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HOLISTIC HEALTH - February 2019

Heart Health: Protect Your Heart

by Nancy Russell, M.D


More than eighty-one million Americans, roughly one in three people, have cardiovascular disease. This includes heart disease and hardening of the arteries leading to heart attacks, strokes and loss of limb. Cardiovascular disease accounts for 36 percent of all deaths, many of which are preventable. While there are several causes, the good news is that some can be controlled or treated naturally. 


Diet and Nutrition

Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies are significant factors. A diet low in fiber and high in sugar and refined grains and bad fats can harm the heart and blood vessels by causing inflammation, which leads to hardening of the arteries and endothelial dysfunction. 

Even though many people eat too much, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition points out that less than 5 percent of people in their study consumed the government’s Recommended Daily Allowance for key minerals essential to health. Nutritional deficiencies—especially magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, and the B vitamins, folic acid, in particular—can harm the heart. Vitamin D is especially critical in lowering the risk of heart disease, and it also supports your bones and immune system. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease or have had a heart attack or stroke, diet and/or supplements can improve heart function. 


High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure sometimes requires treatment with medications while you work to lower it naturally. Weight management is an important aspect of blood pressure. Italian researchers found that 50 percent of overweight people who dropped pounds normalized their blood pressure. Exercise is also helpful. Most people who are successful at exercising regularly are walkers, and a recent study showed that just a ten-minute walk can lower systolic blood pressure by three points. Walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week meets the official recommendations for physical activity needed to prevent high blood pressure and other health problems. 

Helpful supplements for high blood pressure include Coenzyme Q10, potassium, and an ounce of dark chocolate per day. The potassium in just one banana, one cup of coconut water, tomato or V-8 juice can normalize blood pressure. 

If you find that your blood pressure is still high even with regular exercise, healthy eating and reduced stress, ask your doctor to rule out sleep apnea. If your pulse or body temperature rise after eating, you might have food allergies or sensitivities that can be addressed with an elimination diet or other treatment. Testosterone deficiency in men can be an underlying cause that needs to be evaluated. 


High Cholesterol

Lowering cholesterol frequently gets the most attention as the way to prevent cardiovascular disease. Still, according to some authorities, moderately high cholesterol is not necessarily the most important or even a significant risk for cardiovascular disease. Rather, research shows that other factors, including those discussed here, are more important in reducing the risk of heart attack. These include exercising regularly , treating diabetes, stopping smoking, and optimizing thyroid function. In fact, lowering cholesterol too much may be unhealthy, because cholesterol serves critical functions in the body—it’s essential for the manufacture of key hormones, such as cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It’s true that widely used cholesterol lowing medications can save lives for those who have already had a heart attack or who have angina. But those who have never had a heart attack may experience little benefit. 

Many people can safely lower cholesterol naturally and without medication. Nutritional treatments include oatmeal, garlic (three cloves per day), and a handful of tree nuts such as almonds and macadamias daily. Niacin (vitamin B-3) can effectively lower cholesterol, and the flush type is much more effective than its non-flush counterpart. Doses of 500-1,500mg per day can be safe but use with caution and under the care of a physician who can monitor blood sugar and liver functions. Herbal treatments include red yeast rice, berberine, artichoke, plant sterols, and policosanol. Because high triglycerides can raise your risk of heart disease, avoid sugar and bad fats and take 2,000mg of omega-3 fish oil with at least 1,000mg of DHA per day. 


Poor Sleep and High Stress

Poor sleep and high stress are powerful factors that can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that regularly sleeping less than 7 to 8 hours can double the risk of heart attack and stroke, and this risk is compounded for those with untreated sleep apnea. Just as important, happiness deficiency and high stress, especially when underlying anger issues are present, increase risk. It is imperative to deal with the stress in your life. Find a healthy way to regularly blow off steam . Seek a psychologist or counselor who can help you talk through and sort out these issues. Take care and be gentle with yourself.


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Nancy Russell, M.D. has been a holistic Internal Medicine physician in the Kansas City northland for over 30 years at 5140 N. Antioch Road in Kansas City, MO.


Her phone number is 816-453-5545 and website is where you can get more information. Dr. Russell is board certified in holistic medicine and is a member of the American Holistic Medical Association and a prior board member.

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