focus on a rainbow of vegetables, quality meat and fish (if not a vegetarian or vegan), healthy fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil), getting to bed before 11 p.m., stress management, regular movement, and drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water. The good news is that these recommendations can span improvement for many other conditions, while doubling as preventative care. If you’d like to try all these, take tasks on little by little, as it’s more about incorporating it into your lifestyle so it becomes habit.”
Touching upon similar points as Dr. Pelton concerning plaque, Myers noted that, “Diet is where everything should start. Cutting back on inflammatory foods like sugars and refined grains will help reduce the conditions that can lead to arterial damage and the likelihood of plaque formation and blockage.
“Then, I would consider healthy fats as an integral part of a heart-healthy regimen. For some patients, that might sound counterintuitive, but because healthy fats make up the flexible and strong cellular walls of arteries and blood vessels, they are absolutely necessary in the diet.”
Manufacturers, such as Vital Nutrients, constantly monitor studies in the field to see how certain products may be progressing. For instance, back in 2015, a double-blind, randomized clinical trial involving 244 healthy post-menopausal women was conducted. The women were randomly selected to receive either a placebo or 180 mcg of vitamin K2 menaquinone-7 (MK-7) daily for three years. Results indicated significant benefits in helping to prevent stiffening of the arteries as it relates to age by pulse wave velocity (PWV) and echotracking, according to Dr. Baldwin-Lien. The researchers determined that using MK-7 supplements long term “may improve arterial stiffness in healthy postmenopausal women, especially in women having a high arterial stiffness to begin with.”
Although traditional medicine still ranks at the top in terms of popularity, holistic medicine is also beginning to pick up steam. In Littlefield’s eyes, with the cardiovascular system being such a major outlet to other highways of the body, it is only appropriate that holistic products receive the attention they deserve.
“The approach really has not evolved and that was a hurdle that we at Redd Remedies felt needed to be cleared,” she explained. “Fish oil and single nutrients such as CoQ10 remain the dominant products in this category; however, what these nutrients and products lack is a holistic approach to cardiovascular health. The heart muscle itself and the vessels that serve it reach every inch of every body system. From this perspective, we felt it was long overdue for an approach that recognized the connectedness between these body systems and created formulas that address the negative effects of chronic stress, overall cardiovascular function and a specific cardiovascular problem—like cholesterol or blood pressure.” Redd Remedies offers Circulation VA, a product containing MenaQ7 that can provide circulatory system support.
Myers also recognized alternative medicine’s need for more recognition as well, but at the end of the day, is optimistic about where research in this field is headed. “I think that there is a growing appreciation for a more holistic approach to cardiovascular health. In part, there is a sense that inflammation is one of the major culprits of heart disease and that cholesterol isn’t necessarily the enemy.
“I fully recognize that talking about cholesterol levels is still very much the standard for most patients and for conventional practice, so it’ll be a while before people at large come to understand that inflammation and oxidation are the twin targets of stopping disease,” she concluded. “But we’re getting there, thanks to the leading-edge research being done with botanical compounds and the in-the-trenches work done by practitioners every day.”
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
1 Leading causes of death: National Center for Health Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm [Accessed 12/11/2017].
2 Pulgaron ER, Delamater AM. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in children: epidemiology and treatment. Curr Diab Rep. 2014 Aug;14(8):508.
3 Weiss R, Dziura J, Burgert TS, et al. Obesity and the metabolic syndrome in children and adolescents. N Engl J Med. 2004 Jun 3;350(23):2362-74.
4 Overweight in children. American Heart Association. Available at: www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp#.Wi8JRkqnHIU [Accessed 12/11/2017].
5 Moloughney S. Getting to the heart of cardiovascular health. Nutraceuticals World. Available at: www.nutraceuticalsworld.com/issues/2017-04/view_features/getting-to-the-heart-of-cardiovascular-health/ [Accessed 12/8/17].
Healthy Take Aways
• John Hopkins Medicine revealed that approximately 84 million people in the United States suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease.
• Concerns like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes, etc. generally tend to be due to poor lifestyle habits over a period of decades.
• According to recent estimates, more than 70 percent of condition-specific dietary supplement purchases are focused on heart health, with the total market of heart health supplements estimated at $2.5 billion.
For More Information:
Essential Formulas Incorporated, www.essentialformulas.com
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, www.vitality101.com
Klaire Laboratories, www.klaire.com
Mushroom Wisdom, Inc., www.mushroomwisdom.com
Omax Health, Inc., www.omaxhealth.com
Redd Remedies, www.reddremedies.com
Vital Nutrients, www.vitalnutrients.net
Serena Goldstein, ND, www.drserenagoldstein.com