Managing your heart health is vital to prevent and treat serious conditions such as cholesterol, hypertension and heart failure. Lifestyle changes such as not smoking, diet, exercise and stress management also play an important role in the management of your heart health. Following a healthy eating pattern and including key nutrients from food and supplements in your diet can assist with healthy blood lipid levels, circulatory and blood vessel function and overall heart health.
Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis. It is a buildup of plaque (fats, cholesterol and other substances) in and on your artery walls. Plaque can cause your arteries to narrow, blocking blood flow and it can also burst leading to a blood clot. Arteriosclerosis is when the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of the body become stiff and thick which sometimes restrict blood flow to your organs and tissues.
The major risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, age, diabetes mellitus , microalbuminuria (increased levels of albumin in the urine), decreased kidney function (estimated glomerular filtration rate <60ml/min) and a family history of premature cardiovascular disease.
Modifiable risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of conditions that occur together increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure and glucose levels, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Non-modifiable risk factors include age and sex, family history, genetics and menopausal status. With increasing age, higher mortality rates from heart disease are seen in both genders. Loss of estrogen following natural or surgical menopause is associated with increased heart risk.
A family history of premature disease is a strong risk factor. A family history of disease is considered positive when a heart attack or sudden death occurs before the age of 55 years in a male or the age of 65 in a female first degree relative (parents, siblings or children). A family history of heart disease is not modifiable and influences the intensity of risk factor management.
Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the primary transporter of cholesterol in the body and the most common promoter of plaque buildup in the arteries. It transports cholesterol from the liver to the cells, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. High density lipoprotein (HDL) is high in protein and functions by removing cholesterol from arterial walls and transports it back to the liver. HDL reduces the development of atherosclerosis.
This is also known as a heart attack which is caused by a lack of blood flow to your heart muscle normally caused by a blockage in one or more of your heart's arteries. If the blood flow is not restored quickly, a heart attack can cause permanent heart damage and death.
When your blood pressure is high for too long, it damages your blood vessels and LDL cholesterol starts to accumulate along tears in the artery walls which leads to narrowed arteries. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers, the first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. This is when your heart muscle contracts and pumps oxygen rich blood into the blood vessels. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. This is when your heart relaxes. A normal blood pressure reading is considered to be between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is considered to be 140/90 mmHg or higher. Low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60 mmHg or lower. If your reading is between 120/80 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg you may be at risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension).
Lifestyle changes for risk reduction include consuming an overall healthy diet, aiming for a healthy body weight, achieving recommended levels of LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels, constantly normal blood pressures and glucose levels, being physically active and avoiding the use and exposure of tobacco products.
Many people make health decisions based on generalised recommendations without ever truly understanding their bodies. A genetic test provides you with valuable insights into individual priority areas that should be considered for successful and sustained health outcomes. We now know that your genes don't work in isolation. Your genes work with each other, and within the environment of your body. Their functioning can be improved with your daily choices of dietary intake and exercise, as well as your living environment and stress levels. Personalised recommendations using this holistic approach to health gives insight into improving your long term health outcomes and potentially enabling both better prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, pilchards, sardine, fresh tuna (not tinned) and mackerel. It is often difficult meeting daily omega 3 requirements, therefore supplements are a convenient and consistent source of omega 3. Taking an omega 3 supplement (2-4 g of EPA and DHA) has been shown to have a positive effect in lowering bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and promoting good cholesterol levels (HDL) throughout your body.
Flaxseed oil is also a good source of omega 3, but needs to be converted to omega 3 and the efficiency varies dependent on individual genetic pathways.
Omega 9 is a monounsaturated fatty acid. This nutrient is non-essential as it can be produced from the fatty acids your body doesn’t consume as energy. Food sources of omega 9 include olive oil, almond oil, walnuts, animal fat, fish and avocado. Oleic acid is an omega 9 fatty acid with the highest levels found in olive oil and other edible oils. Oleic acid is most commonly used to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and may help reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol).
High intakes of dietary fiber, including oat beta-glucan, are associated with significantly lowering cholesterol levels.
Olive leaf extract provides strong antioxidant properties and may help reduce LDL cholesterol and prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Guggul is extracted from the oily sap (gum resin) of the guggul tree and is used to lower cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels.
Resveratrol is a class of plant micronutrients called polyphenols. It functions as an antioxidant which helps to reduce inflammation. Food sources of resveratrol include blueberries, peanuts and in the skin of grapes (red wine). Supplementation with resveratrol protects the cells in your body from damage and reduces heart inflammation.
Curcumin is an active component in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Curcumin has a low bioavailability due to its water insolubility, therefore it is important to consume a good quality supplement.
Selenium increases enzymatic antioxidant activity which acts as a protective function to prevent cardiovascular disease.
L-Carnitine is an amino acid which has cardioprotective properties through reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
CoQ10 has been shown to reduce joint pain symptoms associated with taking statins. Dosages of 30 to 200mg are recommended.
These are cholesterol like compounds that are found naturally in various plant based foods. They have a similar chemical structure to cholesterol and are thought to work by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. When used as part of a healthy diet, plant sterols/stanols can help lower cholesterol levels by up to 10-15%. This could be provided by sterol-enriched foods such as fast-based spreads, milk and yoghurt. There is evidence that eating 2g of plant sterols and stanols can lower LDL cholesterol by 7.5-12% when eaten as part of a regular diet. If taking statins, eating sterols and stanols can reduce LDL cholesterol further.
This group of vitamins is important to strengthen your blood vessels, reduce LDL cholesterol levels and inflammation.
Reducing your salt intake to 2300mg (1 teaspoon per day) is recommended to control blood pressure levels. Following a DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) will help to treat or prevent high blood pressure. A DASH diet consists of foods rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Quercetin is an antioxidant which also helps to reduce high blood pressure levels.
L-Arginine and beetroot are rich in nitrates and is converted into nitric oxide in the body, which helps to widen blood vessels and improve blood circulation by increasing blood flow.
Omega 3 supplementation also assists with prevention of blood clotting by relaxation of the blood vessel wall, therefore, preventing clot formations and controlling blood pressure.
Serrapeptase and Nattokinase are natural substances enzymes that are used to dissolve blood clots. Speak to your practitioner about these products.
Research has shown that a deficiency in magnesium is associated with heart rate disorders. The main function of magnesium is transporting electrolytes which is important for controlling normal heartbeats.
CoQ10 is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is present in almost every human cell. It carries out vital roles, including promoting energy production and neutralizing free radicals. It that has been shown to aid in the recovery in patients who have had bypass and heart valve surgeries.
B6, B12 and Folic acid (folate) are nutrients which promote healthy homocysteine metabolism and reduction of homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels increase risks of heart disease and stroke.
Supplementation with vitamin K (K1 and K2) helps to reduce inflammation and calcium build up which promotes a healthy heart.
Magnesium is an essential mineral found in the body. It is present in many foods (wholegrains, dark, leafy vegetables, legumes and nuts) and also as a dietary supplement. Magnesium serves as a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, which include those responsible for blood pressure, glycemic control and the degradation of lipids. A low intake of magnesium containing foods predisposes a higher prevalence of magnesium deficiency, this increasing the risk of cardiovascular events.
Research has shown that chronic heart failure is linked to low vitamin D levels. Supplementation with vitamin D is associated with improved cardiac function for people with chronic heart failure.