Supplements for heart health

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Heart disease is the largest killer in the U.S. and stroke follows closely behind.  Together they are responsible for 43% of deaths.  The most frequent cause of both heart disease and stroke is atherosclerosis, known to harden the artery walls.  Atherosclerosis can create blockages in the arteries from buildup of plaque, cholesterol, and cellular debris.  A heart attack results when these blocks restrict blood flow to the heart, while a stroke occurs if an artery in the brain is affected.  Although risk associated with cardiovascular disease can be influenced by genetics, it is largely a disease of diet and lifestyle.  There are several factors that can increase the risk of developing heart disease, as well as several preventative measures you can take to lower your susceptibility.

Some of the major risk factors include smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and physical inactivity.  Both increased platelet aggregation and increased fibrinogen formation are associated with heart attack and stroke.  This is due to the body’s response to injury to limit blood loss and from the clotting of platelets when they become sticky.  Above average amounts of  homocysteine (an amino acid produced by the body) has been linked to increases in blood clots and LDL (low-density lipoprotein a.k.a. the “bad” cholesterol).  Nutrient deficiencies such as low antioxidant levels, essential fatty acid deficiency, and low magnesium & potassium levels can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.  Another contributor that has been more recently studied is the connection between stress and heart health.  Keeping a positive mental attitude and eliminating emotional stress can actually decrease your susceptibility to heart disease! (more…)

Hawthorn Berries

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Hawthorn berries have long been used in Europe and China. At one time the tree was regarded as sacred and was given to a couple on their wedding day as a symbol of their love and heartfelt connection, as it is an herb that resonates with the heart on a physical and emotional level. In Germany it is one of the most popular herbs for declining heart function. It has been used for all types of cardiovascular disorders including high blood pressure, palpitations, congestive heart failure, circulatory diseases and cholesterol.

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berries

Some medical doctors combine it with conventional medications to increase their effectiveness. I have had incredible results using it clinically for palpitations in conjunction with a doctor’s supervision. It is also a wonderful herb for the highly stressed individual who can not calm down and who is running the risk of potential cardiovascular problems.

In China you find it in candy that is known to aid in fat digestion and cholesterol management. Because it is high in a group of nutrients called flavonoids it also has an antioxidant effect and a positive circulatory effect improving the blood flow and reducing varicose veins. I would recommend it to anyone with cardiovascular disease and to those who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. (more…)

More on the Hawthorn berry

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Hawthorn: The Cardiotonic

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berry (Crataegum species) is considered one of the oldest known remedies in European medicine to be used as a cardiotonic. It has traditionally been used in the treatment of arrhythmias, hypertension, angina, atherosclerosis, and congestive heat failure. Researchers believe the benefits of Hawthorn stem from the flavonoids it contains and its ability to dilate blood vessels and increase heart rate. The dilation of blood vessels allows more blood and oxygen to flow into and out of the heart muscle, which consequently supplies the bodies’ organs with more oxygen rich blood. Hawthorns flavonoids, such as oligomeric procyanidins (a.k.a. OPCs) interact with enzymes that increase the efficiency of heart muscle contraction. The berries, leaves, and flowers of the plant are used in herbal preparations, but the leaves and flowers contain a greater concentration of flavonoids. (more…)

Homocysteine and Heart Disease

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The Hidden Key to Heart Disease?

Out of the 32 million heart attacks and strokes that occur annually more than a third result in death. One significant risk factor responsible for 40% of deaths due to stroke that is often overlooked is homocysteine. Extremely high levels (above 14 ?mol/L) can actually increase your risk of a heart attack by 50%. A high homocysteine level is not just a threat to your heart, it has been shown to increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 150%! Osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, poor concentration and underachievement, pregnancy complications, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are all positively correlated with elevated homocysteine levels. For reasons of prevention, one should know what their homocysteine level is. A level of 9 ?mol/L of blood is thought to be safe, while 14 ?mol/L or above is the “high risk” category.

What exactly is Homocysteine?

Homocysteine is formed during an intermediate phase in the conversion of the amino acid methionine into the amino acid cysteine. After methionine is taken up by the cells, a methyl group (one carbon and three hydrogen atoms) is removed which forms homocysteine. If the body is deficient in a few specific nutrients then the conversion cannot be completed and the homocysteine level will rise. If instead the correct nutrients are available to add on a different methyl group a substance called S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is produced which has mood enhancing qualities and helps lessen pain associated with arthritis. As the amount of SAMe increases so does glutathione. Glutathione, also an amino acid, is a natural antioxidant that helps to detoxify the body and enhance the immune system. SAMe, glutathione, and cysteine are all beneficial outcomes of this conversion, unlike homocysteine. (more…)