Cardiovascular health concerns remain the leading cause of death.
Cardiovascular issues remain the No. 1 health threat plaguing Americans. Coronary heart disease has been the leading cause of death since 1930.
There is a long line of causes contributing to the issue: from genetics including family history and race, to personal choices such as smoking. Another major contributor is technological advances and the changing times. More Americans live sedentary lifestyles and the ease of fast food and delivery options can contribute to poor eating choices.
This issue truly came to a head in 2020 with the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic. Among the variety of possible symptoms, people who contracted the disease have experienced trouble breathing and chest pains.
Recent studies have found links between COVID-19 and those with cardiovascular health issues. “It has been noted that patients taking blood pressure meds have more receptor sites for COVID-19 than those not on them,” said Jay Wilkins, ND, founder and formulator for South Carolina-based Bionox. “We are seeing that people with a compromised cardiovascular system are dying as a result of COVID-19 in higher numbers than those that do not.”
In a recent literature review of 130 articles on COVID-19 led by National University of Ireland Galway School of Medicine, Researcher Gerard Thomas Flaherty found that patients with hypertension and coronary heart disease faced a greater risk of developing severe and fatal reactions to the disease. In one study, 86 percent of patients with coronary heart disease died from COVID-19.
“In a sobering way, COVID-19 has reinforced and highlighted the critical importance of vascular health,” said Andie Crosby, vice president of marketing at Arizona-based Calroy Health Sciences. “As more and more clinicians and patients seek to improve vascular health, there is a role for supplements with many patients.”
As the pandemic continues, the need to address cardiovascular health will only increase as more studies are showing that survivors of COVID-19 are ending up with heart damage, including those who did not have preexisting cardiovascular issues. Some studies have shown about one out of four individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 developed cardiovascular complications. One particular JAMA Cardiology study found abnormalities in the hearts of 78 percent of recovered patients and indicators of heart damage in 76 percent of patients—most of which did not require hospitalization.
An added layer created by the pandemic is how to handle those with cardiovascular issues who have stopped attending medical appointments due to fear of contracting COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), by June about 41 percent of adults in the U.S. skipped appointments due to COVID-19 concerns. Approximately 12 percent of those people were in need of urgent or emergency care.
With all this in mind, practitioners are concerned about the longer-term effects the pandemic may have and what it means for cardiovascular health going forward.
Of course, the go-to recommendation for patients with cardiovascular health issues and those at risk is to incorporate healthy changes to their lifestyles. Serena Goldstein, ND, based in California said it’s best to start small. “As heart disease didn’t just come about overnight, it means that changes are best done when long-term and sustainable. Therefore, considerations for the person could include buying a bigger water bottle, adding a new exercise or gym class into their daily life, or adding at least one cup of green vegetables to their daily diet,” Dr. Goldstein said.
Following the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is often recommended. This diet focuses on consuming whole grains (i.e., brown rice and whole grain breads), vegetables (i.e., carrots and greens), fruits (i.e., banana and grapefruit), dairy (i.e., yogurt and milk), lean meats (i.e., fish and chicken), nuts (i.e., almonds and kidney beans), and fats/oils (i.e., olive oil and peanut butter). The diet also encourages cutting back on salt, sugars, desserts and alcohol.
Exercise is also an important piece of the puzzle. Movement is necessary to literally get your blood moving and your heart pumping. Satjit Bhusri, MD, FACC, based in New York, emphasized that you don’t need a lot of time to get an effective workout in. He suggests trying HITT (high intensity interval training). “HIIT Training is a specific type of exercise program that aims to improve cardiac and circulatory health,” he said. “Instead of a slow steady pace, HIIT training focuses on short bursts of high intense exercise which briefly increases cardiac output. According to the ACC, HIIT training increases more lean muscle and reduces more body fat compared to lower intensity steady state exercises.”
Other factors include stress and sleep, both of which patients may be experiencing fluctuations in usual patterns due to the pandemic. For both, creating routines and rituals and incorporating practices such as journaling and meditation may be enough to help some people get back on track.
Due to the history of cardiovascular health issues in the United States, reactionary measures are not enough. Instead, practitioners should be having these conversations with patients regularly. “Prevention is key,” added Dr. Bhusri. “Know your numbers e.g., cholesterol, diabetes, blood pressure. Understand how lifestyle choices influence the risk of cardiovascular disease and create a care model around each patient.”
Educating patients is also encouraged. “Practitioners should take early action and inform patients of the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack so that significant rapid action can be taken to reduce extensive damage such as having a massive heart attack, that can result in heart failure. The chances of survival are greater when emergency treatment begins early and quickly,” said Hank Cheatham, vice president of California-based Daiwa Health Development.
The point is that discussions about cardiovascular health need to be ongoing. While lifestyle changes are good and encouraged, patients may need a boost to round out their wellness.
