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The heart is the muscle of the body that most works. It beats around 115.000 times a day, with an average rate of 80 beats per minute, which is the same as saying that it beats 42 million times in a year. The latest news regarding heart and circulatory system diseases reveals that every second a person dies in our country, as a result of cardiac pathologies. To improve our heart health care and reduce the risks of suffering a stroke or heart attack, we must understand how our cardiovascular system works and follow the basic advise to protect it better.
There are some factors and cardiovascular risk markers which are normally associated with heart disease: high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, genetic factors, stress, obesity, and heart rate anomalies.
What is hypertension?
When the heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries which applies pressure to them. This pressure is what makes it possible for blood to flow through the body.
This pressure is categorised as two types: systolic and diastolic. The first is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The second occurs when the heart rests between beats.
If the pressure rises above what is considered the normal range (there are several parameters based on sex and age), this would be what we call high blood pressure
Hypertension is a very common disease in today's world. The problem with hypertension is that in many cases it is a "silent evil". One can have high blood pressure yet not display any symptoms, so for this reason it is essential to prevent it from developeing in the first place.
If left uncontrolled, it can affect the functioning of the heart, brain and kidneys. Remember that high blood pressure is a cardiovascular risk factor and that it also increases the risk of suffering a stroke.
It is vital to lead a healthy lifestyle if one wishes to control it: exercise, healthy eating, weight control, reducing salt in meals, reducing alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco and caffeine and reducing stress.
Symptoms of hypertension
The problem with hypertension is that it does not cause any noticeable symptoms in the majority of cases. However many people do experience intense head pains, nausea or vomiting.
What is high cholesterol or hypercholesterolemia?
Hypercholesterolemia is one of the major risk factors when it comes to suffering a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems. It is a blood cholesterol level above the range that is considered normal.
The body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function properly. There are basically two types of cholesterol. Low density lipoprotein (LDL), known as "bad cholesterol", which mobilises cholesterol from the liver to other cells in the body, and high density lipoprotein (HDL), known as "good cholesterol" that does the opposite job of mobilising cholesterol from other cells and carrying it to the liver.
We must always keep these two types of cholesterol balanced and within the ranges that are considered healthy.
However, unbalanced diets and lack of physical activity as well as other factors, can lead to an increase of cholesterol known as LDL or "bad cholesterol" in the blood stream, that can easily "stick" to the walls of blood vessels forming atheroma, small areas of plaque that clog up the vessels.
This can cause various and quite serious diseases: circulatory problems, arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarctions and cerebral thrombosis.
The reason why we might have high cholesterol is often unknown, but there are certain factors that are conducive to it, such as family history, diet or certain pre-existing diseases. Lack of exercise and a diet high in cholesterol, saturated fat and calories are the most common triggers.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack, also known myocardial infarction or acute coronary syndrome, occurs when an area of the heart muscle is damaged or dies due to lack of oxygen. Coronary circulation carries oxygen to the heart muscle.
A large percentage of heart attacks take place because of a blockage that causes the blood to flow very slowly or when a vessel is directly plugged, causing arrhythmias or cardiac arrest. This is when the heart stops beating and what doctors call a heart attack or sudden cardiac death occurs.
Heart attacks can be treated when they are quickly diagnosed. However, without treatment heart attacks can be lethal.
Patients who survive a heart attack suffer serious damage even if they overcome the infarction. The consequential damage of cardiovascular diseases includes arrhythmias, heart failure, and a weak, slow functioning of the heart.
Symptoms of a heart attack
The typical symptom of a heart attack is a pain in the chest, in the area next to the left arm. However, in certain cases this symptom does not appear before the heart attack, so it becomes much more difficult to detect its appearance.
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, while others begin slowly, before manifesting symptoms such as:
- Chest discomfort, usually with the feeling of an uncomfortable pressure, a stabbing sensation or an acute pain.
