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Heart Disease

Heart Disease: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Risk

Simple Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

February is National Heart Month, a campaign run by the British Heart Foundation to raise awareness of the UK’s biggest killer. Heart disease is responsible for around 75,000 deaths in the UK each year, and many of these deaths are preventable.

The single biggest modifiable risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. One of the most common disorders in the UK, hypertension is defined as persistent raised blood pressure above 140/90mmHg.

Unfortunately hypertension, often referred to as ‘the silent killer’, typically has no outward symptoms. Around 13 million people in the UK suffer with hypertension, but 6 million of these remain undiagnosed (1).

Rule of 3: Everyday changes to protect your health

Taking control of our health means identifying those factors within our control and taking positive action to eliminate them. Unfortunately, dramatic lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming. While your GP can advise on medications, exercise and dietary changes to address heart health, there are simple changes you can begin to make every day to kick start healthy changes.

Here are three simple snacks and three supplements which have been shown to reduce blood pressure.

3 Simple Snacks

1. Snack on almonds and cashews

Replacing your usual savoury or sugary snacks with a handful of cashews or almonds will help to regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure. These nuts are among the best sources of dietary magnesium, a mineral responsible for dilating blood vessels and preventing spasms in the heart muscle. They also help to lower cholesterol levels. Studies have found nut consumption to be linked with an 8.3% reduced risk of heart disease (2).

2. Drink Hibiscus tea

A cup of hibiscus tea before breakfast lowers both diastolic and systolic blood pressure by more than 10%. A recent study found that one cup of hibiscus tea each day for four weeks was as effective as the drug Captopril in reducing blood pressure (3).

3. Get juicing

A daily juice or smoothie containing nitrate-rich vegetables offers a simple way to help reduce blood pressure. Nitrate-rich vegetables such as beetroot and kale are important for healthy blood flow, and lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels (4). Pomegranate enhances this effect by enhancing the activity of nitrates. Beets blend well with apples and berries, while kale blends well with tropical fruits such as pineapple or banana.

3 Key Nutrients for a Healthy Heart

1. Garlic

A recent meta-analysis provides evidence that garlic supplementation significantly reduces blood pressure in those with hypertension. In this study, doses ranged from 600mg to 900mg daily (5). The active component of garlic, called allicin, is destroyed during cooking, so supplements are a good choice for maximum benefit.

2. Fish oil

Several studies have linked fish oil supplementation with reduced blood pressure in those with hypertension (6). As well as lowering blood pressure, fish oil supplements reduce inflammation and platelet aggregation (‘sticky blood’). The American Heart Association recommends that those with coronary heart disease should take 1g of EPA plus DHA from fish oil supplements each day.

3. Magnesium

Diets high in sugar and low in plant foods tend to provide insufficient levels of magnesium. This is a concern because magnesium is important for the dilation of blood vessels. A recent meta-analysis found that magnesium supplementation does indeed lower blood pressure, but that larger studies are needed to confirm these findings (7). Those interested in supplementing magnesium have a number of options. Magnesium can be supplemented as a topical oil applied to skin, as magnesium salts in the bath or as a traditional oral supplement.

References
1. Blood pressure UK. http://www.bloodpressureuk.org/mediacentre/Bloodpressurenews/UKhighbloodpressurerisesbutmorediagnosed. Accessed 18/01/2016.
2. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ (1999) Nut consumption and risk of coronoary heart disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. CurrAtheroscler Rep 1(3):533-40
3. Harrera-Arellano et L (2004) Effectiveness and tolerability of a standardised extract from Hibiscus sabdariffa in patients with mild to moderate hypertension: a controlled and randomised trial. 11(5):365-82
4. Kapil et al (2015) Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomised, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension 65(2):320-7
5. Reid et al (2008) Effect of garlic on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. B
6. Breslow (2006) n-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Am J ClinNutr. 86(6):1477S-1482S
7. Jee et al (2002) The effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Am J Hypertension 15(8):691-6

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Look after your heart this February

February is National Heart Health month which is an initiative supported by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). It is aimed at increasing individuals’ awareness on how to look after the health of their hearts and to ultimately reduce the number of heart disease related deaths. BHF state; “Our vision is of a World where people do not prematurely die of heart disease.”

