15 Feb Matters of the Heart
With matters of the heart at the forefront of our minds this week it drove me to write about what it takes to really make our hearts sing.
Despite declining trends over the past few decades1, the statistics and projections for cardiovascular health and inflammatory conditions in general are cause for concern. 7.6 million people in the UK are living with heart and circulatory diseases2 and in Jersey the projected increase in chronic diseases from 2016 – 2036 is alarming3:
|Atrial Fibrilation ↑67%||Heart Failure↑75%||Coronary Heart Disease ↑63%||Hypertension↑46%||Diabetes↑42%|
|Mental Health Disease↑29%||Dementia ↑100%||Chronic Liver Disease ↑25%||Asthma↑25%||Chronic Kidney Disease ↑74%|
What are the risk factors we can change4?
- High Blood Pressure5
- Raised Cholesterol5
- Elevated homocysteine levels
- Diet (high sugar, processed foods)
What we can’t control:
- Aging (getting older increases the risk)
- Sex (men are generally at a greater risk than women)
- Family history
How can we reduce our risk?
- Increase fibre by upping your intake of vegetables – aim for 10 a day.
- Eat the rainbow (diversity supports your microbiome, which in turn supports your cardiovascular health6)
- Lower your carbohydrate intake (improve blood glucose control, increase insulin sensitivity, improve your blood lipid profile (LDL, HDL, Triglyceride) and increase weight loss)
- Eat good quality fats in moderate amounts (avoid trans fats and focus on wild fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, grass fed organic meat, olive oil – Think Mediterranean!)
- Eat foods which increase Nitric Oxide and reduce blood pressure (beetroot, pomegranate, celery, lettuce, spinach, dark chocolate)
- Eat foods containing lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, shown to reduce arterial stiffness, inflammation, hypertension and much more (Tomatoes, tomato puree, watermelon, papaya, grapefruits and guava7).
Increase your movement:
- Include weight bearing exercise (help to balance blood glucose levels)
- Add some cardio (improve circulation, reduce blood pressure, reduce weight)
Include daily practices to reduce stress
- Mindfulness (find something that suits you from meditating, yoga, walking, being creative, using breathing techniques and so many more)
- Get out in nature
- Meet up with friends and family
- Learn something new
- Spend time with a pet
- Prioritize sleep (8 hours)
Reduce homocysteine levels by supporting methylation
What is Methylation? This is our biochemical language, the way the body communicates with itself within every cell, telling the cell to switch things on and off. Raised levels of homocysteine in the blood are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease8 and can indicate a problem with an individual’s methylation capacity. We need vitamins and minerals to keep the switches being activated in the right way and help our cells function effectively. To support methylation we can:
- Ensure a good intake of all B vitamins especially (folate, B12 and B6) through foods. (Wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, good quality meat, offal, eggs, poultry and seafood). It is essential for vegans to supplement B Vitamins.
- Support gut health to maximise nutrient absorption (this requires a blog, in its own right!)
- Reduce stimulants like alcohol, caffeine containing drinks and stress which can all deplete B vitamins
- Check your vitamin D level is not too low
- Ensure your protein intake is adequate (1g per kg of weight is recommended per day. In some circumstances you may need more)
- Use Nutrigenomic testing to understand if you have a genetic cause for raised homocysteine levels and use targeted supplementation to support it.
Ensure sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals
- Get these levels checked if you demonstrate any of the top three risk factors we can change (Magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, copper, vitamin D and active B12).
- Aim for 2 litres per day.
1. Bhatnagar P, Wickramasinghe K, Wilkins E, Townsend N. (2016) Trends in the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease in the UK, Heart;102:1945-1952.
2. The British Heart Foundation. (2021) Heart Statistics. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics
3. States of Jersey. Public Health Statistics Unit. Disease projections 2016-2036. Available at: https://www.gov.je/sitecollectiondocuments/government%20and%20administration/r%20diseaseprojections2016-2036%20140917%20ph.pdf
4. Hajar R. (2017). Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease: Historical Perspectives. Heart views: the official journal of the Gulf Heart Association, 18(3), 109–114.
5. GOV.UK. (2019) Guidance. Health Matters: preventing cardiovascular disease. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-preventing-cardiovascular-disease/health-matters-preventing-cardiovascular-disease
6. Trøseid, M. Anderson GØ, Broch, K & Roksund Hov, J. (2020) The gut microbiome in coronary artery disease and heart failure: Current Knowledge and future directions, eBioMedicine, Part of THE LANCET Discovery Science, 52, 102649.
7. Mozos, I., Stoian, D., Caraba, A., Malainer, C., Horbańczuk, J.O., and Atanasov, A. G. (2018) Lycopene and Vascular Health, Front. Pharmacol.
8. Kim M, Long TI, Arakawa K, Wang R, Yu MC, et al. (2010) DNA Methylation as a Biomarker for Cardiovascular Disease Risk. PLOS ONE 5(3): e9692.