Tag Archives: cardiovascular

Heart Health

Heart Health: How healthy is your lifestyle?

Heart Health

This month we turn our attention to heart health. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) still remains the biggest killer, accounting for 155,000 deaths per year, costing the National Health Service 8 billion pounds (1). The most common types are Coronary Heart Disease (narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries) and Stroke (rapid loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain).

The heart is responsible for pumping blood around the body, carrying all the essential nutrients to distal tissues and organs and collecting any waste products to the liver and kidneys for excretion. We often associate heart disease with old age, taking multiple medications and risk of serious complications or even death. However, even before this stage, suboptimal function can affect our general wellbeing. Poor circulation may lead to fatigue, memory problems or muscle pain for example. If they get overlooked, more serious complications can develop, so it is crucial to look after your heart with a healthy lifestyle.

Cholesterol – friend or foe?

Over the past 50 years, cholesterol has been demonised as the major cause of heart disease. The newest research however, has largely disproven this statement and we now know that although it is a factor, other elements should be taken into consideration. Cholesterol is a type of fat that is produced in the liver but we can also get from animal foods (eggs, meat, dairy). It is actually essential for the body, as a component of cell membranes and nervous tissue as well as a precursor to vitamin D, bile and some hormones. If the arteries get damaged, the body uses cholesterol as a protective plaster to patch up the walls and repair them. However, in the long term, this can lead to a build-up of plaques that could potentially be dangerous. As with everything, we need to keep it in balance. Although a low fat diet isn’t advisable, if your cholesterol levels are too high, there are ways to support your body to bring them down naturally.

Omega 3 fats (EPA and DHA) found in fish oils, have long been known for their benefits to heart health and unfortunately our diets are often lacking in those essential fats. Combining them with specific types of plant sterols provides an even better heart friendly combination. Plant sterols contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.

Most studies often use doses that would be very difficult to get from your diet alone, so if you have a problem with cholesterol it may be worth supplementing with a good quality product.

BioCardio - Concentrated Liquid Fish Oil
BioCardio – Concentrated Liquid Fish Oil

Protection against free radicals

We often hear about antioxidants and free radicals, but do we really understand what they are?

Free radicals are simply unstable molecules that result from everyday physical or physiological processes or come from our environment. They are unstable because they are missing an electron and they are looking to ‘steal’ one from another molecule, damaging them in the process. This ‘other molecule’ can be your DNA, other cells or cholesterol for example. Oxidative stress is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease through damage to LDL cholesterol and increased inflammation. Our body has many ways of protecting itself from free radical damage, but for this to be effective it needs several nutrients like vitamin E or C. Many plants contain very powerful antioxidants that have numerous health benefits.

One of the most researched for cardiovascular health is proanthocyanidins found in grapeseed and pine bark extracts. They help to maintain healthy blood vessels and capillary integrity and are up to 50 times more effective at scavenging free radicals than vitamin E and C.

The secret lies in colour and flavour. Plants produce different chemicals that protect them from predators, these are often pigments, so the brighter the colour the better it is for you. Great examples include bilberries or turmeric. Anthocyanosides in bilberries can help with elasticity and integrity of blood vessels making them stronger and less prone to the harmful effect of free radicals. On the other hand, curcumin found in the orange spice turmeric helps to support the immune system.

PhytoCell - Antioxidant Blend
     PhytoCell – Antioxidant Blend

Eating for your heart

The heart never stops, so providing a steady supply of nutrients and antioxidants from a healthy diet is key to optimum function. Foods that are specifically great for the heart include: pomegranate, beetroots and almonds. Beetroots not only contain many micronutrients, but are also a source in nitrates that help to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Increasing fibre intake from vegetables, flax seeds, chia seeds and grains such as quinoa or millet will help with healthy cholesterol excretion and blood pressure.

Amongst nuts, almonds prove to be true superfoods. A study from 2014 showed that a daily portion of 50g can reduce blood pressure and increase blood levels of vitamin E (2).

One heart friendly nutrient that is relatively difficult to obtain from diet is Coenzyme Q10. It is not considered as a vitamin because our body can make it, however the levels tend to decline with age.