When Lifestyle Changes Are Not Enough
There was a time when patients were only looking for a quick fix. Surgery was seen as the best option and people were willing to use any products that promised to work. We’ve now shifted into more of a natural space, where patients are more conscious of what they are doing to and putting into their bodies. Supplements have an important space in treatment, but practitioners again need to be leading that conversation.
“Talk to the patient about their lifestyle—if they’re on the go maybe pills work better. If they like smoothies, perhaps powder,” Dr. Goldstein said. “I like to vary the forms of supplements so they don’t feel like they’re taking ‘a bunch of pills,’ as many get frustrated when there are over 10.”
These conversations don’t have to present either A or B as an option. Focus on the whole approach that each patient will need. “This is also a good time to talk about instilling habits around nutrition, exercise, mindset (healthy approaches to looking at various problems and relationships), self-care (do they have time in their life for hobbies? joy?) and sleep,” Dr. Goldstein added. “Health is an ongoing journey and should be treated as such. I’ve also found it important to educate them that they may not have to be [taken] forever, and that supplements can shift and change depending on their state of health (as many [patients] are quite concerned that [they must be taken] ‘forever’).”
The reason why practitioners want to have these conversations with patients is to avoid them taking things into their own hands. “Consumers trying to pick supplements to address their own cardiovascular risk unassisted by a practitioner are essentially shooting in the dark and have no way to measure their own outcomes,” said Crosby. “Furthermore, with no ability to assess their own outcomes, consumer adherence will always be lower than it could be with periodic assessment.”
The choices for supplements run the gamut. As noted above, stress and sleep also play a role in cardiovascular health and these are the areas where patients will particularly stray to find their own supplemental aids. Supplements containing vitamin D, coenzyme Q10, magnesium and vitamin K2 may be helpful for cardiovascular health. Again, practitioners need to serve as educators to help guide patients toward the best supplements to address their needs.
“It is important for health care practitioners to become knowledgeable about these supplements because their patients are taking these ingredients on their own as therapy for cardiovascular issues,” said Cheatham. “Health care practitioners should be aware of any side effects or negative interactions with prescription medications and other supplements, such as herbal remedies and ayurvedic medicines.”
Given the state of cardiovascular health, it will continue to be a major health concern and will continue to be addressed by the supplement market. “The future is bright for cardiovascular supplements within a practice setting as ‘self-care’ is becoming more and more important,” said Wilkins. “People want direction from their trusted practitioner.”
There are a number of cardiovascular health products on the market that natural pracitioners can recommend to their patients. Below is a roundup of cardiovascular-focused supplements offered by the manufacturers who spoke to Natural Practitioner for this story.
Bionox products are made in the United States. They are gluten-free, sugar-free and non-GMO (genetically modifed organism). Wilkins added, “Bionox products are doctor formulated. They are recommended by practitioners globally. All Bionox product ingredients are well-researched for therapeutics, safety and efficacy.”
• M3 Ultimate Nitric Oxide is a powdered nutraceutical that you mix in water that has therapeutic amounts of arginine, citrulline, beets and watermelon as well as a host of cofactors to make NO levels boost and sustain. Other ingredients include antioxidants like vitamins C, D, E and fruits like pomegranate, grape seed/skin and camu camu berry. This product also contains herbs to help repair the endothelium, including hawthorn berry, amla, green coffee bean and horse chestnut. It has an expensive absorption complex that comes from astragalus and ginseng called AstraGin. M3 is naturally flavored and sweetened.
• Nox3 Greens Ultimate Nitric Oxide Superfood is a complex of more than 26 superfoods, including nitrate-rich arugula that supports nitric oxide production, and is alkalizing and energizing. Just add a scoop or two to your favorite smoothie recipe, juice or water. Two MyFitStrips are included in every container to monitor your nitrate and nitric oxide levels. This is all part of Bionox’s “Spit. Eat. Repeat” program.
• Chelanox Ultimate Heavy Metal Detox Formula is a proprietary blend of the best-known agents for cleansing your body and arteries of unwanted metals, toxins and minerals. It has safe and effective amounts of EDTA, chlorella, modified citrus pectin, cilantro, shilajit and zeolites. It also has a built-in liver and kidney support complex of NAC, alpha lipoic acid, uva ursi, nettle and milk thistle. A stomach acid-resistant capsule is used for optimal absorption.
Calroy Health Sciences
Calroy Health Sciences currently offers Arterosil HP, which is specifically formulated for heart health. “We have conducted a series of research to demonstrate that rhamnan sulfate from a rare green seaweed is the most powerful glycocalyx-regenerating compound,” Crosby said. “A fruit and vegetable blend was also selected for their polyphenol and antioxidant profile.”
Arterosil HP contains rhamnan sulfate from the green seaweed Monostroma nitidum. This product may help with cardiovascular health issues by regenerating the body’s endothelial glycocalyx. According to the website, this product is offered exclusively through licensed health care practitioners.
