01 Jul 2022

Healthy Living: Looking after your heart - Eva Hill Hamilton

Healthy Living: Looking after your heart - Eva Hill Hamilton

According to the Irish Heart Foundation, approximately 10,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease - including coronary heart disease, stroke and other circulatory diseases. It is the most common cause of death in Ireland, accounting for 33% of all deaths.

Your risk increases proportionally with the circumference of your waist.

Cholesterol is only the middleman in heart disease, and we need cholesterol to repair cells, so focusing solely on reducing cholesterol is not a good idea. In fact, cholesterol lowering medications reduce the levels of Coenzyme-Q10, one of the most important cofactors in energy production for your heart and all your cells. Functional medicine is focusing on the root of the problem; supporting healthy weight loss, reducing stress hormones, balancing blood sugar levels and strengthening your cardiovascular system.

Anything that harms the sensitive lining of your blood vessels can predispose us to cardiovascular problems. These include high blood sugar levels and high Homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a normal metabolic by-product that should be recycled in our body with the help of B vitamins: Folic acid, B12 and B6. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that higher vitamin B12 levels are related to lower homocysteine concentrations and decrease plaques in the carotid arteries.

Know your Omega index! The amount of Omega 3 fatty acids in your cell membranes directly affects your inflammation and risk of heart disease. If you are healthy, eating three portions of oily fish a week along with nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado is beneficial.

However, if you have high risk of developing heart disease or you already have inflammatory conditions, you need extra support. Find a fish oil supplement that gives you 2000mg of Omega 3 of which higher portions (about 1600mg) should be EPA in a more absorbable Triglyceride form.

One of the most important nutrients is Vitamin K2, which is associated with the inhibition of arterial calcification and arterial stiffening. An adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage because it activates matrix GLA protein (MGP), which inhibits the deposits of calcium on the walls. In a recent study high-dose (100-400mcg) vitamin K2 along with 80 mcg Vitamin D3, not only prevented further arterial calcium accumulation, there was a 53% reduction of previously accumulated arterial calcification after twelve weeks.

To further lower your risk of cardiac episodes make sure you eat a wholesome diet full of colourful vegetables, herbs, and mild spices. Nature gave us some pretty powerful help in the form of antioxidants to help strengthen your blood vessels.

Perhaps the largest single category of phytonutrients are the flavonoids found in colourful plants, which contain 5,000-10,000 unique nutrients.

Because of their strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, researchers found that individuals with the greatest intake of flavonoids had a 20% lower risk than individuals with the lowest flavonoid intake.

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