Supplements for Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular health problems are on the rise, largely due to poor diet, sedentary lifestyles and high stress levels of the modern world. Hypertension (high blood pressure), known as the "silent killer", is virtually asymptomatic until a more serious problem arises. Arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, and atherosclerosis, a blockage of the arteries, are common forms of heart disease.

When blood can't flow freely through constricted arteries and fatty deposits build up, resulting blockages restrict blood, nutrient and oxygen supplies to the heart. This can lead to angina, arryhthmia, thrombosis, coronary artery disease, stroke, congenital heart failure and heart attack.

While pharmaceuticals may be prescribed, diet and exercise can help prevent or manage symptoms of some of these cardiovascular conditions. Lower your salt intake and consumption of processed foods. Consume less saturated fats and LDL (the bad cholesterol). Eat plenty of foods rich in essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 (found in fish) and omega-9 (found in olive oil). This can lower your levels of triglycerides, the chemical form in which most fat exists in your body.

Take plenty of antioxidants including vitamin C, E, beta carotene (vitamin A) and other carotenoids, which can fend off free radicals and help prevent cell damage. Vitamin E can also raise the levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) in the body and block the oxidation of LDL, the first step in forming plaque that can clog arteries. Vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid can reduce homocysteine levels, an amino acid which has been linked to heart disease.

Magnesium helps coordinate the heartbeat, and deficiencies in this mineral can lead to cardiovascular trouble. A selenium deficiency has also been linked to heart disease, so top up on these vital minerals. Chromium may prevent the build up of cholesterol in the arteries. Potassium, calcium and zinc are other important minerals for cardiovascular health.

Certain amino acids (taurine, carnitine, argubube) and coenzyme Q10 are also beneficial to the heart muscle. Garlic and ginger may help reduce blood pressure, and the herb hawthorn can widen arteries and improve blood flow to the heart. Some studies have found lecithin to be heart-healthy as well.

A Mediterranean diet containing oleic acid-rich olive oil, allicin-rich garlic, omega-3-rich oily fish, fresh produce, high fiber, plenty of antioxidant-rich foods and red wine may be beneficial.

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