We do not know what we do not know. How can we begin to improve heart health if we do not know what causes heart disease? Do not make any changes to your lifestyle without consulting your physician first, especially if you are on prescription medicines currently.
(1) Blood Tests
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21527-homocysteine. I always order additional blood tests for my annual physical. One of them is the homocysteine test. Homocysteine is an amino acid that builds up when we become deficient in specific B vitamins (B12, B6, and B9). The normal range of homocysteine is between five and fifteen micromoles/liter. When homocysteine levels exceed 50 mcmol/L, the risk of blood clots and artery damage increases significantly. Other health issues to be aware of when your homocysteine levels constantly remain high are dementia, heart attack, osteoporosis, and stroke.
(2) Reduce High Fructose Corn Syrup
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/high-fructose-corn-syrup/faq-20058201. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is found in many foods – sodas, candy, salad dressing, frozen foods, bread, canned fruit, juices, granola bars, breakfast cereals, baked goods, sauces, condiments, coffee creamer, energy drinks, jams, jellies, ice cream, and many more. It is everywhere!
Sugars, especially HFCS, contribute to excess and unwanted calories. Weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, and other diseases have a root cause with increased sugars. Yes, it tastes good! However, it is not essential for excellent health. Read labels and cut back where you can.
(3) Immune System
https://vb.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/vb/1/1/VB-19-0023.xml. Our immune system is our first line of defense against invading pathogens. However, it also protects us from the normal scavenges of aging. The immune system senses danger. It does so when it is operating optimally.
Many people allow their immune systems to run down, which opens the door for diseases that would typically have been prevented. The heart and the immune system must be in balance. Cytokines, hormones, and neurotransmitters need to crosstalk among each other. Many stressors upset this balance leading to inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and tissue damage. A challenged immune system cannot mediate cardiovascular disease before it develops.
There are many ways to improve immune system health. A healthy diet containing balanced nutrition is absolutely needed. Exercise, hydration, quality sleep, stress management, and more also contribute to a fully functional immune system. I fast every month for at least 72 hours to reset my immune system. Fasting is a great alternative to consider.
(4) Periodontal Disease
https://www.perio.org/consumer/gum-disease-and-heart-disease. Many studies connect heart disease and gum disease. Inflammation in the mouth has a direct conduit to the heart through the blood vessels. Poor heart health can be exacerbated by periodontal disease.
If you are at risk for infective endocarditis, talk to your dentist about antibiotics before any dental work. Oral infection is a risk factor for stroke. Regular visits to the dentist for cleaning and corrective action should be part of any healthy lifestyle.
(5) Blood Pressure Checks
https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/05/22/how-to-accurately-measure-blood-pressure-at-home. High blood pressure, hypertension, is one of the top risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Blood pressure machines are in pharmacies and in many gyms. There are portable home monitors that provide instant results. Check your blood pressure periodically to determine your average blood pressure.
For the best results, avoid smoking, caffeine, and exercise 30 minutes before taking a reading. Sit still for five minutes before the actual reading. If your readings are high (above 120/80), record them and bring them to your next doctor’s appointment. If above 140/90, contact your physician. Not all monitors are calibrated. Take your monitor to your doctor’s office and have them take your blood pressure and compare it to your monitor’s reading.
(6) Ideal Weight
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/from-anorexia-to-obesity-how-weight-affects-your-heart/. Most people who are overweight have higher blood pressure than those of average or ideal weight. This is not absolute. There are skinny people with high blood pressure and fat people with normal blood pressure.
Being overweight increases the risk of higher cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes. High triglycerides is a risk factor you should discuss with your doctor. In addition, excess fat generates inflammation which increases C-reactive protein (CRP). Elevated CRP is a risk factor for heart disease.
This is an inexpensive blood test that I get with every physical. It gives the overall body inflammation status. It will not pinpoint the area causing inflammation, but it is enough to begin looking. Overweight is a problem, and so is underweight. Underweight can be the result of an imbalance of nutrition which can lead to heart disease. Consult your physician if you fall below the norms for your height and build.
(7) Nutritional Balance
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17079-heart-healthy-diet. I am an advocate for the Wahls Protocol, which provides over 30 nutrients our bodies require daily. Why? Two reasons! Number one – Dr. Terry Wahls develops multiple sclerosis late in life. No matter what the doctors did, her condition got worse.
She studied autoimmune diseases and wrote a book, The Wahls Protocol. She put herself on her own protocol (balanced nutrition, toxin removal, exercise, and stress management) and was able to walk using a walker in three months. She had spent the previous four years in a wheelchair, gradually declining in health. Three months later, she could walk with a cane, and by the end of the year, she could bicycle eighteen miles.
