Eoin Roe, Chiropractic
Call 087 958 2362
There is no escaping the fact that cardiovascular issues are a leading cause of serious health problems and one of the reasons for this is that cardiovascular issues can remain clinically silent until there is a problem like stroke or heart attack.
As the consequences of cardiovascular issues are so serious there does come a time when medication is necessary.
So why am I writing an article about cardiovascular health – well there are many diet nutrition and lifestyle factors that have a significant influence on cardiovascular health, but to have the most impact you have to make these things part of your life.
There are many factors that contribute to your specific risk of developing cardiovascular disease including genetic predisposition, other health issues such as diabetes, lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, smoking and even personal relationships. For the purpose of this article, I want to focus on the lifestyle factors that are within your control.
From a functional perspective we are seeking to understand how well the endothelium of your blood vessels are working and there are some early clinical signs that I will always look out for: the most important of which is blood pressure. As blood pressure increases, the endothelium (inner lining) can become damaged, once this happens cholesterol can infiltrate the lining of the blood vessels and provoke an inflammatory response. This leads to plaquing also known as atherosclerosis. There are many common signs of poor circulation, which are often ignored, such as cold hands and feet, poor capillary refill in the toes and hands and even the emergence of fungal infections in the toes and changes to skin in the legs.
This is more complicated than a single diet, as there are factors that will be specific for each individual and a more comprehensive evaluation would be appropriate. However, if we look at the basics eating a diet that is high in fibre and antioxidants from fruit, vegetables and whole grains, healthy fats and protein is beneficial from a cardio-protective viewpoint. A good example of this sort of diet would be the Mediterranean diet.
For those who already have high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of damage to the endothelium, lowering sodium is essential and there is a huge amount of research in a diet called the DASH diet. The DASH diet limits the amount of sodium, saturated fats and added sugar and has been shown to lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks.
Additionally for some people who have high levels of TMAO, which is very damaging to the lining of blood vessels and may want to consider a vegetarian diet. TMAO is generated by the gut microbiome in response to foods that are high in choline, lecithin and L-carnitine. These are found in foods like eggs, red meat, dairy products and saltwater fish and lowering them can reduce circulating TMAO in the blood.
Getting regular exercise and remaining active is of critical importance to cardiovascular health, as well as getting the heart working and pumping blood around the body, which can improve vascular dynamics. Exercise also prompts the vascular endothelium to produce a compound called eNOS (endothelial Nitrous Oxide). Endothelial NOS has very beneficial effect on the blood vessels, it is anti-inflammatory and is also involved in making of new blood vessels and tissue repair.
Many people will get a significant benefit from walking at a brisk pace for about an hour a day, if you can’t manage that, start with what you can manage and build up over time. There is also benefit from more high intensity workout which are done for a shorter period of time and there is some evidence that the more intense the exercise the more the anti- inflammatory effect. This has to be done with caution and you have to be careful not to overdo it and injury yourself.
This is an area that will prompt some debate but there is a significant amount of good evidence to suggest that taking fish oil (omega 3) supplements and B-multivitamin for lowering cardiovascular risk factors.
It is important that you seek out good quality supplements and take them in a dose that is sufficient. In the case of fish oils; to see benefits you need to supplement with between 2g to 4g per day this may be a lot higher than doses stated on some supplement packets*.
In the case of B vitamins, it is important to know that some forms are better than others. Looking for supplements with the bio-active forms of these nutrients is important, such as methylcobalamin (a form of B12) or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (a form of folic acid). Macánta an Irish firm have a good B Multi vitamin called Vitamin B Complex +.
Sometimes it can be daunting to change your lifestyle but the benefits can be huge; the key is to start with what you can manage and continue to build on that.
*If you are taking blood thinning medications please check with your GP before taking fish oils
If you are interested in further assessment and preventative health care Eoin Roe is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner based at Roe Health in Skibbereen, you can contact him through the website www.roehealth.ie or on 087 958 2362.