Tips from the leaders in natural health on supplementation, diet, and more!
As detailed in this issue’s article on statins, the American Heart Association’s dangerous new guidelines say that heart disease prevention can only come from a prescription bottle. But as demonstrated by the long list below, there are plenty of ways to keep your heart healthy naturally!
This is far from a comprehensive list, so be sure to talk to your integrative doctor or healthcare provider to discuss what options are best for you:
- Long-term supplementation with selenium and CoQ10 (taken together in the study) has been proven to reduce heart-related risk of death by 6%. Taken alone or together with other nutrients, CoQ10 is considered one of the leading heart supplements.
- In addition to CoQ10, Dr. Stephen Sinatra recommends supplementation with L-carnitine, D-ribose, and magnesium, as all four supplements nourish mitochondria, your body’s “power plant” cells that produce ATP, the energy source that triggers vital biochemical functions. Your heart is full of mitochondria, and keeping them healthy and productive is key to preventing heart disease.
- Studies show that individuals with high levels of vitamin K experience a significant reduction in heart disease.
- Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can help prevent heart disease, particularly in diabetics.
- Other supplements often recommended include vitamin C, gamma E, hawthorn, niacin, melatonin, omega 3 fats, garlic, bromelain, folate, B-6, B-12, arginine, green tea extract, and anti-glycation supplements such as carnosine and benfotiamine.
- There is an overlap between supplements for the heart in general and those for blood pressure, but other supplements often mentioned for blood pressure include magnesium, potassium, nattokinase, quercetin, celery, hibiscus, cinnamon, pomegranate, beets, grape seed extract, olive leaf extract, folate, and tocotrienols.
- Balance your omegas. An imbalance of your fatty acids—too much omega 6 (found in soybean oil and meat from animals fed soy) and too little omega 3 (found in fish, beans, nuts, and some vegetables)—can cause systemic inflammation, which can trigger heart disease, depression, and cancer.
- Watch your blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that people with high blood glucose levels have a nearly 300% higher risk of coronary heart disease than those with healthy glucose levels. Reducing your intake of grains (both whole and found in processed foods), sweets, and potatoes can help lower your blood glucose levels.
- Eat walnuts! A 2013 Penn State study found that consumption of whole walnuts or extracted walnut oil can help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining blood vessel integrity.
- Other foods that seem to be heart protective include vegetables, fruits (in moderation), chocolate, and olive oil.
- What to avoid: Traditional advice such as to avoid butter or eggs seems to be false. Butter—high in vitamin K2, which is hard to find—may help the heart. The single most important thing to avoid may be trans fats (such as in margarine). See our article about the FDA’s recent proposal about synthetic trans fat. But sugar and especially high fructose corn syrup is also a big risk for the heart, both by promoting diabetes, which takes its toll on your heart, and perhaps directly.
Exercise and Relaxation
- If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight can reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Circuit training—short bursts of intense exercise—helps improve the elasticity of your arterial walls, improving overall heart health. (Two of ANH-USA’s staff members swear by CrossFit for this kind of exercise!)
- Meditation has been shown to result in a 48% reduction in the overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
- Sleep is important and sleep apnea can increase your risk considerably.
Other Natural Interventions
- Brush your teeth! Dr. Sinatra, in his book Reverse Heart Disease Now, recommends keeping up with your oral hygiene, as bacteria produced from periodontal disease can trigger arterial issues.
- Blood viscosity testing. According to integrative health pioneers Dr. Jonathan Wright and Dr. Robert J. Rowen, blood with elevated viscosity (that is, thick blood) is a major risk factor in heart disease. Testing your blood viscosity can help detect and assess your cardiovascular risk.
- Donate blood! Too much iron in your blood can lead to a heart attack. Donating blood will not only help keep iron levels in check, but can help maintain a healthy blood viscosity.
- Monitor your hormones as you age. If you supplement, be sure to be use bioidentical hormones, and if sex hormones, use creams rather than tablets.
- Monitor your bones. If you have osteoporosis, the problem may be lack of vitamin K. In the absence of K2 and other vital co-factors, calcium ingested may have migrated to your blood vessels or heart rather than where you want it, in your bones.
There are many useful blood tests including fibrinogen, homocysteine (usually controlled with B6, folate, and B12), and c-reactive protein. The Life Extension Foundation has an excellent panel. There is also a new test for oxidized LDL cholesterol currently available from Dunwoody Labs and other sources. It is oxidized LDL which seems to be the real villain for your heart rather than LDL itself.
When testing, don’t forget thyroid. Also remember heavy metals—lead, cadmium, and mercury can all take a toll on your heart. That is why chelation has been shown to be an effective remedy for heart disease. Oral chelation is less effective but might be used as a preventive. You’ll need a skilled integrative doctor to steer you to the right tests (blood, urine, or hair), since conventional doctors often mistrust the connection with heart disease and in any case are not experienced in knowing which test to use.
An old stand-by, the waist-to-hip ratio, still remains one of the most reliable predictors of heart attacks.
A Treatment You May Not Have Heard Of
- EECP (enhanced external counterpulsation). This has been a therapy promoted by Dr. Julian Whitaker, another integrative medicine pioneer.
Treatments That Need a Second (or Third) Opinion
- Antibiotics taken routinely before dental cleaning to protect the mitral valve or other parts of the heart. The antibiotics kill the good bacteria which your body depends on for digestion and immunity. If you do take antibiotics, be sure to follow with a good pro-biotic.
- Bypass operations, angioplasty, and stents. Research suggests that these are often done when they should not be. Bypass may lead to brain damage.
- Chest radiation, e.g., routine or for breast cancer treatment. Keep in mind that the heart may be directly in the line of fire.
How do you keep your heart happy and healthy? Share your strategies and suggestions in the comments section below!