Microcell CoQ10 200
              Microcell CoQ10 200

References
1. British Heart Foundation, 2014.
2. K. Choudhury, J. Clark, H. R. Griffiths. An almond-enriched diet increases plasma α-tocopherol and improves vascular function but does not affect oxidative stress markers or lipid levels. Free Radical Research, 2014; 48 (5): 599

Share

Top Nutrients for Heart Health

Collectively, conditions affecting the heart are the UK’s biggest killer. Almost 2.3 million people live with coronary heart disease (CHD), leading to annual NHS healthcare costs of almost £2 billion. Key risk factors for heart disease affect large proportions of the adult population – one third of adults have high blood pressure while 60% have sub-optimal blood cholesterol levels. Despite these alarming figures, many risk factors are within our control and making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health. As we mark National Heart month we turn our attention to key nutrients and nutrition supplements that play a strong role in maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle.

ALA Omega-3

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 essential fatty acid (or ‘good’ polyunsaturated fat) that has been shown over years of research to help maintain normal cholesterol levels. Although cholesterol is a vital resource in the body, helping to carry out a number of important functions such as repairing blood vessels, creating hormones, production of vitamin D, and helping to transport vitamins A, D, E & K, it can become a risk when levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol become too high. This can trigger a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can eventually

making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health
Making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health

lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Dual cholesterol protection

Despite popular belief, only 20% of the cholesterol in our body comes from our diet whereas the majority, the remaining 80%, is produced by our own cells, mainly in the liver. ALA directly reduces production of cholesterol in the liver at its source, which is a highly effective way of normalising cholesterol levels.

ALA is also well known for reducing inflammation in the body, which helps to slow down plaque build-up in the arteries. Taking ALA daily is a great way to favourably balance the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ fats consumed in the diet.

Ubiquinol CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring enzyme with a multitude of roles in the cardiovascular system. CoQ10 acts within our cells in the mitochondria, the body’s energy ‘powerhouse’. Maintaining healthy CoQ10 levels fuels the mitochondria and supports the high energy requirements of our organs, particularly the heart. In addition to energy production, CoQ10 plays a vital role in oxygen utilisation to further support the functioning of heart muscle cells and maintain good circulatory health. CoQ10 also helps to lower blood pressure and is recognised as an effective cholesterol lowering ‘agent’.

Research studies show that people with cardiovascular problems often have low levels of CoQ10. Risk of deficiency is even higher with patients taking statins to lower cholesterol, since not only are they likely to have low levels of CoQ10 but statins also block natural ubiquinol synthesis in the body.

Ubiquinol versus Ubiquinone

There are two types of CoQ10 used in supplements: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is ‘body-ready’, which means the body doesn’t have to convert it into a usable form – a therapeutic advantage over ubiquinone. As an antioxidant, ubiquinol also offers protection against arterial plaque, thereby reducing heart attack risk and safeguarding heart muscle cells from free radical damage. Uniquely, ubiquinol also regenerates other beneficial antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.

Ubiquinone versus ubiquinol is just half the battle with CoQ10; addressing bioavailability is a further challenge, since therapeutic outcomes are achieved by raising blood plasma levels. Most ubiquinol supplements are oil-based, which means that large ubiquinol particles struggle to pass through the gut’s water layer barrier and are poorly absorbed. A special patented delivery system called VESIsorb®, utilised by CoQ10 manufacturer Igennus, optimises absorption by converting ubiquinol into water-soluble particles, ‘pre-digesting’ it so ubiquinol is effectively fast-tracked through the digestive system. VESIsorb delivers ubiquinol into the blood stream 2 times faster than standard oil-based forms, increasing tissue distribution throughout the body to achieve significantly higher blood concentrations that remain at therapeutic levels for up to 6 times longer.

Live cultures

Three specific live cultures L. plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529, help break down bile salts, which are made from cholesterol, therefore allowing its removal from the body. These friendly bacteria also metabolise dietary cholesterol in the gut, therefore reducing its absorption into the bloodstream. The AB-LIFE strains also produce a beneficial short-chain fatty acid known as propionic acid, which signals the liver to produce less cholesterol and also has an anti-inflammatory effect.

Top heart health supplements

A new and unique formula from OptiBac Probiotics is the first of its kind formulated for heart health. For your cholesterol is a pioneering, well researched multi-targeted natural supplement that combines unique live cultures with omega-3 ALA from cold-pressed virgin flaxseed oil – offering a multitude of benefits for managing healthy cholesterol levels.

Since not all live cultures are the same, OptiBac Probiotics focuses on specific strains of natural bacteria that have been clinically tested and proven to survive stomach acidity, bile salts and digestive enzymes in order to find the best live cultures for the job.

VESIsorb® Ubiquinol-QH from Igennus provides 100 mg of fast-acting body-ready ubiquinol CoQ10 for optimal therapeutic benefits. Taken daily, this advanced supplement offers comprehensive cardiovascular support, providing potent antioxidant activity and maximal energy production.

