Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes all the diseases of the heart and circulation, including coronary heart disease (CHD), angina, heart attack, congenital heart disease, and stroke. CVD is the leading cause of mortality worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that 30% of all deaths globally each year (approximately18 million people) are caused by CVD.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has designated young adults as the newest at-risk group for heart disease in Canada.In the span of just a decade, rates of high blood pressure among Canadians have jumped by 77%, diabetes by 45%, and obesity by 18%. These factors are all risks for heart disease and are becoming more prevalent among young adults – alarming statistics indeed.
Warning Signs of Heart Attack
It is very important to recognize the warning signs of heart attack to ensure prompt medical attention. While chest pain, nausea or indigestion, heartburn, feeling light headed, pain radiating down both arms, jaw pain, sweating, and fatigue are easily the most common symptoms, women’s symptoms may be different. Many women have heart attacks without chest pain. If other symptoms are present but chest pain is missing, do not assume it is not a heart attack.
Causes of and Risk Factors for CVD
Several causes and risk factors are associated with CVD, including:
- Increased age
- Stress Hormones – chronic stress and elevated stress hormones cause inflammation. In several studies, increased cortisol has been associated with higher blood sugar, obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension, all CVD risk factors
- Abnormal lipids and atherosclerosis
- Metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes
- Silent inflammation
- Poor diet and lack of exercise
- Thyroid Disorders – The cardiovascular signs and symptoms of thyroid disease are some of the most clinically relevant findings that accompany both hyper and hypothyroidism.
- Women with a bigger waist-to-hip ratio have a greater risk than men for heart attack.
- 50% of the people with heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels, while 25 % of people with premature heart attacks have no traditional risk factors at all.
Many of these causes lead to or are associated with inflammation, which is now considered the main underlying cause of CVD.
Gut Microbiome and CVD
The gut microbiome has been implicated in a variety of potential disease mechanisms, including inflammation, which can predispose people to heart disease. The level of diversity of the “good bacteria” in our digestive systems has been found to be linked to a feature of CVD – hardening of the arteries. Researchers found that women with atherosclerosis have lower gut microbial diversity, while women with healthier arteries have more diversity. It is possible that the gut bacteria can be used to detect risk of heart disease, and may be altered by prebiotic fibres and probiotics, or fecal transplant to reduce the risk. The research indicates that cardiovascular risk that is not explained by the usual risk factors could in the future be enhanced by analyzing the health of the gut microbiome.
Heart disease is often called the “silent killer” because all tests may be in the normal range. Many people may have few or no symptoms and do not even know that they have it. Even if you have not been diagnosed with a condition, your health care practitioner may want more stringent screening if you have risk factors or a family history of CVD.
Supplement and Lifestyle Tips to Prevent and treat CVD
CoQ10 is found in almost every cell of the body, and it is a powerful antioxidant that also helps convert food into energy. It is found in foods, such as liver or kidneys; as well as sardines, mackerel, chicken, cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus.
CoQ10 was hailed as “the first new drug to improve heart failure mortality in over a decade” after a multi-center randomized study of 420 patients found that taking it reduced deaths in patients with severe heart failure by half, compared to a control group. Published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology Heart Failure
Recent studies suggest that CoQ10, either alone or combined with other therapies, has proven to beneficial for the following:
- Increases HDL-C (good cholesterol)
- Lowers levels of inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein
- Prevents excessive tissue damage after heart attack or stroke
- Lowers blood pressure (systolic by 17 mm Hg and diastolic by 10 mm Hg)
- Reduces statin-related muscle spasms and pain in 75 percent of statin users
- Improves exercise capacity
- Improves ejection fraction (heart pumping capacity). Healthy people have an ejection fraction of 55%-75%, while heart failure patients have values of 20%-40% (or less). Ejection fraction improved from a low 22% up to 39% in ubiquinol–treated patients.
What are the different forms of CoQ10?
There are two forms of CoQ10: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol, the active antioxidant form of CoQ10, is made in the body from ubiquinone. As we age, the levels of both forms drop. As early as age 20, the amount of ubiquinone our bodies produce begins to drop and the body also loses its ability to make ubiquinol from ubiquinone. Most dietary supplements contain ubiquinone and are relatively cost effective, while ubiquinol supplements, which are of most benefit, especially as we age, are more expensive but more readily absorbed and utilized.
CoQ10 is fat-soluble and is best absorbed when taken with a fatty meal.
Bromelain prevents blood clotting and improves circulation. Bromelain suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines and prevents thrombosis in heart patients.
Probiotics help to support microflora diversity and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The staff at the Vitamin Shop are very knowledgeable – talk to them about any questions you may have on various supplements.
Karen Jensen was in clinical practice for 25 years and although she is retired, she continues to write books and educate on the naturopathic approach to wellness. She is author or co-author of seven books, her most recent is Women’s Health Matters: The Influence of Gender on Disease.