While every month should be ”Heart Health” month, we at least focus on supporting our cardiovascular superpump one month each year, in February. 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 studies, go deeper and share helpful tips we can all implement to achieve our goals of optimal health: avoiding prescription medications and all their side effects.
As I wrote last week, 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.
His book covers diet and lifestyle tips for cardiovascular health (and general health), including his ”Top 20 Supplements.” Last week I shared the benefits of multivitamins, Greens powders, Chlorella, Spirulina, Omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10 and vitamin K, and will share the rest of Dr. Wolfson’s Top 20 options with you in today’s and next week’s columns:
7. Vitamin E: This vitamin is a key nutrient for maintaining our skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles. Keep in mind that as you are reading this, your heart muscle is working – pumping blood with its nutrients and other important molecules, such as oxygen, to all of your body’s regions. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the cells in your body from free radical damage. Protecting your cell membranes is key to health, since through these barriers our cells receive nutrients and remove waste, and communicate with other cell ”teammates.”
Vitamin E is made up of four different tocopherols and four different tocotrienols and it is suggested to supplement with a complex of these nutrients, which will also support normal blood clotting and an improved vascular endothelial function, leading to smoother blood vessel lining and better blood flow.
8. Vitamin C: Aargh! So, why do pirates not bathe before going on a sailing trip? Because they will wash ashore later on! Before we discovered the connection between vitamin C and scurvy, sailors, including pirates did not stay out to sea for long periods of time. They would complain of loose teeth, bleeding gums and would be described as having low energy or lassitude, and often ”walked the plank” since they were not earning their keep.
Vitamin C plays an integral role in collagen production; ”colla” is the Greek word for glue, and collagen is the glue that holds our body together: our gums, skin, bones, joint tissue and, of course, components of our cardiovascular system. Our blood vessels are made of collagen, and with vitamin C we can keep this collagen healthy, and as a result have better blood pressure levels.
9. Vitamin D: Low levels of this important vitamin are associated with just about every dis-ease we suffer from as a society. The list is long and includes coronary, stroke, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and cancer. One study found that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium dropped systolic blood pressure by 10 percent!
It’s always best to take your vitamin D along with your multivitamin – and of course always with vitamin K2.
We produce vitamin D in our inner skin layers when we are exposed to sunshine, which is not very abundant for much of our Northwest region. Get your vitamin D levels checked the next time your doctor orders blood work.
10. Digestive Enzymes: We can be making the best food choices, eating organic, plenty of veggies, but if we cannot absorb the nutrients in our food we can still be considered ”malnourished,” resulting in lack of energy (uh oh, don’t forget the plank!) and dis-ease. As we get older we produce less stomach acid and other enzymes that we need to break down our food – all of those macro- and micro-nutrients we need. If our food is not digested properly, large particles can irritate our digestive system lining, resulting in leaky gut and the potential for autoimmune diseases. Low stomach acid can lead to ”heartburn” and often to being diagnosed with GERD.
Dr. Wolfson notes that he does not prescribe ”dangerous pharmaceuticals that inhibit acid production, and started my patients on natural therapies” instead.
11. Berberine: This botanical extract found in many plants, including Oregon grape and barberry (roots) and is one of the paleo cardiologist’s favorite nutrients to support cardiovascular health. He sites many studies supporting adding this nutrient for improved lipid control, diabetes prevention, weight loss and memory retention. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found improvements in ejection fraction and exercise capacity in berberine-treated patients with congestive heart failure.
12. Hawthorne: His next suggested nutrient is from this thorny tree with nutrients in the leaves, flowers and berries that are a tonic for our heart and support improved LDL numbers, lower triglycerides, better bile flow, reduced edema, and improved ejection fraction and exercise performance.
These are just a few of Dr. Wolfson’s ”Top 20 Supplements.” Stay tuned for next week, when we’ll wrap up this series with L-Arginine, L-Citrulline, Magnesium, Probiotics, Taurine, Garlic, Beetroot powder, Nattokinase and Red-Yeast Rice, and celebrate 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 – 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/.