- Discomfort in the upper part of the body. Pain or discomfort in one arm or both, or in the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without discomfort in the chest.
- Other symptoms: dizziness, vomiting, nausea or cold sweats that an attack may be occurring.
The most common symptom of female heart attacks is chest discomfort, the same as it is with men. But women are more likely than men to suffer from some of the other symptoms described above, such as breathing difficulties, dizziness, vomiting and pain in the jaw or back.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a serious problem that occurs when there is an interruption in the circulation of the blood that goes to the brain. A stroke is also known as a cerebrovascular accident.
There are basically two types of strokes. The first is called an ischemic stroke, caused when a clot clogs or obstructs a blood vessel in the brain. Roughly 80% of strokes are ischemic.
The second type is known as a hemorrhagic stroke (cerebral hemorrhage) producing a rupture and bleeding from a blood vessel in the brain. 20% of all strokes that occur are of this second type.
A stroke can affect the entire body. The effects of a stroke can vary from mild to severe, and can include paralysis, problems with reasoning and speech, vision and motor coordination problems. Patients can also feel pain and numbness after a stroke.
The chances of suffering a stroke increases among the elderly over 65 years of age.
Symptoms of a stroke
The symptoms may be very diverse and depend on the area of the brain that has been affected. The most frequent signs of a cerebral accident are headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty talking, blurred vision or loss of vision.
What is heart failure?
It can be caused by many different heart problems. High blood pressure that is not well-controlled can be a reason for heart failure, although the most common cause is coronary artery disease of (CAD).
This disease occurs when the arteries that bring blood to the heart become narrowed by the buildup of fatty deposits called plaques.
The heart cannot pump enough blood which can thereby accumulate in other areas of the body. Fluid accumulates in the lungs, the liver, the gastrointestinal tract and in the arms and legs. This is called "edema".
Some people are more likely than others to suffer from congestive heart failure: people with high blood pressure, those who have already suffered a heart attack, abnormal coronary-valves, overweight people, people with a familiar history of heart disease or diabetes.
Symptoms of heart failure
- Swelling of the feet and legs
- Lack of energy, feeling tired
- Coughing with phlegm
- Loss of appetite
- A swollen or tender abdomen
- Trouble breathing at night
- Increased urination at night
- Memory problems
How to maintain heart health and avoid the risk factors of heart disease
There are many factors that influence cardiac pathologies. Some of them we cannot control, but others we can. Certain personal factors, such as age, sex or a prior family history of cardiac pathologies cannot be avoided. The chances of cardiovascular diseases increase with age and statistically men are more likely to suffer a heart attack than women.
It is essential to know the risk factors so that we can lower the chances of suffering a stroke or cerebral accident. It is also important to follow advice and recommendations to maintain the health of our hearts.
We can avoid the most dangerous causes of cardiovascular disease, including: obesity and excess weight, smoking, consumption of alcohol, diabetes, stress, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, eating too much and eating unhealthy foods.
These factors can be reduced and even eliminated completely.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is very important in taking better care of the heart. This lifestyle should include a diet in which healthy food prevails.
In this regard, diet is an essential factor. Avoid foods that contain too much fat and eat fruits and vegetables every day . It is also important to regularly do sports or exercise, lose weight and lower cholesterol.
With these simple guidelines we can reduce the risk of suffering heart disease and thereby improve our health and life expectancy.
Products that are good for the heart
There are certain products that are 100% natural and good for the heart as they help to prevent atherosclerosis, heart failure or thrombosis.
Among them we must highlight the extracts of certains plants, such as pomegranate. The polyphenols that are found in pomegranate extract possess an antioxidant action that promotes the pevention of cardiac diseases and reduce oxidative stress.
Taking pomegranate extract helps prevent the development of coronary endothelial dysfunction, which is linked to certain conditions such as atherosclerosis or high blood pressure.
