Taking Good Health to Heart
The heart is an indispensable organ that moves blood through thousands of miles of blood vessels every minute. Without a functioning heart, the body can live little more than five minutes. The heart is a muscle, and, like skeletal muscle, grows stronger when more is demanded of it. Also like skeletal muscles, the heart requires sufficient protein intake to rebuild and regenerate itself. The heart also requires adequate blood flow to bring nutrients and oxygen to itself. When atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing) of the arteries occurs, the heart muscle may not receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients to fully perform these functions.
Atherosclerosis and its complications (coronary heart disease and stroke) account for 20% of all US deaths each year. Overall, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. But, “take heart”! There are many simple measures you can take to avoid being part of this statistic.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- Eat a nutritious diet that is high in nutrients and fiber. Fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of minerals and phytonutrients (“Plant nutrients”) that protect the heart. They also contain meaningful amounts of fiber.
- Get regular aerobic exercise (with your doctor’s clearance if you are overweight, over 30 or deconditioned). Exercise improves circulation and heart muscle pumping ability. it also helps the body use excess calories and cholesterol for energy.
- Maintain a normal body weight. Each excess pound of fat is supplied by miles of blood vessels. This increased demand puts more workload on the heart.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking accelerates the development of atherosclerosis. It can also cause blood vessels to spasm, mimicking a heart attack.
- Practice stress reduction techniques and anger management. people with ‘hot tempers” are at higher risk for cardiac events. (Presumably because adrenaline stimulates heart function – a useful pathway if you need to run away from a tiger but over stimulating to the heart if you are sitting in traffic!).
- Take a high quality multiple vitamin/mineral supplement. (Hint: the nutrient levels your body needs will NOT fit into a “one per day” tablet or capsule. Expect to be taking 6 to 9 caps per day to achieve optimal doses of nutrients). B complex vitamins (All, but especially B6, B12, folic acid), magnesium, potassium, antioxidants (vitamin C, E, and selenium) and bioflavonoids are particularly important to the heart.
- Maxi Multi: 3 caps, 3 times per day with meals. This daily “multiple” contains high potency antioxidants. Optimal (not minimal) doses of antioxidants (ACES), magnesium, B complex vitamins, and bioflavonoids are particularly important for the heart. Take additional B complex vitamins if your multiple does not contain optimal doses. B vitamins, (especially B6, B12, and folic acid) lower homocysteine levels, an independent risk for heart disease that many researchers feel is more important than cholesterol levels.
- Max EPA (fish oil): 1-2 caps, 3 times per day with meals to prevent or reverse inflammation. Take higher doses as directed if your hs-CRP tests are elevated. Flax oil is also beneficial but requires a biochemical conversion in the body, which is deficient in many people, so fish oil is more certain.
- CoQ10: 50-300mg per day. This powerful antioxidant, produced by the body, diminishes with age. It is especially valuable for all types of heart disease. CHOLESTEROL-LOWERING DRUGS deplete CoQ10. (Amounts will depend on the severity of the disease. Lower doses may be used for health maintenance; higher doses in cases of arrhythmia, angina, and atherosclerosis).
- Magnesium: 2 taps, 3 times per day with meals (Target dose: 500-1500mg per day. Maxi Multi contains 500mg).
- Grape Seed Extract: 1 cap, 3 times per day with meals. (Target dose: 150-300mg daily). Proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract act as a potent antioxidants and ACE inhibitors. They also help prevent platelet aggregation (blood cells sticking together) and protect blood vessels from damage.
For High Blood Pressure:
- Acetyl-L-carnitine: 500-1,000mg per day
For Heart Failure (CHF):
Heart disease can be serious. Fortunately, the heart is very responsive to good care and many heart ailments are reversible. If you have a heart problem, it is best to work with an holistic (integrative) physician who can help you discover the cause of any existing heart problems and make specific recommendations. Never stop taking heart medication without the guidance of a physician. Bottom line: Be kind to your heart and it will keep you “ticking.”