The 29th September 2015 marks World Heart Day and is a chance to consider how the right nutrition can help to improve the health of your heart.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, is the number one killer, causing 17.3 million deaths per year. Contrary to popular belief, women are just as susceptible to men and children. Surprisingly, heart disease is the cause of 1 in 3 female deaths each year.
The good news is that most deaths caused by CVD are preventable. Major contributory factors to cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, cholesterol, lack of exercise, obesity, poor diet, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and chronic stress, as well as the effects of ageing. In terms of diet, a reliance on convenience foods which may be depleted of essential nutrients, over-consumption of sugar and a high intake of saturated fat, can all have an impact on heart health.
Improve your nutrition
Reduce your sugar consumption
Reduce your intake of dietary sugar to recommended levels. The NHS currently recommends a daily sugar maximum of 12 teaspoons (50g) for women and 17 teaspoons (70g) for men. It's important to remember that drinks and 'savoury' foods can be high in sugar content too. Aim for a diet which balances carbohydrates, fat (particularly polyunsaturates) and protein, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. A chromium supplement such as Bio-Chromium can help to control your blood sugar levels, reducing cravings and energy lows.
Support energy production at a cellular level
A vitamin-like substance called coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) plays a key role in the biochemical process supplying all cells with energy. It is particularly important for tissues with a high energy requirement, such as cardiac muscle. CoQ10 is also important as a cell membrane protecting antioxidant; again this is of particular importance in heart tissue, we expose cardiac cells to high levels of potentially damaging free radicals. The heart is especially reliant on maintaining adequate tissue levels of CoQ10 for normal functioning. Patients with heart disorders such as heart failure invariably have depleted levels of CoQ10. We obtain CoQ10 from a normal diet however most we synthesize within the body. The capacity of the body to produce CoQ10 naturally decreases from as young as our mid-twenties. Intense exercise can also deplete our CoQ10 levels. Certain types of prescription medicines (particularly statins) and illness are also factors to bare in mind. As a result, many people choose to take a supplement. In a recent clinical study involving 420 patients with heart failure, half of the patients took Pharma Nord's Ubiquinone CoQ10 over a two year period. In the group taking Q10, there were 43 per cent fewer deaths from heart conditions.
Consider your cholesterol and make dietary changes
People at risk of cardiovascular disease are advised to reduce their blood cholesterol levels, usually by taking statin-type drugs. However cholesterol levels can also be reduced by lifestyle and dietary changes. In particular, increase your dietary intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils or spreads, together with dietary fibre, for example from oats and pulses. There are also nutritional supplements with the specific use of reducing blood cholesterol levels. An example is StatiQinon, which helps to maintain a natural cholesterol balance using a combination of three important ingredients – coenzyme Q10, red yeast rice and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Red yeast rice contains 14 active compounds called monacolins, which have been found to inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol. ALA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid which contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations. Coenzyme Q10 reduces LDL-cholesterol blood levels via a direct effect on the genes responsible for its synthesis in the body.
Focus on your deficiencies
Other key nutrients of importance to normal cardiovascular function include vitamin K, vitamin D, magnesium and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (from fish oil). People with cardiovascular disorders are commonly deficient in these nutrients. Supplementation with fish oil may have beneficial effects on blood triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and risk of blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiac arrhythmia.