Look after your heart this February
Eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables is good for supporting a healthy heart (5.)

There are many ways in which we can protect our heart, and bodykind‘s Nutritionists have often written about these. Back in March, Ani Richardson wrote about the benefits of eating a diet full of fruit and vegetables and the benefits of Pecans in relation to heart disease. Nadia Mason wrote about how a daily nutritious smoothie may reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease in August and in September wrote about Turmeric and Cinnamon being excellent spices for a healthy heart. There is continuous research conducted on heart health and it’s more important than ever to take actions to protect it.

In January this year, the BHF released some statistics (1.) that show heart attack death rates dropped dramatically in the early years of the new millennium, falling by more than half. The research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (which is important to note), showed an average of 5% drop in heart attacks each year from 2002 through to 2010. Whilst these figures are impressive, there are still over 30,000 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital each year – many of who die before medical help arrives. That is why is it so important to prevent a heart attack in the first place – as they say; “prevention is better than cure”.

There are many nutrients that can benefit heart health and an overall balanced and wholefood-based diet full of fruits and vegetables are essential for this. One study (2.) published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, found that there was a large reduction in coronary heart disease risk in men and women that had a diet rich in green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale) as well as olive oil (often associated with the Mediterranean lifestyle).

More specifically, one of the main nutrients which you can include in both your diet and in supplement form for heart health are omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are generating a large amount of popularity for their multitude of beneficial health effects. They are found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring and sardines as well as in flaxseeds, walnuts and soya beans. If you don’t eat fish on a regular basis you may want to consider a fish oil supplement (or flaxseed if you cannot eat fish) in oil or capsule form . One recent study (3.) published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011, investigated circulating Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the incidence of coronary heart disease in 2,735 older adults between 1992 and 2006. The researchers found that the total level of fatty acids circulating in the blood systems of these patients was associated with lower levels of coronary heart disease.

Another study (4.), also in 2011, looked into the possibility that early menarche (a risk factor for developing cardio-metabolic diseases) could be related to vitamin D deficiency in early age. After investigating the plasma vitamin D concentrations for 242 females for an average of 30 months, they found that early menarche was indeed twice as likely in vitamin D deficient females as those that were not vitamin D deficient. The authors concluded that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with earlier menarche and therefore the possibility of increased risk of developing cardio-metabolic diseases. Vitamin D is found in oily fish (again), cod liver oil, eggs and dairy products as well as in supplement forms.

As well as these nutrients, B vitamins (more specifically folic acid, B6 and B12) which are found in whole grains, meat and eggs, help to keep our arteries healthy. Vitamins E and C can also keep our heart healthy and antioxidants and bioflavonoids found in a variety of fruit and vegetables are also a great addition to any diet or supplement regime to reduce the level of free radicals in the body that can harm the heart.

Exercise is also must, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the office car park on your lunch break to get the blood circulating. Aiming for 30 minutes 3-5 times per week is the ideal. Perhaps try walking to the shop instead of driving or take the steps instead of the lift. Why not consider getting a group of friends together and organising a walking or bike-riding club? The possibilities are endless with exercise and it doesn’t have to mean slogging away on the treadmill for hours in the gym!

Written by Katie Guest and Lauren Foster

References

(1.) BHF

(2.) Benedetta, B., Masala, G., Saieva, C. et al (2011) Fruit, vegetables, and olive oil and risk of coronary heart disease in Italian women: the EPICOR Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 93, no. 2, 275-283.

(3.) Mozaffarian, D., Lemaitre, R.N., King, I.B., Song, X., Spiegelman, D., Sacks, F.M., Rimm, E.B. & Siscovick, D.S. (2011) Circulating Long-Chain ω-3 Fatty Acids and Incidence of Congestive Heart Failure in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. A Cohort Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 155: 160-170.

(4.) Villamor, E., Marin, C., Mora-Plazas, M. & Baylin, A. (2011) Vitamin D deficiency and age at menarche: a prospective study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 94, no. 4, 1020-1025.

(5.) Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane

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