In the Healthy heart part 1, we discussed the initiative of the Australian Federal Government sponsoring longer consults for Doctors so as they may have ” Heart Health” discussions with their patients. This is a good idea, as many co-factors contribute, as listed below, to heart disease and heart attacks, not just cholesterol. Cholesterol, while a factor, is perhaps less of a factor than inflammation! It is interesting to note that most people presenting to the ER or Emergency room in Hospitals with a heart attack have been found to have cholesterol within the normal range. In the USA, approximately 25% of the American population is taking some statin medication, yet more are dying of Heart disease than ever before. Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in both the USA and Australia. The statistics maybe a little better here, but there are similar trends. The contributing factors leading to Cardiovascular disease are –
- Poor nutrition -overfed yet undernourished
- lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle
- stressful lifestyles
- Emotional issues
- Environmental toxins, including electrosmog
- Hereditary factors
- Overweight or obesity
- smoking cigarettes or marijuana or use of other recreational drugs
Since many of these factors are discussed in numerous blogs, I will comment on a few here and then offer some advice on what you can do naturally to prevent CVD ( Cardiovascular disease.
- Nutrition: Some time ago in Victoria, Australia, a Government dept commissioned a series of studies of the eating habits of Victorians. The results showed that approximately 25% of schoolchildren did not eat breakfast and that 75% of Male adults did not eat the daily recommended levels of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals such as flavonoids, Polyphenols, Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins(OPC’s), and Vit K. OPCs and Polyphenols are found in foods such as cherries, grapes, blueberries, plums etc. Flavonoids in similar foods and can include onions, strawberries, cabbage, apples etc. Polyphenols are found in Green tea, cloves, Star anise, dark chocolate, and celery seed. Vit K is found in Brussels sprouts, Kale, Broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy green vegetables. These compounds have many benefits, and one of the main ones is to prevent inflammation of the blood vessel walls, strengthen the connective tissue of the blood vessel, and add to its flexibility. Lack of flexibility may be compared to an old garden hose that has been left in the sun for a while. It oxidises and becomes stiff, and eventually, cracking or splitting of the hose will become visible. When blood vessel walls develop these traumas, calcium and cholesterol are deposited to ” band-aid” the affected area. Eventually, if there is enough trauma, a plaque is formed that may become unstable and finally dislodge, causing a coronary blockage.
- Exercise: promotes blood flow and nutrients to the cells of the body via the bloodstream. Blood gives life to the cells of the body with nutrients, and movement is essential for life. Otherwise, stagnancy occurs, which leads to poor blood flow and hence poor cellular nutrition. Our hearts are composed of specialised heart muscle and tissue that needs blood via the coronary arteries. Exercise has a conditioning effect on the heart muscle and blood vessels, making them more responsive to sudden stress or demands when the situation is required. Many heart attacks occur when an emergency occurs, such as avoiding a car or witnessing an incident. When the adrenalin kicks in, the heart cannot respond, which causes the coronary arteries to spasm, leading to the Cardiovascular incident.
- Stressful lifestyle: Stress causes biochemical changes in the body that lead to Inflammation or inflammatory compounds being released due to adrenal stress. Any inflammatory compounds affect muscle tissue and small blood vessels that feed the heart, if not the heart itself. This happens over time, many years in fact, so the stress is cumulative. The insidious nature of stress is that we adapt to it to a certain extent, but in that adaption, we adapt to our detriment as we do not know what is happening within our bodies until it becomes too late !! An extreme illustration of this is someone confronted by road rage or a home invasion and has a heart attack. This is partly due to the adrenal / cortisol response reacting so quickly the heart vessels go into spasm and cannot recover.
- Emotional issues are not well understood but the old axiom ” They died of a broken heart ” still rings true. This is because the heart produces neuro-peptides which are chemical messengers activated to respond to stress hormones or chemical messages from the brain. These peptides can affect the heart muscle and can cause vasoconstriction of the small blood vessels that feed the heart if released at the wrong time. The long term consequence of emotional stress such as bereavement, grief, loss of partner or loss of a loved one cannot be underestimated. We live in stressful times, so meditation and counselling activities are almost mandatory to keep life in balance.
- Environmental chemical toxins: such as fluoride, chlorine, and pesticides, accumulate on tissue health and neuronal function. Now we have Bisolvent products from plastics that affect our hormones and liver. What happens with these chemicals is that they build up over time – the cells and tissues of the body react and produce Inflammatory compounds that start circulating in the bloodstream. This adds to the Inflammatory load. Having a home water purifier would be helpful to reduce this toxic load.
- Hereditary Factors: Although Cholesterol and High blood pressure, and Heart disease, in general, can be caused by hereditary or genetic factors, it is thought that only 3% of the population are generally affected by genetic factors. Modern science has shown lifestyle choices can modify genetic expression( called epigenetics ). So one is not doomed to follow one’s ancestors necessarily. A good tip here is to have at some stage a genetic test to see what genetic factors make up one’s ancestry.
- Overweight: Yes, this does raise the risk factor for CVD. Waist girths reflect fat which produces cytokines or inflammatory compounds as well as detrimental hormones. Also, insulin levels are inflated due to the excess carbohydrates usually ingested. Raised insulin levels are a potent producer of Inflammation and circulation /vascular health issues. For example, increased weight drives up blood pressure as the heart has to beat harder to keep blood moving around a larger mass. This leads to a thickening of blood vessels – arterial sclerosis – Cardiovascular Disease! It is known that if one is overweight, this increases CVD risk by a significant percentage. Here in Australia, it is estimated that 2 in three adults are either overweight or obese.
- Recreational drugs: Any recreational drug used daily may contribute to stress on the cardiovascular system. Although Marijuana may seem harmless if smoked daily, it creates the same risk factors as tobacco cigarettes. Alcohol perhaps less so, but daily imbibing of more than the standard allowance contributes to obesity and fatty liver – all risk factors for CVD.
For more information and a free heart health pulse diagnosis, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at www.adelaidenaturopath.net.au.