Share

The role of omega-3 in heart health

Deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are generally premature and could easily, in some cases, be prevented by making lifestyle changes that include adopting a healthy lifestyle and increasing physical activity.

The role of lipid lowering (cholesterol and triglyceride) in reducing the risk of mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease is well documented. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3, certainly in terms of cholesterol and triglyceride management, are probably the most researched of all the dietary nutrients known to influence cardiovascular disease risk. With the recent approval of the use of pure eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as a prescription treatment for hypertriglyceridemia [1] and with overwhelming evidence for EPA’s role over docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cholesterol management, [2] consumers should be aware of the differential effects of the two main omega-3s, EPA and DHA, on cardiovascular disease risk factors and why they should choose isolated EPA over generic fish oil.

EPA and lipid management

Whilst fish oil provides a convenient dietary intervention for maintaining heart health, the differential effects of the two main long-chain omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on cardiovascular disease risk factors means that not all fish oil products are equal in their action.

Firstly, generic oils generally contain around 30% total omega-3 and are therefore not considered viable as a therapeutic. For example, the optimal triglyceride-lowering doses of omega-3 are 3-4g/day, with little evidence to support lipid-altering efficacy in doses of less than 1g/day. [3] In addition to providing a soluble means for transporting cholesterol and triglycerides through the blood, lipoproteins have cell-targeting signals that direct the lipids they carry to certain tissues.

Pharmepa Step 1: Restore (E-EPA 90) contains the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available without prescription

Whilst high density lipoproteins (HDL) correlate with better health outcomes, effectively clearing cholesterol from the system, low density lipoproteins (LDL) are, in contrast, considered the cholesterol ‘bad boy’ and are responsible for the detrimental effects associated with total cholesterol.

Both EPA and DHA decrease triglyceride levels, and whilst EPA lowers LDL levels, DHA appears to increase LDL levels [4, 5]. Given that products that contain a mixture of EPA and DHA may increase LDL levels, the benefits of a pure EPA product understandably extend to both cholesterol and triglyceride management. Indeed, the cholesterol-lowering ability of pure EPA at a dose of 1.8 grams in a study of approximately 19,000 statin-treated patients with hypercholesterolaemia was shown to reduce the 5-year cumulative risk of major coronary events by 19%. Igennus’ Pharmepa Step 1: Restore (E-EPA 90) contains the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available (90%) without prescription, delivers 1g pure EPA in just two easy-to-swallow capsules, and is ideal for those individuals wanting to manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

AA to EPA ratio and cardiovascular health

In addition to altering lipid metabolism, omega-3 may also improve cardiovascular health by inhibiting inflammatory products derived from the key pro-inflammatory fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA). AA and EPA are converted through phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipooxygenase (LOX) to prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes, as well as various hydroxyl-fatty acids, and the AA to EPA ratio provides an established risk factor for numerous inflammatory-related conditions, including poor cardiovascular health. Indeed, inflammation is an important process in the development of cardiovascular disease; chronic inflammation, characterised by elevated plasma levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and IL-6, are commonly found in subjects at high cardiovascular risk, including type2 diabetics and patients with coronary heart disease. [6] Supplementing with EPA, in addition to triglyceride and cholesterol improvement, increases EPA blood levels, improves the AA to EPA ratio (which directly correlates with changes in improved LDL levels) and reduces cardiovascular related inflammation. [7]

In summary, EPA, unlike DHA, lowers levels of triglyceride, lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases ‘good’ cholesterol, whilst reducing inflammation via management of the AA to EPA ratio. By providing pure isolated EPA at the concentrations required for therapeutic outcomes, Igennus’ Pharmepa range of EPA products are ideal health supplements for managing optimal heart health by managing lipid levels and modulating dysregulated inflammation. The prescription-strength ethyl-EPA Pharmepa Restore & MaintainTM  protocol is an innovative two-step treatment programme formulated to re-establish a healthy inflammatory status within the body. Step 1 counteracts an unhealthy AA to EPA ratio – the direct measure of inflammatory status, and step 2 ensures long-term balance for optimal cardiovascular health benefits.

References

1.  Ballantyne CM, Braeckman RA, Soni PN: Icosapent ethyl for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy 2013, 14:1409-1416.

2. Yokoyama M, Origasa H, Matsuzaki M, Matsuzawa Y, Saito Y, Ishikawa Y, Oikawa S, Sasaki J, Hishida H, Itakura H, et al: Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis. Lancet 2007, 369:1090-1098.

