As Valentines Day is approaching and February is National Heart month, we are going to take a closer look at this vital organ and how nutritional therapy can support the cardiovascular system.
According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK which is more than 170,000 deaths each year - an average of 480 deaths each day or one every 3 minutes. There are around 7.6 million people living with a heart or circulatory disease. So how can we go about supporting our heart health and where does nutritional therapy fit in?
Your cardiovascular system is the name for your heart, blood vessels and blood itself. Your heart pumps blood around your body through your blood vessels carrying supplies of oxygen and essential nutrients. Heart and blood vessel health are closely related because if anything hinders your circulation, your heart must work much harder. This can happen when arteries become narrow and harden or blood becomes sticky and more liable to clotting.
Causes of Cardiovascular Disease
- Inflammation - The biggest driver of heart disease is uncontrolled inflammation which will damage blood vessel walls and lead to the formation of plaques in the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. Inflammation can also result in ruptures of these plaques allowing blood clots to form. If your gut microbiome is out of balance, you may suffer from chronic inflammation. Smoking, stress and obesity can also drive inflammation.
- High Blood Sugar - A diet rich in refined carbohydrates and processed foods can result in high levels of blood sugar. This can lead to insulin resistance which can drive blood sugar levels even higher. This results in damage to blood vessel walls, the hardening of arteries and atherosclerosis. Research shows that raised blood sugar levels are more damaging to cardiovascular health than cholesterol.
- High Triglycerides - Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood and high levels are associated with heart disease and stroke. These levels can increase if you are sedentary, overweight and have a diet high in refined carbohydrates.
- High Very Low Density Lipoproteins - High levels of cholesterol were previously thought to be involved in the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, but research shows this is far too simplistic. Cholesterol is needed for important functions in the body such as making bile, vitamin D, some hormones, protecting nerve cells and making cell membranes. Specifically, one type of cholesterol known as Very Low Density Lipoprotein or VLDL is involved in the formation of plaques, especially when this is combined with high levels of blood sugar and inflammation. Specific testing to analyse the type of cholesterol is therefore important to accurately establish risk.
- High Blood Pressure - High blood pressure can be due to the narrowing of artery walls as a result of plaque formation but also as a result of chronic stress. Either way it can result in further inflammation and damage.
Nutritional Therapy to Support Heart Health
There are several medications used to treat cardiovascular diseases such as blood thinning medications like aspirin or warfarin, beta-blockers to slow the heart rate, blood pressure medications, insulin resistance drugs and statins which prevent your body manufacturing cholesterol. These drugs usually deplete other nutrients and many have side effects. They are simply a sticking plaster for the condition and do not address the root cause. Statins, for example, reduce the production of a nutrient called coenzyme Q10 within the body, which is an important antioxidant used in energy production and muscle function. One of the side effects of statin therapy is type 2 diabetes and recent research shows that 1 in 10 people on statins go on to develop insulin resistance.
Nutritional Therapy will look holistically at the individual to address the root cause of inflammation, examining nutritional status and lifestyle as well as genetic make up and the gut microbiome. Specific testing of markers such as triglycerides and cholesterol particle density can provide more detailed information, together with consideration of areas such as liver and thyroid function which can also affect cardiovascular health.
A personalised, nutrition, lifestyle and supplement plan can be recommended to improve cardiovascular health. This will aim to reduce levels of chronic inflammation while restoring a healthy balance of triglycerides and cholesterol, balancing blood sugar levels and supporting healthy blood pressure. So give your heart a Valentines Day gift this month and book a Medicinal Eating Nutritional Therapy consultation.
For further information, please contact Medicinal Eating or email Janine at firstname.lastname@example.org.