Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality in men. Though women tend to have equal numbers of incidences, they are typically later in life and therefore it is often thought that the threat of this type of disease is greater in men. In 2019 heart disease was responsible for one in four deaths of men in the United States. Though genetics can predispose individuals to cardiovascular issues, there are many things that can be done to help treat and prevent cardiovascular disease from arising. Below are some suggestions as to what one can do to maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system.
It is well known that being overweight can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular issues, as well as type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are eating a healthy diet that is composed mostly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein sources. Further, not only is exercise important for maintaining a healthy weight, but it also has direct benefits on cardiovascular function and health. Everyone should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. Smoking and alcohol contribute to one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, therefore, if you smoke, you should do your best to quit, and limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is found in the blood. High levels of homocysteine have long been correlated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. It has been suggested that the mechanism by which homocysteine increases the risk of cardiovascular disease is due to its reduction of HDL cholesterol in the body. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps to move cholesterol out of cells, including those of artery walls. It has also been suggested that HDL may act as an antioxidant, antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory. The way that homocysteine reduces HDL is through its inhibition of apo A-I, which is the main HDL apolipoprotein. To lower the amount of homocysteine in the body, folic acid, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6 are required. All these vitamins can be found in a good B complex.
This mineral is involved in over 300 chemical processes in the body. It is particularly important for cardiovascular health and unfortunately, due to multiple factors, most people do not get adequate daily amounts of dietary magnesium. It is recommended that women take in approximately 300-350 mg/day and that men take in 420-483 mg/day. It was recently found that in a group of hospitalized cardiac patients, 53% had magnesium levels below the lowest normal control. Magnesium is required for proper muscle function. Considering that the heart is also a muscle, it is essential that individuals have adequate magnesium intake. It has been hypothesized that magnesium deficiency contributes to arrhythmias, as well as hypertension, because of its involvement in polarization of the Na+ -K+ pump. It has also been shown that magnesium deficiency leads to an increase in intracellular sodium and calcium, which is associated with arterial vasospasm, increased risk of blood clotting, increased fat deposition, and increased release of epinephrine and norepinephrine (hormones that are excreted by the adrenal glands), which are all factors that increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Like magnesium, potassium has been identified as one of the minerals that most individuals do not obtain in adequate amounts and where a deficiency has been shown to have impacts on the development of cardiac disease. As previously discussed, magnesium and potassium work hand in hand and both are involved in regulation of blood pressure and cardiac rhythm. Like magnesium, a deficiency in potassium is linked to an increased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. In one study, it was suggested that increasing potassium intake would decrease the incidence of hypertension in Americans by 17%. The dietary recommendation of potassium for the prevention of hypertension is greater than 3500 mg/day.
Taurine is an important amino acid for cardiac function and there is often a lack of dietary consumption. The foods that contain the highest amounts of taurine are seafood, eggs and meat. The brain and heart both produce small amounts of taurine, but deficiency is very common. Taurine, like magnesium and potassium, is also involved in transport and regulation of ions into and out of the cells, particularly sodium and calcium. Through its involvement in these processes, it has been found that taurine supplementation can help to reduce hypertension, hypertrophy of the heart and cardiomyopathy in general. In animal studies, low taurine levels have been implicated in retinal degeneration, dilated cardiomyopathy, deficiency of immune functions, hypertension and cardiac diseases.
Coenzyme Q10 is a very important molecule for cardiovascular health. It is found in all systems of the body, but is found in particularly high amounts in the heart, kidneys, liver and muscle. In a 10-year study of senior citizens, it was found that four years of supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 and Selenium resulted in a significant reduction of mortality due to cardiovascular disease. Three out of four individuals with cardiovascular disease are found to have low levels of CoQ10. There are multiple suggestions as to the mechanism of action of CoQ10 in terms of its prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. CoQ10 acts as a very important antioxidant in the body and oxidative stress is known to contribute to the development of cardiovascular issues. Further, CoQ10 is essential for ATP production in the body and the heart requires a large amount of ATP for contraction. CoQ10 has been used for many years as a treatment for hypertension. It has a direct effect on vasodilation of the endothelium by sustaining the bioavailability of nitric oxide. This is a very similar action to nitroglycerin, a medication commonly given to patients with cardiac issues.
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