Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the term used to include 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 and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and The Heart and Stroke Foundation designated young adults as the newest at-risk group for heart disease in Canada.

There are a number of commonly recognized causes and risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease including: increasing age, smoking, alcohol, stress, hypertension, abnormal lipids, metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. However, 50% of the people with heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels – 25 % of people with premature heart attacks have no traditional risk factors at all.

Some of the less recognized contributors of heart disease include

Stress hormones and increased cortisol, have been associated with higher blood sugar, obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension. Stress also causes blood to become thicker (increased viscosity). The combination of a narrowing of the arteries due to plaque and increased viscosity of the blood puts considerable stress on the heart and blood vessels. This can cause increases in blood pressure, and plaque can often become dislodged and travel in the blood stream, becoming a ticking time bomb. If it gets stuck in one of the heart’s arteries, it triggers a heart attack. Or if it is trapped in a blood vessel in the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Inflammation is considered to a main underlying cause of CVD. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is a condition of the wall or inner lining of the mid and large-size blood vessels.  Abnormal lipids (dyslipidemia) trigger an inflammatory process and inflammation elicits dyslipidemia – a vicious cycle. As a result, fatty deposits in the inner walls of arteries can develop. Increasing the risk of blockage, they will become blocked and over the years can cause angina, heart attack or stroke.

Thyroid disorders

The cardiovascular signs and symptoms of thyroid disease are some of the most profound and clinically relevant findings that accompany both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

It is well known that patients with untreated hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism often develop heart problems as a result of thyroid hormone affecting the heart directly. However, new research shows that thyroid hormone also affects the heart indirectly, through the newly discovered neurons in the brain.

Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Heart Health

Change Your Diet

There is a lot of buzz today about the Mediterranean diet that benefits many different chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional model inspired by traditional dietary patterns of the countries of the Mediterranean basin, particularly Italy, Greece, and Spain. It is based primarily on the following:

• Olive oil (primary fat)

• High vegetable/fruit intake

• Whole grains

• Moderate fish intake

• Moderate dairy intake

• Moderate wine consumption

• Limited red meat and saturated fats

Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan

≥ 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day

≥ 2 3.5-oz (99 gr) servings of fish, preferably oily fish, per week

≥ 3 1-oz-equivalent (28 gr) servings of fiber-rich whole grains per day (defined as at least 1.1 g of fiber per 10 g of carbohydrate)

< 1,500 mg of sodium per day

< 450 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages per week

The 2018 U.S. News & World Report ranking of diets revealed a tie for the top spot, between the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. Both emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and moderate alcohol intake. The two diets also tied for first place however, the Mediterranean diet was ranked as the easiest to follow.


Of all the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, physical inactivity is the most prevalent. The Canadian Heart and Stroke foundation recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week. The US new guidelines take the pressure off and basically state that “EXERCISE MATTERS” and anything you do for activity is important– and it doesn’t need to be intense. The most important message on exercise is that the greatest benefits result from changing from no, to even small amounts of physical activity.

Recent Canadian Health Measures Survey found that 85% of Canadian adults currently do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity. Even more troublesome – 93% of Canadian children and youth are not meeting the physical activity amount recommended which is 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Children and teens are the newest at-risk group for cardiovascular disease Get Up and MOVE!

Water for Hypertension

Water intake affects blood pressure in two ways. First, when you don’t drink enough water your body attempts to hold on to fluid by retaining sodium and therefore retaining fluid leading to edema. Dehydration also affects the capillaries and causes them to slow/or shut down and when this happens pressure builds up and puts more stress on the “pipes” (blood vessels) thereby elevating blood pressure. So, one of the best ways to help to lower your blood pressure naturally is by staying well-hydrated. If you haven’t been consuming 8 cups of water daily, increase your water intake gradually, it takes time to adapt to a new level of water intake.

Other health tips to decrease your risk factors for CVD

  • Quit smoking or at the very least, reduce it.
  • Rest and relaxation – Make sure to get adequate sleep and find ways to reduce your stress, such as exercise or meditation There are several studies showing the positive effects of meditation for the management of stress-related disorders such as hypertension and other risk factors for CVD. The physiological effects of meditation include decreased heart rate, reduced respiratory rate, reduced blood pressure, and  lower cortisol levels.
  • Emotional state – Studies at Harvard Medical School show that negative emotions such as anger, depression, worry, or anxiety are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In older adults, it has been found that depression is associated with a greater than 50% risk of heart failure.
  • Consumption of fats and oils – Do not get caught up in the “fat phobia”. Good fats do not promote heart disease or cholesterol problems. Instead of hydrogenated and heated oils such as margarines, deep fried foods, and processed oils, use essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) from flaxseed, pumpkin seed, and fish oils. Olive oil is also good for the heart. Animal fats are not the bad guys – heated, refined oils are.

Supplement Options to Prevent and/or Support CVD

Hawthorn – Increases coronary blood flow, thus improving the use of oxygen by the heart. It is also effective for hypertension, reducing cholesterol (LDL and triglycerides), and preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Berberine – Studies have shown that berberine is effective in regulating blood sugar in people with insulin resistance and diabetes type 2 both of which contribute to cardiovascular disease.

MagnesiumThirty-four percent of Canadians are magnesium deficient which affects cardiac electrical activity, contractility, and vascular tone of the heart. Studies have shown that 53% of patients in hospital cardiac units were magnesium deficient. Magnesium plays a very important role in cardiovascular health in relation to cell membrane functioning and deficiency leads to imbalances in sodium and potassium which can, through different mechanisms, lead to arrhythmias, arterial vasospasm and increased blood thickening. In addition, and very importantly, deficiency can lead to inflammation.

NattokinaseStudies show that nattokinase dissolves blood clots — which helps improves blood flow, and lowers the risk of heart disease. It can also help lower your blood pressure, reducing strain on the heart that can lead to heart attacks.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – Deficiency has been identified in 50–75% of heart tissue biopsies in patients with various heart conditions. Many studies show its effectiveness in the treatment of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, angina, congestive heart failure, and cardiomyopathy. It seems to work better when taken with vitamin E. Be aware that medications for hypertension and high cholesterol (i.e., statins) deplete CoQ10.

Adrenal support – Such as a combination formula containing herbs such as Siberian ginseng, suma, rhodiola and ashwagandha can help regulate stress hormones. In several studies, elevated cortisol has been associated with higher blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.

Preventing chronic Inflammation – Very important in preventing CVD. Anti-inflammatory remedies such as curcumin and PEA (palmitoylethanolamide) have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.

Speak to the knowledgeable staff at the Vitamin Shop about specific combination formulas that contain herbs and vitamins to help prevent and support CVD.

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