by Tracey Loiterton.
What is Cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular disease is a term used to describe a number of conditions including heart attack, angina, stroke, high blood pressure, blood clotting and other heart or blood vessel disorders.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia, with 45,600 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2011. It affects one in six Australians and two out of three families and creates much suffering and morbidity within our older population.
The statistics can seem overwhelming but cardiovascular disease is in most cases a preventable disease. A substantial amount of research clearly demonstrates the essential role that diet and lifestyle play in the prevention CVD and improving health through the golden years.
What causes Cardiovascular Disease?
The major preventable risk factors for CVD are:
- Poor diet
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Insufficient physical activity
- Excessive weight and obesity
- Tobacco smoking
How can I reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease?
Six Steps To A Healthy Heart
1. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is the first place to start. Lack of regular physical activity doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. Regular exercise increases HDL (good cholesterol), lowers blood pressure, maintains healthy weight, enhances smoking cessation, improves insulin sensitivity and makes you happier.
2. Reduce High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure (hypertension) is a risk factor for both stroke and coronary artery disease. The optimal blood pressure in adults is 120/80. The four critical factors to address are exercise, weight management, reduction in salt and alcohol intake.
3. Stop Smoking – Smoking can double the risk factor for both heart attack and stroke. Smoking damages the inside of blood vessel walls. Cholesterol and other material accumulates at damaged areas and blood vessels clog up. Smoking also lowers the good cholesterol HDL (high density lipoprotein) while raising blood pressure and heart rate and increasing insulin resistance. The good news is that is never too late to stop smoking, cessation reduces the risk of heart attack by 50 percent in the first year. Just two years after cessation, the risk is similar to that of a non-smoker. So don’t delay, Quit today! Call the quit line or ask your practitioner for helpful advice.
4. Reduce high cholesterol – High cholesterol is a risk factor in heart disease. Cholesterol is transported around the body by carriers called lipoproteins. The bad cholesterol LDL (low density lipoprotein) is responsible for carrying cholesterol to the blood vessels. HDL (high density lipoprotein) transports cholesterol out of the blood stream and into the liver for further processing and elimination. Therefore having healthy levels of HDL’s, and keeping LDL’s relatively low are good protective measures against cardio-vascular disease. Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits along with some whole grains offers the body a good source of fibre and anti-oxidants to protects against high LDL levels. Furthermore avoiding trans-fatty acids found in processed foods such as cakes, biscuits and fried foods is an essential measure for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
5. Reduce homocysteine levels – Homocysteine is a toxic byproduct of cell metabolism. It can damage the lining of blood vessels and contribute to clogged arteries. Elevated homocysteine in the blood is associated with increased risk of heart disease. Vitamins B6, B12 and folate are essential for the clearance of homocysteine.
6. Atherosclerosis – Preventing or slowing down the clogging of arteries is essential in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Rancid or oxidized LDL particles are particularly damaging. Ask your Naturopath about herbal and nutritional anti-oxidants such as CoQ10 and resveratrol to aid in preventing the oxidation of LDL particles. Clinical studies have shown CoQ10 to improve the health of blood vessels in patients with high cholesterol.
If you are concerned about your heart health, talk to us today about how we can help, naturally.