Grape seeds are another of the best supplements for the heart. Studies show that grape seed helps prevent cardiovascular system diseases and atherosclerosis. The tannins contained in the grape have been seen to strengthen the arterial walls. In addition, they decrease the platelet aggregation in the blood, thus avoiding the risk of heart attack.
Ribose is one of the best products for the heart. It gives this organ the strength it requires for its optimal functioning.
Ribose increases the heart's correct functioning when doing physical exercise and decreases the stress associated with exertion.
Krill oil is an extraordinary source of Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These fatty acids can positively influence on risk factors that produce cardiovascular diseases, such as lower triglyceride and blood pressure levels, as well as having an antiplatelet and anti-inflammatory effect.
Coenzyme Q10, especially ubiquinol, are other supplements for circulation. It is a fat soluble molecule that plays a very important role in the synthesis of energy within the cells of the body. It also has incredible antioxidant properties. Low levels of coenzyme Q10 may be related to an increased probabilities of heart failure.
L-arginine is certainly one of the best products for circulation. It is an amioacid with vasodilator properties. It acts as a preventive agent of heart attacks as it helps to dilate arteries, thus avoiding the formation of clots. It also avoids the creation of plaques in arterial vascular walls.
The importance of nutrients and vitamin supplement in caring for the heart
Sometimes it is not enough to lead a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet; one must also provide the necessary nutrients to our heart in order to keep it healthy and strong.
The supplements that improve heart health, promoting the better functioning of the cardiovascular system, are the multivitamin products that contain vitamins, minerals and trace elements that the heart needs.
Vitamins from this group play an crucial role for the correct functioning of the cardiovascular system. For example, folic acid i essential to neutralize homocysteine and niacin intervenes in the formation of blood cells, thinning blood, avoiding artery hardening and reducing high cholesterol levels.
Vitamin K is essential for blood coagulation, thus it is key for maintaining a correct blood circulation.
There is a close connection between the lack of magnesium and heart arrhythmias. A shortage of magnesium can increase the probabilities of suffering abnormalities in the myocardial membrane potential, a factor that promotes electric instability and heart arrhythmias.
As mentioned previously, vitamin K is well known for its blood clotting properties. In certain contexts, the term "coagulate" can raise some concern, due to its unwanted processes (brain clot, blocked arteries...). However, this is far from the real benefits offered by this essential vitamin. Such is its importance that newborn babies are given an injection of vitamin K so as to avoid "hemolytic disease of the newborn" (HDN). This disease leads to a deficit of coagulation factors due to the newborn having a low level of this vitamin in their body.
Ubiquinol has been available as a dietary supplement for over thirty years and has been studied in depth for a long time. It is very sensitive to light and air, so it was necessary to stabilise the substance to be able to market it as a dietary supplement.
Clinical trials have shown that ubiquinol is better absorbed by the body than conventional CoQ10 coenzyme.
As we get older or become sick, the capacity to generate coenzyme Q10 and transform it into ubiquinol (its active and useful form) is lost.
Heart failure is often associated with low levels of coenzyme Q10 in the blood. Several clinical studies have shown that an additional intake of coenzyme has enormous benefits for patients suffering from heart failure.
One of these studies showed that a daily intake of 300 mg of this coenzyme for a month improved cardiac and arterial health. If one follows an exercise programme simultaneously, the benefit is even greater.
Statins, a group of drugs that are usually prescribed for lowering cholesterol, also reduce the production of CoQ10 by the body, which can cause arterial damage (cardiomyopathy in particular).
The human body produces energy in its cells through sugars that are consumed in the diet, especially through ATP or adenosine triphosphate, which is the main energy supplier in the body.
When energy reserves are exhausted, they must be restored again. This is especially important after having suffered a disease, having been exposed to stressful situations, or having been physically exhausted after doing sport or intensive training.
Ribose is a special sugar that helps the body to stimulate the production of energy in the cells and to replenish its reserves.
Magnesium is not only an alkaline earth metal but also an essential mineral for the human body.
