Basics of Cardiovascular Health

THE BASICS OF IMPROVING CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

Just recently, I have become aware, of several friends, who are struggling with cardiovascular issues. They range from high blood pressure, to high cholesterol, blocked coronary (heart) arteries (requiring a quadruple bypass procedure), which all lead to a high risk of heart attack and stroke. This has me really concerned, so I am going to write about initial steps you can take to start lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. In the near future, I will get into more detail.

THE BASICS – Understanding how the heart works

I know you all know, that the heart pumps the blood, but I thought I would give you the basics, and go from there.

The heart is a pump, for all the blood in the body. Arteries are the blood vessels, that carry blood away from the heart, and veins carry the old/used blood back to the heart.

There are four chambers in the heart: two on the bottom and two on the top. The top chambers are called the Atria. They are storage chambers, for the blood.

The bottom chambers are the ventricles, which are actually the pumps, for the blood. The ventricle on the right side, of the heart, pumps blood to the lungs, and the ventricle on the left pumps blood to the rest of the body, through the aorta.

The old or used blood comes back into the right right atria of the heart, where it is then drawn into the right ventricle, of the heart. From the right ventricle, it is pumped to the lungs, where it is oxygenated, and pumped to the left atria. From the left atria, the oxygen rich blood is drawn into the left ventricle, where it is then pumped to the rest of the body.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE


Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure.
Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and usually given as two numbers. For example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg).
• The top number is your systolic pressure, the pressure created when your heart beats. It is considered high if it is consistently over 140. Ideal is less than 130.
• The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the pressure inside blood vessels when the heart is at rest. It is considered high if it is consistently over 90. Ideal is less than 80.
* Either or both of these numbers may be too high.

Blood pressure measurements are the result of the force of the contraction, of the heart muscle, and the size and condition of the arteries.
Many factors can affect blood pressure, including:
• How much water and salt you have in your body
• The condition of your kidneys (which is one of the ways toxins are filtered out of our blood, and flushed out in the urine),
• the nervous system


• Whether or not our blood vessels are healthy, meaning pliable and elastic, to help move the blood through the vascular system, of the body.
• The levels of different hormones in the body

WHAT CAUSES HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

High blood pressure can affect a wide variety of people. Having a family history (mother, father, grandparents, etc.), can cause you to be a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Certain nationalities/races, such as African Americans, also are at higher risk of having high blood pressure. Obesity, smoking and diabetes also puts one at higher risk of having high blood pressure.

When high blood pressure is the result of a specific habit, medication, or condition, it is called “secondary hypertension”. There are a number of situations, that can cause secondary hypertension, the most common of which are:

* Anxiety and stress
* Arteriosclerosis
* Pain
* Birth control medications
* Drug and alcohol abuse
* Diabetes
* Pregnancy
* Excessive salt intake
* Obesity


* Kidney disease
* Medications – Appetite suppressants, certain cold meds, corticosteroids, migraine meds
* Stiff cardiovascular system – meaning the wall, of the blood vessels are not elastic, and don’t move with the pumping action, of the heart

It is important to monitor your blood pressure, on a regular basis, as most people can’t tell when their blood pressure. Some medical health care professionals recommend once every year or two, if you have one or two “normal” readings. However, I believe more often is prudent, as the above causes of high blood pressure, can occur without the patient realizing it. While high blood pressure is called the “silent killer”, because most people are not aware, when their blood pressure becomes elevated, symptoms that some do notice, with high blood pressure are:
* Dizziness or dizzy spells
* Headache
* Nosebleeds

When you are at risk of having high blood pressure and/or you know you already have high blood pressure, it is a good idea to have a good basic blood pressure cuff, at home, to check your blood pressure once a week, or more often, if necessary.

One needs to keep in mind, that your blood pressure does not remain the same throughout the day. I may be lowest in the morning, when you have first gotten up. Therefore, it is good to wait, about an hour, before checking your blood pressure. Sit, resting for at least one minute, with the cuff on. Take a nice deep breath and let it out slowly before checking your pressure.

HOW TO MANAGE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE NATURALLY

The basics:
* Maintain healthy weight – helps keep blood pressure stable
* Exercise – strengthens the heart muscle and helps oxygenate the blood
* Diet – whole grains, vegetables, fruits, potassium rich foods and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil and certain plant and nut oils. A healthy died reduces the intake of sodium, saturated fat, and avoids dairy, white flour and sugar. and minimizes intake of meat.
* Reduce stress, which is easier said, than done. More important is to learn ways to deal with stress in your life.
* Herbs and supplements – there are a number of herbs and supplements, that can help reduce blood pressure. Below, I will mention some that you can take to get started lowering your blood pressure.
* Lower your cholesterol, if it is high. There are also herbs and supplements, that can help to lower cholesterol.

