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” discussion with their patients. This is a good idea as mentioned but there are other issues that contribute to heart disease and heart attacks. It is interesting to note that the majority of people presenting to the ER or Emergency room in Hospitals with a heart attack have been found to have cholesterol within the normal range. It was mentioned that in the USA approximately 25% of the American population is taking some sort of statin medication yet more die of Heart disease than ever before. The statistics may be a little better here but there are similar trends. To recap, 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
Since a lot of these factors are discussed in numerous blogs I will just comment on a few here and then offer some advice on what can be done Naturally to prevent CVD ( Cardiovascular disease.
- Nutrition: Some time ago in Victoria Australia, a Government dept commissioned a series of studies of eating habits of Victorians. The results were in the main that approximately 25% of school children 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, and Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins(OPC’s) as well as Vit K. OPCs are found in sources 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 for example. Vit K is found in foods such as Brussels sprouts, Kale, Broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy green vegetables. These compounds have many benefits but one of the main ones is to prevent inflammation of the blood vessel walls and or strengthen the connective tissue of the blood vessel and adding to its pliability. lack of pliability is like an old garden hose that has been left in the sun for a while. It oxidizes and becomes stiff and eventually cracking or splitting of the hose will become visible.
- Exercise: promotes blood flow and nutrients to the cells of the body via the bloodstream. Movement is essential for life otherwise stagnancy occurs which leads to poor blood flow and hence poor cellular nutrition. Our hearts are composed of specialized heart muscle and tissue that needs to be fed 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 situation occurs such as avoiding a car or witnessing an incident and when the adrenalin kicks in then the heart cannot respond and this causes the coronary arteries to spasm leading to the Cardiovascular incident.
- Stressful lifestyle: There is enough on the internet about stress or the damage that stress can cause to all the systems of the human body. Basically, stress causes biochemical changes in the body that lead to Inflammation or inflammatory compounds being released as a result of adrenal stress. Any inflammatory compounds have an effect on muscle tissue and also 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. This is the insidious nature of stress is that we adapt to it to a certain extent but in that adaption, we adapt to our own detriment as we do not know what is really happening within our bodies until it becomes too late !! An extreme illustration of this is someone who is confronted by road rage or a home invasion and has a heart attack. This is due in part 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 as a response to stress hormones or chemical messages from the brain. These peptides can have an effect on heart muscle and if released at the wrong time can cause vasoconstriction of the small blood vessels that feed the heart. The long term consequence of emotional stress such as bereavement, grief, loss of partner or loss of a loved one cannot be underestimated.
- Environmental chemical toxins: such as fluoride, Chlorine, and pesticides all have an accumulative effect 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.
- 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 affected this way. Modern science has shown genetic expression can be modified by lifestyle choices. So one is not doomed to necessarily follow one’s ancestors.
- 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 raised 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 estimated that if one is overweight then this increases the risk of CVD by a great percentage. Here in Australia, it is estimated that 2 in three adults are either overweight or obese.