Nobody really stops to think how healthy his or her heart is until someone close to home suffers from a heart attack. That was my experience over the Christmas holidays, when my best friend’s brother suffered one of his first severe cardiac arrests – at the ripe old age of 35.
Consuming an abundance of alcohol and different types of foods over the holidays can be detrimental to our health if it’s not done in proper moderation. Statistics show that every 37 seconds an American dies of heart disease. What’s more, about 80 million American adults (one in three) have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.
The heart is one of the most important organs in the body and connects to the rest of our organ systems, so being conscious of how it functions and keeping it in balance is vital to supporting a happy, healthy and loving life. It’s important to understand the relationship of high triglyceride levels from our food consumption, especially saturated fats, processed foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates that can lead to plaques building up in the arterial walls.
The Role of Antioxidants in Heart Health
Antioxidants are the super foods of today that we need to prevent oxidation (damage to our tissues). To get the best results with any heart condition, it’s best to include antioxidants as part of a treatment plan. Here are some of the most common and effective antioxidants for heart healthy solutions:
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids plays a very important role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and the regulation of cholesterol levels in the body. They’ve been recognized as beneficial to cardiovascular health since 1996, when the American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement stating that they reduce triglycerides in the blood and inhibit the production of excess VLDL cholesterol.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from many sources, including fish oils. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends consuming Omega-3 fatty acids two to three times a day through the intake of whole fish. However, this doesn’t account for the risk of mercury toxicity. If you choose to eat whole fish, it’s best to consume small fish such as sardines, mackerel and anchovies. They feed at the bottom of the food chain, which means they have a lesser occurrence of mercury. The good thing is, there are quite a few choices when it comes to consuming these oils.
Other good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include oils derived from krill, algae and seeds such as flax and echium (the latter from the borage plant family). But remember, when using seed oils our bodies needs to convert it from its whole form into a more simpler substance for absorption. That’s done through our liver’s enzymatic functions, and if these pathways are blocked and we don’t have enough of the enzyme, it’s recommended to choose the simpler sources found in fish and krill, which can be obtained in a simpler supplemental form such as EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), another Omega-3 fatty acid.
EPA guards against cardiovascular diseases by fighting against unhealthy cholesterol, breaking down arterial plaque in our arteries, preventing blockages, promoting blood flow and reducing inflammation in the arteries as well.
Ubiquinone, often known as CoQ10 or Q10, is one of the most powerful antioxidants when it comes to maintaining proper heart health. Produced naturally by the body in the mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of our cells), its production declines as we age. Recognized as a coenzyme, it acts more like a vitamin in our bodies. CoQ10 improves the heart’s ability to pump enough blood for all the body’s needs. It’s also conducive to treating congestive heart failure. CoQ10 has been shown to improve arrhythmias, hypertension and reduce the oxidation of LDL. Statin, as well as other drugs, deplete stores of CoQ10, so take note and be cautious if you’re taking prescription drugs. A good preventative dose is around 300 mg per day; a maintenance dose could be anywhere between 30 to 200 mg per day.
Pycogenol is a standardized extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, rich in phenolic acids. Considered to be a miracle potent antioxidant when it relates to protecting the heart, pycnogenol has become a super-saver, and can be 100 times more powerful than Vitamin E. It deactivates free radicals, and recycles and prolongs the life cycles of vitamins E and C. Functions of pycogenol include lowering high blood pressure, preventing blood clots, repairing damaged capillaries, preventing fats deposits in arterial walls, protecting from DNA damage and lowering elevated blood sugar levels. A recommended dose would be 30-200 mg per day with meals.
This antioxidant is considered to be a strong and effective cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering nutrient that works most effectively in 30 days. It is a combination of polymethoxylated flavones, bioflavanoids and tocotrienols. Studies have shown that sytrinol is able to significantly lower total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, which improves the HDL: LDL ratio. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Recommended dosage is 300 mg per day, with or without food.
Considered the miracle mineral, magnesium is very important in managing cardiovascular diseases, and yet it’s also one of the most neglected. Magnesium prevents spasms in heart muscles and relaxes them, dissolves blood clots, counteracts free radical damage and helps in maintaining blood sugar metabolism. The recommended dose is 300 mg per day.
Vitamin E and Selenium
Vitamin E prevents blood clots, increases blood flow to the heart extremities, strengthens capillary walls, protects lipid cells and reduces blood cholesterol. It’s a very important antioxidant that works synergistically with Vitamin C and Selenium. Good food sources include dark green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, eggs and milk.
Selenium is also considered a potent antioxidant in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and for the maintenance of good heart health since it destroys free radicals in the heart. It’s also needed for the synthesis of CoQ10, and works synergistically with Vitamin E. Food sources include broccoli, eggs, garlic, onions, tomatoes, barley, oats and more.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoid
Our super antioxidant Vitamin C is a powerhouse because it has multiple benefits. Vitamin C destroys free radicals and regulates blood pressure. It’s also helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, along with bioflavonoids found in coloured vegetables. Vitamin C can either be supplemented or taken from food, as our bodies do not manufacture it.
Carotenoids (Beta Carotene)
Often times, carotenoids can be forgotten, but they’re very important in heart health. They fight free radical damage to the heart tissues and protect against pollution. Rich food sources include green and yellow fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupes, yams, spinach, kale broccoli, apricots, pumpkin and seaweed as well. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, is also very effective.
Last but not least on the list, this super-antioxidant can be found in red wine. While this isn’t a license to get carried away, taken in moderation, red wine can be an effective and enjoyable way to take in this potent antioxidant. Resveratrol helps in reducing free radical damage and blood sugar control, and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. It is a phytoestrogen found in red grapes, particularly in the skin. It is very sensitive to light and oxygen and needs to be properly stored. A 20 mg per day dosage is recommended, or a 15 mg capsule taken twice a day.