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR LOWERING BLOOD PRESSURE
Herbs and supplements have been used for thousands, of years, in traditional medicine, to support heart health and the circulatory system. In more recent times, research has confirmed this traditional wisdom.

L-Arginine

http://www.swansonvitamins.com/SW1293/ItemDetail?n=0

* A vasodilator – opens blood vessels, to lower blood pressure.
NOTE: Should not be given after a heart attack. Can have negative effects.

Following is a link, for an article that explains the benefits of taking L-Arginine, and some drug interactions – meaning which drugs, L-Arginine should not be taken with.

Hawthorn Berry –

Hawthorn Berry is considered a “cardiotonic herb”, meaning it strengthens the heart, and helps to support healthy blood vessels. It gives good antioxidant support.  At the end of a 16 week randomized, controlled trial, patients taking the hawthorn supplement had a significant reduction in mean diastolic blood pressure (2.6 mm Hg). No herb-drug interactions were reported.

Recommended dose is 250mg, two times daily (best if every 12 hours).

Fish oil


Preliminary studies suggest that fish oil may have a modest effect on high blood pressure. Although fish oil supplements often contain both DHA (docohexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), there is some evidence that DHA has an anti-inflammatory effect, and is the ingredient that lowers high blood pressure. Learn more about fish oil:

I prefer Omega 3-6-9, because each of these Omega oils are helpful in many ways, not just for lowering elevated blood pressure. One important thing they do, is to reduce inflammation, in the body. Not just in joints, but also in multiple organs, including the heart. The reduced inflammation is also important for reducing risk of cancer. Inflammation is also one cause of acne, so reducing inflammation also helps minimize acne. The one I use is: http://www.swansonvitamins.com/SWE020/ItemDetail?n=0

Niacin – Lowers triglycerides and cholesterol. Studies have shown a decrease in incidence of heart attack, as well. Many complain of “flushing”, which is not dangerous, but merely a result, of increased blood flow, due to vasodilation or opening of the blood vessels.  It is possible to get “Flush Free” Niacin, which eliminates the discomfort, of flushing.

Flush-Free Niacin 500mg 250 Capsules $13.79 ( I take 1 capsule three times daily) http://www.swansonvitamins.com/SWU081/ItemDetail
• Eliminates flushing with a special form of vitamin B-3 known as inositol hexaniacinate
* Because niacin is a vasodialator, it also helps lower blood pressure

Folic acid
Folate is a B vitamin, necessary for formation of red blood cells. It may help to lower high blood pressure in some people, possibly by reducing elevated homocysteine levels, Following is a link, to an article, about why it is important to keep homocysteine levels down.

Pine Bark Extract

The above link, is where I get my pine bark extract. I have looked around, and this is the highest quality, for the best price. I take one capsule twice a day.

Pine bark extract, is an exceptionally high quality antioxidant, that helps keep the cardiovascular system healthy and flexible, so that you can maintain heathy blood pressures. It also helps keep the blood vessels clean, so you are at less risk of building up or “sclerosing”, of the arteries and veins, which means less risk of stroke.

Horse Chestnut Extract – Horse chestnut is an amazing herb, that has many helpful qualities for cardiovascular health.  It has been used as a traditional remedy to improve leg vein health. It tones and protects blood vessels and may be helpful in ankle edema related to poor venous return, and is also helpful, for some, with chronic neuralgia or lower extremity nerve pain. It has also been found helpful, for leg ulcers and frostbite, and can be taken internally, as well as applied topically, in the form of a lotion, ointment or oil.

Nattokinase

Nattokinase has been used in Japan, for centuries, to support healthy blood flow, thereby promoting circulatory and cardiovascular health. It decreases the ability, of the blood to be sticky, thereby decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis, or fat and plaque sticking to the inside, of the blood vessels, making them smaller, and increasing the risk of clot formation. When the diameter, of blood vessels is decreased, it also increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack.

Because nattokinase, tends to “thin the blood”, if you are taking a baby aspirin or regular aspirin daily, you should not continue taking the aspirin, with nattokinase, as this would increase your risk of bleeding internally.

This article is a work in progress:  I have posted it as is, because several of my friends, are asking for information, about how to get better, following  a cardiac crisis.  I am not telling you to stop listening to your doctor . . . merely to consider some natural options, for improving your cardiovascular health, and minimizing your risk of having a heart attack and stroke.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

The information, herein, has not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.  The information, posted here, is the opinion of the author, is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.  You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a health care professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.

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