See also: Cholesterol, Hypertension (high blood pressure) Homocysteine
‘Cardio’ means to do with the heart and ‘vascular’ to do with the blood vessels. ‘Cardiovascular’ means the heart and circulation.
Diseases of the circulation involving hardening of the arteries are common in Western society. These are:
- Angina (chest pains)
- Heart attacks
- Poor circulation to the legs.
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Atherosclerosis is the underlying process that leads to cardiovascular disease.
Arteries are the blood vessels that lead away from the heart and which deliver oxygen-rich blood to the tissues of the body. They are essentially tubes of muscle with a special interior lining of cells that ensures blood flows along smoothly.
When affected by atherosclerosis, diseased arteries become substantially narrowed by thickening of the muscle layer and in particular by a fatty deposit (plaque) that builds up under the lining.
Plaque in arteries is a mixture of:
- fats, particularly cholesterol
- a build up of cells from the body’s immune system
- proteins like those that form in a scar.
A plaque starts off small but with time it gets bigger, steadily narrowing the artery at this point.
As well as obstructing blood flow, a plaque is also a weak point in an artery. The thin covering of the plaque can rupture, exposing it and the underlying muscular layer of the artery. This can trigger a sequence of reactions that results in the blood clotting at the site of the plaque rupture. Suddenly what had been a narrowed artery can turn into a completely blocked one. This is very often what happens in a stroke – or a heart attack if it occurs inside one of the heart’s arteries rather than the brain.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Fish oils||Reduces blood stickiness, clotting and viscosity.||300-145-mg daily|
|L-Carnitine||Carnitine is required to transport fatty acids, which are the primary source of energy for the heart muscles, into the cells.||500 – 1000mg per day|
|Co-Enzyme Q10||Needed for energy production in the heart muscle to effectively pump blood round the body. Can become depleted with age and the use of statin drugs.||60-200mg daily|
|Vitamin E||Prevents the oxidation of cholesterol, which would be damageing to blood vessels. Works well with other anti-oxidants.||As directed|
|TMG, Folic Acid, Vitamins B6 & B12||Synergistic effect to reduce levels of homocysteine, thereby reducing the risk of damage to arteries.||Take as a specialist heart health supplement.|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
In order to maintain the health of your cardiovascular system you should reduce/avoid:
Saturated fat and Trans fats found in processed foods.
Sugar, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, excessive consumption of red meat.
Alcohol and smoking.
Vegetarian sources of protein as vegetarian diets are associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Eat oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel at least 3 times a week.
Make sure you eat at least 5 portions of vegetables and fruit daily.
Eat nuts and seeds, whole grains and fibre.
Achieve and maintain your ideal body weight and take regular exercise.
Suggested further reading:
- Animation of the heart
- Supporting your health