My wife adopted the Wahls Protocol on the first day of radiation therapy after months of chemotherapy. Her most significant side effect of the chemo drugs was fatigue. The radiologist told us that her fatigue would most likely get worse. She was taking one to two two-hour naps daily at that time. She started the Wahls Protocol on Day 1 of radiation, and 72 hours later, she stopped taking naps. A week later, she was volunteering her time at church.
On the last day of radiation therapy, we left Houston and drove a thousand miles to Jacksonville, Florida, to rent a U-Haul and bring back my parents’ estate items we wanted. She drove 500 miles two days in a row by herself 72 hours after her last radiation treatment.
Nutritional balance is key to excellent health. Nutritional deficiency can lead to many diseases. Portion control is an easy way to start eating less. Ensure your fiber is included in your meals or by supplementation. Choose healthy fats and proteins – organic, when possible, to avoid toxins.
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.0000048890.59383.8D How many studies constantly reinforce the need for daily exercise for health – especially brain and heart health. Exercise assists with weight management and normalizing blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin sensitivity.
More health improvement and mortality are seen from a sedentary to moderate exercise program than from a moderate to very active exercise program. Walking is a great exercise to begin if you love your couch. Do something daily to get your heart rate up and keep it there for at least ten to fifteen minutes.
(9) Drug Reduction
https://blogs.webmd.com/heart-health/20210121/considering-statins-what-a-cardiologist-wants-you-to-know. Prescription drugs address symptoms, not the cause of a problem. Talk to your doctor about reducing your medications by focusing on what is causing your health issue.
Many doctors believe that statin drugs are the best thing for heart health. I don’t see it this way. There are very few cases where a statin drug might be indicated appropriately to treat a cholesterol issue. Our bodies make cholesterol, and the foods we eat can also add cholesterol. Every cell in our bodies needs cholesterol. Half the people who die from a heart attack had normal cholesterol readings. So why is cholesterol a promising biomarker for heart health? I do not believe it is.
Almost every article I researched writing this article touted the heart health benefits of statin drugs. These drugs shut down the body’s production of coenzyme Q-10 (Co-Q-10), which has been shown in many studies to improve the symptoms of congestive heart failure and aids in recovery from bypass and other heart surgeries. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-coenzyme-q10/art-20362602.
Co-Q-10 has beneficial applications for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, migraines, and more. However, the side effects of statin drugs include liver inflammation, muscle aches (myalgia), and more. If you are on a statin drug, talk to your physician about taking Co-Q-10 supplements. Many people have no side effects, but some have severe complications from statin drugs.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6131403/. Ubiquinol is the reduced form of Co-Q-10. You may find supplements for Co-Q-10 that vary significantly in price. Look at the label. You may discover ubiquinone or ubiquinol. The higher-priced one is usually ubiquinol. That is the compound your body needs. The bioavailability of ubiquinone is very low.
Oxidative stress is a primary player in the world of cardiovascular disease. Ubiquinol is found in many parts of the heart. It is an excellent antioxidant that neutralizes the free radicals inflaming heart tissue. Many studies show the benefits of heart health to adequate levels of ubiquinone in the body.
(11) Vitamin D3
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/vitamin-d-and-the-heart. Most Americans are deficient in vitamin d3 (VD3). It is the sunshine vitamin and can be found in certain foods. I have written extensively on this vitamin over the years. Most of the literature appears to be behind the current norms for this vitamin requirement – at least 50 ng/ml. The link above references a need to keep in the 30 ng/ml to 60 ng/ml range. Fifty nanograms per milliliter should be considered the absolute minimum.
Many studies claim the need for higher levels of VD3 to lower cardiovascular risk. In addition, several studies show protective applications of VD3 and the pandemic virus by shutting down access to ACE2 receptors that the spike of coronavirus uses to access human cells. Therefore, I keep my VD3 levels above 80 ng/ml and have it measured annually. It is an inexpensive blood test and can be done locally in many areas.
(12) Vitamin K2
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-k2. Vitamin K2 is one of those vitamins that have so many interactions in the body. Most people think it is exclusively for improving bone health. The chemical road to get calcium from foods or supplements is to mix the calcium with magnesium in the stomach to make it more bioavailable in the body. Most people are deficient in magnesium, and the calcium ends up in the toilet.
When adequate magnesium levels, calcium passes out of the stomach and is pulled into the bloodstream if your VD3 levels are acceptable. If not, then the calcium ends up in the toilet.
When VD3 pulls calcium into the blood vessels, it will go to one of two places based on the levels of vitamin K2. Adequate levels of vitamin K2 will force the calcium into your bones. When vitamin K2 levels are deficient, the calcium is forced into your heart valves and arteries as calcium plaque.
You need vitamin K2 to keep calcium in your bones and not adding plaque to your heart.
These twelve items are recommendations. Improving our health begins with awareness. That leads to education which should lead to action. Between education and action should be a visit to your doctor to determine the best course of action to take. Then, it is up to you to make it happen.
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com