Daiwa Health Development
Krill oil is the super ingredient Daiwa Health Development uses in some of its cardiovascular focused products. Cheatham broke down why it’s important: “Krill are plentiful, tiny, bright pink, shrimp-like crustaceans. Krill oil is the only marine oil that includes a combination of three key substances the human body needs to function properly: omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA), phospholipids (an important component of the cell membranes) and antioxidants including astaxanthin (a potent carotenoid that gives krill its red-orange color). Research studies show that krill oil can significantly decrease both diastolic and systolic blood pressure, thereby enhancing cardiovascular health.”
• Plasmanex1 is a Bacillopeptidase F Proprietary Blend. It contains an innovative blend of natural ingredients. The complex contains Bacillopeptidase F, a natural soy peptide enzyme extracted by using a patented fermentation process. The enzyme is isolated from natto to form a unique molecule shown in scientific research to support healthy blood circulation and to prevent blood clots. Healthy circulation in the vessels can help prevent blood clots.
• Daiwa Krill Oil and Daiwa Super Krill Oil are super antioxidant dietary supplements composed of pure oil drived from Antarctic krill.
Host Defense Mushroom
“Host Defense Mushrooms are mushroom mycelium and fermented rice products that research and testing demonstrate strongly support an engaged and modulated immune response,” said Jerry Angelini, head of education for Washington-based Host Defense Mushroom. While these products offer support, they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, he added. Currently, the brand offers Host Defense Reishi specifically to support cardiovascular health.
Host Defense Reishi supports a variety of health functions. These include cardiac muscle vitality, vascular health, triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein balance, antioxidant activity, metabolic functioning, probiotic microflora proliferation and blanched immune response.
New York-based Patient One’s Homocysteine Cardioplex supplies evidence-backed, broad-spectrum nutritional support for maintaining homocysteine levels already within normal range. Homocysteine Cardioplex supplies highly absorbable and bioavailable forms of key B vitamins along with diverse methyl donor nutrients. As it opens multiple pathways for catalyzing homocysteine remethylation to methionine, Homocysteine Cardioplex balances plasma homocysteine levels and promotes overall cardiovascular wellness.
The company also offers Cholest-Plex, which combines evidence-backed natural ingredients in use for millennia with patented advancements for cholesterol control. Presented in ideal nutritional potencies and ratios, Cholest-Plex balances cardiovascular wellness via diverse biological pathways, blocking cholesterol absorption and synthesis, promoting blood vessel flexibility, regulating inflammation and enhancing endothelial function.
Also from Patient One is Phytosterol Complex, which supplies plant sterols to promote healthy heart and prostate function. Beta sitosterol, the most abundant plant sterols, also contains campesterol and stigmasterol for additional health benefits. Phytosterol Complex promotes healthy lipid metabolism and prostate health, enhances bile acid secretion, and supports liver function.
“Pharma Nord’s preparations stand apart from most others on the market by being produced according not just to GMP (good manufacturing practice) but also to pharmaceutical protocols (control analyzes and very small variations in the amount of ingredients), and secondly, they have proven good absorption and effect as documented clinically in human clinical trials,” said Alex Dybring, web editor and naturopath ibm at Denmark-based Pharma Nord. Pharma Nord offers a wide range of products for cardiovascular health. Below are a few highlights:
• Bio-Quinone Active CoQ10 Gold is beneficial for all energy-intensive cells with the heart muscle as one of the most energy-consuming organs. The more energy-intensive a cell is, the more potential benefits CoQ10 supplementation will have. This is especially true, of course, when CoQ10 levels are low in these cells which research shows is typically the case in cardiovascular patients.
• SelenoPrecise contains 100 µg elemental selenium from selenium yeast. More than 20 different organic selenium forms have been identified in a tablet of which the largest proportion (67 percent) is selenium methionine. The absorption is scientifically documented by the European Food Safety Authority to be 88.7 percent.
• D-Pearls D3 Vitamins are available in several strengths. D-Pearls are small soft gels with vitamin D in strengths from 200 IU to 5,000 IU in each capsule. The vitamin D is dissolved in high quality cold-pressed virgin olive oil to improve absorption in the digestive system, as vitamin-D is fat-soluble.
Healthy Take Aways:
• Cardiovascular issues are the leading cause of death for Americans.
• The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated cardiovascular issues, as those with preexisting conditions experience worse symptoms after contracting the virus and studies have shown that COVID-19 damages the hearts of most who recover.
• Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise are important to help and prevent cardiovascular health issues.
For More Information:
Calroy Health Sciences, https://calroy.com/
Daiwa Health Development, https://dhdmed.com/
Host Defense Mushrooms, https://hostdefense.com/
Patient One, www.patientoneformulas.com
Pharma Nord, www.pharmanord.com