In February we will celebrate Heart Health Month, and a favorite heart (and chocolate) related holiday, Valentine’s Day. There’s no better way to celebrate this time of year than to share with those we love hacks (tips) for supporting cardiovascular health. Fortunately, in the nutrition field we have many guides available that review the studies, go deeper and share helpful tips we can all implement and achieve our goals of optimal health, avoiding prescription medications and all their side effects.
One of my favorite guides is board-certified cardiologist, Jack Wolfson, DO, FACC, whose book, ”The Paleo Cardiologist” was published a couple of years ago. In his book he describes his path from a having a typical drug- and surgery-based cardiology practice as part of a prestigious group of doctors, to studying the benefits of nutrition and herbal medicine as an adjunct and typically an alternative path of healing for his patients.
In his book he covers diet and lifestyle tips for cardiovascular health (and general health), including his ”Top Twenty Supplements,” and I would like to share these options with you in today’s and next two weeks’ columns:
Multivitamin: His first suggestion (and mine as well) is to take a multivitamin daily. He notes that ”a quality multivitamin will contain the foundation for a healthy supplement regimen and a healthy life.” Too often we are taking high doses of one or another vitamin or mineral, contributing to imbalance and deficiencies, and we can avoid this result with our multivitamin. The doctor shares a 2013 review of studies from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in which they found that ”multivitamins decrease overall mortality and appear to lower cardiovascular and cancer risk.”
Greens Powder: Raise your hands if you have three to five servings of veggies, especially greens, with each meal? Well, I didn’t see to many hand raised, and starting each day with a green drink as Dr. Wolfson does would help you increase your health-supportive vegetable intake. Another way to increase your intake of these nutrients is by adding a greens powder to your smoothie, or to a glass of water, as a simple way to supercharge your health. I usually bring a simple smoothie to work for my snack and always add a green powder as part of my recipe. I keep it simple, and enjoy that extra energy especially in the mid-afternoon when we usually feel that crash.
Chlorella and Spirulina: These are two of the ingredients of my favorite greens powder. Chlorella is nature’s detoxifier, and is a ”natural way to clean the body and the blood of toxic heavy metals,” while providing a lot of nutrients, such as protein. Loaded with both fat and water-soluble vitamins, chlorella can improve blood pressure control, and supports healthy cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. A freshwater algae, spirulina is a nutrient-dense powerhouse itself, supports immune function and may reduce the risk of stroke.
Omega-3: In our Standard American Diet (SAD) we get plenty of Omega-6 fats, most of which are toxic, rancid and contribute to our Omega 3 and 6 ratios being imbalanced, leading to higher levels of inflammation, and…you guessed it: cardiovascular and other dis-ease. According to Dr. Wolfson, there are hundreds of trials documenting benefits for asthma, allergies, eczema, dementia, depression and arthritis from regular intake of Omega-3. Whether we get this from coldwater fish, quality fish oil or algal supplements, he suggests we make sure there is both EPA and DHA, particularly important fatty acids which we typically do not get enough of.
CoQ10: Has your get-up-and-go got-up-and-went? Each of our cells has an energy factory called the mitochondria, and in this we find plentiful quantities of this unique nutrient which is present to protect the mitochondria from the damage of oxidation. Per Wolfson, ”without mitochondria, the energy currency of the body, ATP, cannot be formed.” CoQ10 comes in two forms: ubiquinone, for people under 40, and ubiquinol for us older folks. There a few forms of ubiquinone supplements that are fermented or otherwise processed to be useful for most age groups. Which one of your energy-using muscles is working hard while you read this? You guessed it; your heart!
Vitamin K: While most people are familiar with the roles vitamin D plays as a critical nutrient for our health, Wolfson acknowledges that vitamin K is the ”orphan Annie of the fat-soluble group” of important nutrients, not as recognized for its many roles in supporting our health. While as most of you know vitamin D supports the uptake of calcium and keeps it floating around in our blood, it’s vitamin K that stores calcium in our bones and teeth. Vitamin K is found in both K1 and K2 forms, with K1 (from green leafy veggies) supporting healthy blood clotting, and K2 supporting the abovementioned mineral absorption. K2 is produced by bacteria in our large intestine, and is found in foods such as grass-fed butter. According to Dr. Wolfson, vitamin K2 can support a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, lower inflammation, and keeps calcium where we need it: in our bones and teeth, instead of in our arteries.
These are the first few of Dr. Wolfson’s ”Top Twenty Supplements”; stay tuned for next week’s column for vitamins E, C, D, and the balance of these important nutrients as we get ready for this February’s Heart Health Month.
For more information about this subject, stop in and see me and pick up a copy of Dr. Wolfson’s book, which is also hopefully available at your favorite bookstore and library. Salud!
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/.