Heart Health


Heart Health and Heart Disease

A strong, healthy heart is vital for longevity. Heart health problems include coronary heart disease, an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), heart valve disease, as well as cardiomyopathy and aorta problems, such as aortic aneurysm, and aortic valve problems.

If you have high cholesterol, or if you’re at high risk for heart disease and heart attack, some supplements can help lower your cholesterol. For many people, making lifestyle changes is enough to lower cholesterol. Other people need medications like cholesterol-lowering statin heart health drugs.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil) for Heart Health

Omega-3 fatty acids — found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil — provide significant reductions in triglyceride levels and increases in good HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 doesn’t affect “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

Omega-3s have consistently been shown to improve heart health. Omega-3s are one of the most important supplements for the heart because of its anti-inflammatory agents. We know that inflammation is a common pathway for many diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Several studies report that in people with a history of heart attack, regularly eating oily fish (like salmon) or taking fish oil supplements reduces the risk of heart rhythm problems, heart attack, and sudden death. There may also be reductions in angina (chest pain).

Fish oil supplements can reduce triglycerides by 20% to 50%. Taking fish oil plus a magnesium supplement is also a good combination — decreasing blood pressure and preventing heart rhythm problems. Look for glycinated magnesium, which is more easily absorbed.

Plant Sterols for Heart Health

Plant sterols are derived from plant-based foods and are used to enrich margarines and other foods. Many human and animal studies have found that plant sterol-enriched products lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Plant sterols do not affect triglycerides or HDL levels, however.

Plant sterols block cholesterol absorption and lower LDL by 10%. Numerous studies have shown that eating more plant sterol-enriched foods lowers total and LDL cholesterol. In a study of 194 adults with moderately high cholesterol, each consumed 2 servings of low-fat milk that was plant sterol-enriched. By the third week, their LDL cholesterol was reduced by 9.5%; by week six, LDL was 7.8% reduced.

Lifestyle Solutions for Healthy Hearts

Supplements are no panacea. If you use them, use them in connection with proven lifestyle habits that benefit the heart — and with medications prescribed by your doctor.

After all, a bad diet and an inactive lifestyle are the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Making changes to improve your lifestyle can make a big difference.

Food is medicine: Food comes first. There are reams of research showing that FirstLine Theapy — a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, wine, and fatty fish — help decrease blood pressure and stroke. It’s possible to reduce heart-related events (like heart attack) by 50% to 60% by following this type of diet.

One long-term study of 15,700 adults found these four factors were the most important:
– Eating at least five fruits and vegetables daily
– Walking or getting other exercise for at least 2.5 hours weekly
– Keeping BMI (body mass index) out of the obese range
– Don’t smoke

Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and other omega-3 fatty fish should be staples.

Daily exercise is a must: The Clinical Council on Cardiology advises 40 minutes to one hour of aerobic activity every day and strength training three days a week.

A 2002 study showed that more intense exercise works better than moderate exercise in reducing cholesterol. The study involved sedentary, overweight men and women — all with mild-to-moderately high cholesterol — who did not change their diet. Researchers found that those who got moderate exercise (12 miles of walking or jogging a week) lowered their LDL levels, but those who did more vigorous exercise — jogging 20 miles a week — got even better LDL results.

Stress reduction is key: Stress increases cortisol (a hormone), which puts fat on the midline — which increases heart risks. Stress also produces inflammation that leads to increased plaque in blood vessels. Two stress hormones — adrenaline and norepinephrine — raise cholesterol, blood pressure, and cause heart rhythm problems. They also constrict coronary arteries, cause blood pressure to go up. When we’re under stress, our ability to fight infection is reduced.

Meditation is helpful, there is a lot of research showing that it decreases blood pressure and improves insulin resistance.

It’s all about lifestyle. It’s not only what you eat, but who you’re eating with. If you’re in a bad relationship, you can eat all the Brussels sprouts in the world and it won’t help your heart.

Comprehensive Center for Women's Medicine
100 E. Walton Street, Suite 400W
Gold Coast

Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 773-694-5551
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