Taking Good Health to Heart
By Dr. Dana Myatt
Figuratively speaking, February is “heart month.” For all the talk about hearts that occurs at this time of year, how many people really stop to think about the life-giving work our hearts perform? More importantly, how many people take measures to ensure the health of this indispensable organ? Perhaps when deciding what gift to give your valentine, you will take a moment to think about what kind measure you can take to protect your 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 supplies 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.
- CoQ10: 50-400mg per day. This nutrient improves oxygenation at the cellular level. take the smaller doses for primary prevention. If you already have a heart problem, use higher doses.
- Aspirin: one “baby aspirin” (low dose, 81mg) per day if recommended by your doctor. This small dose of aspirin is sufficient to keep blood flowing normally (prevents “blood sludge”) but is low enough to avoid the stomach irritation that a full adult dose can cause.
For High Blood Pressure:
- Acetyl-L-carnitine: 500-1,000mg per day
For Congestive Heart Failure:
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.”