Magnesium plays an essential role by providing the metabolism with energy, and is therefore particularly important for active people.
Magnesium is also involved in the nervous system and it’s basic for muscle functioning.
Arginine not only prevents thrombi in the blood vessels, but it also acts as a vasodilator, enhancing blood flow from the brain to the muscles of the male sexual organ.
Arginine is essential to the immune system, since it is involved in the release of norepinephrine, growth hormone and insulin.
It also helps in the development of tissue and muscle mass. The deficiency occurs mainly in cases of high-performance sports, stress, smoking, growth phases or injury.
Krill oil is extracted from krill, a type of shrimp that lives in the cold seawater of the antarctic ocean.
This crustacean is the food supply of the biggest marine animals and it’s not contaminated by heavy metals or toxins. Each year, only a small part of krill is captured. Because they reproduce so fast, krill provision is almost unlimited.
These crustaceans, similar to shrimps, live in huge sandbanks in the cold and clear Antarctic waters.
Although there is no exact number, the German Nutrition Society (DGE), recommends taking 0.5 percent, between daily food, in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids to ensure adequate intake. The corresponding amount in a daily diet of 2400 kcal would be to 1.25g in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids.
However, many therapists recommend taking higher doses for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases or inflammatory processes. In these cases the body needs more of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be taken as dietary supplements.
Punicalagins are polyphenols that are only found in pomegranate and have great general benefits for the body. They protect the cardiovascular system, reduce bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and increase the response time to heart blockages, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
In addition, they naturally reduces blood pressure, helping to avoid the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
This fruit is, in fact, good for the heart and blood vessels in general and has several other benefits: helping to prevent various types of cancer, such as breast, prostate, colon, and leukemia.
Curcumin extract is one of the most common spices at home, but it’s much more than that. In the recent years, there’s been a growing interest among medicine professionals due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
When the body reacts to an injury, there are several changes produced by free radicals. This free radicals or “oxidants” protect the body from external invaders, like it’s the case of infections. When these invader oxidant bacteria are being destroyed, our own cells can also be damaged. This oxidants include superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals and lipid peroxides.
Vitamins belonging to the B group vitamins are water-soluble, so they can be quickly assimilated. However the excess is expelled in the urine, so we must therefore eat a daily minimum amount to avoid a deficiency.
Vitamin B increases energy, helps the muscle function, helps keep our immune and cardiovascular systems healthy and is essential for strong hair and healthy and beautiful skin.
Those who are under constant stress need a lot of B-complex vitamins. Vitamin B helps to calm the nerves, increases intellectual energy and allows you to deal with everyday stress.
Vitamin C is essential for the formation and maintenance of collagen, the main component of the skin, connective tissue, and bones.
It is an antioxidant and protects cells and tissues from the attacks of free radicals and aggressive molecules.
Ascorbic acid strengthens the immune system in two ways: it promotes the creation of antibodies and is used by white blood cells as a defence against viruses and bacteria.
A severe deficiency of vitamin C can have serious consequences, such as causing scurvy, the ancient sailor's disease.
Around fifty percent of the population does not have their basic daily needs for vitamin E covered.
Although health authorities recommend a daily dose of 12 to 14 milligrammes of vitamin E for prevention of the appearance of various diseases, clinical studies advise that the daily dose should be 200 to 800 IU (international units). 100 IU equals 67 milligrammes of vitamin E.
It is important to know that this daily dose is the minimum of vitamin E that can be consumed to prevent acute deficiency symptoms, but this is enough to promote health and vitality.
Lecithin has various properties that are beneficial to the organism. It settles directly in the mucosa of the stomach and intestines during digestion, fortifying it. The stomach and intestines are thereby better protected.
One of its basic properties is to protect against stomach acids and pharmaceutical products, which usually attack the stomach lining.
In addition, lecithin also protects the tissues and organs from harmful substances that may include food and medications in some cases.