Heart Health

Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease affects millions of people, and is a leading cause of death and disability. However in many cases, making more heart-conscious health choices could reduce your risk of conditions such as heart attack, stroke, High Blood pressure, high Cholesterol and Circulatory Problems.

Symptoms

  • In too many cases, the first symptom of cardiovascular disease is a heart attack or stroke - that's why your doctor routinely takes your blood pressure and Cholesterol readings during health checks
  • Together with other factors (including your age, your body weight, your family history, and whether you're a smoker), your blood pressure and Cholesterol readings help your doctor assess your heart health and estimate how likely you are to experience cardiovascular disease
  • Symptoms that may indicate heart or blood vessel problems, and consequently require medical investigation include:
  • Tightness, heaviness or squeezing pain or discomfort in the chest may be symptomatic of a heart attack, especially if the pain radiates to the back, neck or arms. Dizziness, Nausea or breathing problems may also occur. If you are even mildly concerned that you or somebody else may have had a heart attack, call for an ambulance immediately - urgent medical attention is vital, and it is better to be safe than sorry
  • Breathlessness at rest or during light activities, sometimes with Coughing or wheezing
  • Swelling or Fluid Retention of the feet, ankles, legs or abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Calf pain on walking (intermittent claudication)
  • Muscles may become easily Fatigued
  • Palpitations or the sense of an irregular heartbeat

Causes

  • Your risk of developing heart disease is a combination of some factors that you can't control, and many that you can. Non-modifiable risk factors include:
  • Your family history
  • Your age
  • Being male (although women are also at risk, particularly after Menopause)
  • Risk factors that can be addressed or modified include:
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Your blood pressure
  • Your Cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Your blood sugar level (especially if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic)
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Consuming excessive amounts of saturated fat, Cholesterol, salt, sugar or high glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates (e.g. refined wheat flour products such as white bread)
  • Consuming inadequate quantities of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats (e.g. from fish, nuts, seeds and avocados), or inadequate quantities of key nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium, omega-3s and co-enzyme Q10
  • Cholesterol molecules and the blood vessels are very susceptible to Free Radical Damage, which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Besides smoking, other factors that increase free radical activity can also elevate heart disease risk. These may include poorly controlled Blood Sugar problems, inflammatory health conditions, weight problems, and exposure to environmental pollutants. Low dietary levels of antioxidants may exacerbate the situation

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • If you are undergoing treatment for High Blood pressure, high Cholesterol or any other heart problem, do not take any nutritional or herbal supplements without prior consultation with your doctor. To do so may interfere with the efficacy or required dosage of your prescribed medication
  • Co-enzyme Q10 helps to maintain healthy functioning of the heart muscle, inhibits Free Radical Damage to Cholesterol molecules, and supports healthy blood pressure. It also plays a vital role in the cellular production of energy, and taking a supplement may assist in the temporary relief of Fatigue, especially in seniors, who have increased requirements for this nutrient. Look for a supplement supplying 150 mg per day
  • In Western herbal medicine, hawthorn has traditionally been regarded as a heart tonic. It assists in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure and heart muscle function, and also has antioxidant properties, which may help to explain its benefits for Cholesterol problems
  • Resveratrol is an antioxidant compound that is believed to be responsible for the cardiovascular protective effects of drinking a moderate quantity of red wine. Amongst other actions, resveratrol appears to help prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), help maintain the tone of the blood vessels, inhibit clot formation, and protect Cholesterol molecules from Free Radical Damage
  • Olive leaf also has antioxidant effects in the cardiovascular system, and may help manage blood pressure and maintain heart health
  • Magnesium plays a number of roles in the cardiovascular system, including helping to maintain the ability of the blood vessels to contract and dilate (open). It works closely with potassium to help maintain healthy blood pressure, and also supports the body's ability to deal with Stress
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or salmon oil help to maintain heart and blood vessel function, and healthy triglyceride levels. Be sure to choose a formula that is tested for purity so that you're not consuming excessive quantities of PCBs, mercury or lead
  • Phytosterols (also known as plant sterols) have been clinically proven to help maintain healthy Cholesterol levels when used in combination with a low-cholesterol diet and regular exercise. They work by helping to reduce the body's absorption of Cholesterol
  • Globe artichoke may help to reduce total and LDL-cholesterol levels, and is often taken with other traditional liver and gall bladder tonics, such as milk thistle and schisandra
  • Antioxidants that inhibit the oxidation of Cholesterol and help maintain the integrity of the blood vessels include co-enzyme Q10, vitamins E and C, and the herb grape seed
  • Garlic has tonic actions on the cardiovascular system, and may help to maintain both healthy blood pressure and healthy Cholesterol levels. Look for a product containing the equivalent of 3 g of fresh garlic bulb. Parsley is sometimes taken at the same time to reduce the odour of garlic
  • High blood levels of a compound called homocysteine increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and are also a risk factor for some Memory Problems, such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Taking folic acid, especially in combination with vitamins B6 and B12 may help to regulate homocysteine levels and assist in the maintenance of healthy cardiovascular, nervous system and brain function

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • If you have any form of cardiovascular problem, or are diabetic, do not take any nutritional or herbal supplements without prior consultation with your healthcare professional, as they may interfere with the actions of your prescribed medication
  • Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in olive oil, vegetables, legumes, seafood and fruit, and including small to moderate quantities of red wine is an enjoyable way to support your heart health
  • Eat plenty of nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables to ensure that you are consuming a wide variety of antioxidants and adequate potassium and folic acid. Green leafy vegetables, celery, garlic and onion are beneficial inclusions in your diet
  • Decrease or limit your consumption of offal, and fats from meat and dairy products, which contain Cholesterol and saturated fat. Instead choose lean cuts of meat, skim milk, and reduced-fat cheeses and yoghurts
  • Choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, from fish, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. In particular, try to eat several serves of oily fish (such as salmon, tuna or sardines) every week to maintain high levels of omega-3 fats
  • Avoid the consumption of trans fats whenever possible by eliminating takeaway and pre-packaged foods from your diet, and favouring healthy fresh foods. This will also reduce your salt (sodium) intake, helping to lower your blood pressure
  • Fibre has the capacity to bind to Cholesterol, allowing it to be excreted from the body. For this purpose, soluble fibre is the most effective form of fibre; good sources include psyllium, oats, barley and fibre from legumes and pulses
  • Restrict your alcohol consumption to a maximum of 1-2 serves per day, preferably of red wine, which is rich in antioxidants. Don't binge drink
  • Physical inactivity increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. After seeking your doctor's approval, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days of the week. A brisk walk is a great start, and will help manage your blood pressure, Cholesterol, body weight and blood sugar levels, and consequently support overall cardiovascular health
  • Don't smoke - it promotes Free Radical Damage, harms the blood vessels, and increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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