3. Pirillo A, Catapano AL: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of hypertriglyceridaemia. International journal of cardiology 2013.

4. Itakura H, Yokoyama M, Matsuzaki M, Saito Y, Origasa H, Ishikawa Y, Oikawa S, Sasaki J, Hishida H, Kita T, et al: The change in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration is positively related to plasma docosahexaenoic acid but not eicosapentaenoic acid. Journal of atherosclerosis and thrombosis 2012, 19:673-679.

5. Cottin SC, Sanders TA, Hall WL: The differential effects of EPA and DHA on cardiovascular risk factors. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2011, 70:215-231.

6. Brevetti G, Giugliano G, Brevetti L, Hiatt WR: Inflammation in peripheral artery disease. Circulation 2010, 122:1862-1875.

7. Tani S, Nagao K, Matsumoto M, Hirayama A: Highly Purified Eicosapentaenoic Acid May Increase Low-Density Lipoprotein Particle Size by Improving Triglyceride Metabolism in Patients With Hypertriglyceridemia. Circulation journal : official journal of the Japanese Circulation Society 2013.

 

Share

Pomegranate: the heart-healthy fruit

A new study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Science, has found that pomegranate juice can reduce key cardiovascular risk factors in overweight adults (1). While the fruit’s impressive antioxidant content has been credited with its success, this study reveals that there might be another secret to the fruit’s benefits.

pomegranate
Pomegranate can help to reduce insulin levels and blood pressure.

Pomegranate juice has already been shown to have some remarkable health benefits with clinical studies showing it can reduce blood pressure, improve blood sugar control and even reduce the thickness of arteries. These studies have attributed the heart-healthy effects of pomegranate to its extraordinarily high antioxidant value (2), which is certainly a huge benefit. However, this study looked at the effects of pomegranate juice on cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Excessive levels of cortisol are linked to both high blood pressure and insulin resistance (3,4).

In addition to measuring cortisol levels, the researchers also measured several markers of heart disease, including blood pressure, arterial elasticity, insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.

The study was a randomised cross-over design, meaning that each volunteer essentially serves as his or her own ‘control’ making the study results more reliable. In this case, the male and female volunteers were randomly assigned to receive pomegranate juice or a placebo drink for 4 weeks. After a 1-week break, the groups were then swapped, so that everybody had been tested with both the pomegranate and the placebo drink.

At the end of the study, it was found that the pomegranate juice was linked with a significant reduction in blood pressure, as well as a decrease in insulin levels and insulin resistance. Interestingly, there was also a reduction in the cortisol levels of the juice drinkers, and an increase in levels of cortisone, which is the inactivated form of cortisol. It appears that pomegranate juice might actually boost health by preventing cortisone from being converted to active cortisol.

In short, the study suggests that the benefits of pomegranate juice and not simply a result of its impressive antioxidant content. It also appears to lower cortisol levels, which in turn has a direct effect on the heart and blood vessels.

Cardiovascular disease remains the UK’s biggest killer. According to the British Heart Foundation, this disease is responsible for one third of deaths of both men and women in Britain.

One of the biggest concerns about cardiovascular disease is that it can go undetected for many years, causing the illness to be labelled a ‘silent killer’. In fact, often the first symptom is a stroke or a heart attack meaning that sufferers may then face invasive but necessary treatments such as bypass surgery or angioplasty.

For this reason, small and simple measures to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease are invaluable. As positive results have been found by drinking as little as 2 ounces of pomegranate juice daily (5), a daily serving of pomegranate juice might just be a change worth making.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1. Catherine Tsang, Nacer F. Smail, S. Almoosawi, I. Davidson and Emad A. S. Al-Dujaili. (2012) Intake of polyphenol-rich pomegranate pure juice influences urinary glucocorticoids, blood pressure and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance in human volunteers.  J Nutr Sci, 1:9

2. Seeram NP, Aviram M, Zhang Y, et al. (2008) Comparison of antioxidant potency of commonly consumed polyphenol-rich beverages in the United States. J Agric Food Chem 56, 1415–1422

3. Duclos M, Pereira PM, Barat P, et al. (2005) Increased cortisol bioavailability, abdominal obesity and the metabolic syndrome in obese women. Obes Res 13, 1157–1166.

4. Kidambi S, Kitchen JM, Grim CE, et al. (2007) Association of adrenal steroids with hypertension and the metabolic syndrome in blacks. Hypertension 49, 704–711.

5. 8. Aviram M, Dornfeld L. Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis. 2001 Sep;158(1):195-8.

Share