Optimising Heart Health

Supporting You In Finding Optimal Heart Health

We are all very aware of the importance of our heart and entire cardiovascular system, but as a nation we are not doing a very successful job of keeping our hearts healthy. Strokes and heart disease are responsible for about 25% of all deaths in the western world. Both conditions are referred to as ‘silent killers’ because the first symptoms or signs in many cases is a fatal event.

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Possible Signs & Symptoms

The first indication that there may be a problem could be flagged in a routine screening of cholesterol markers with a GP.

Symptoms can include

  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure and chest discomfort (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of your body are narrowed
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back

Major risk factors include

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Continued stress
  • Insulin resistance
  • Chronic inflammation

Opportunities to address these imbalances

It is hard to believe that the idea of heart disease being reversible through modifiable lifestyle choices was a radical one just 30 years ago. Today, many medical bodies emphasise the value of lifestyle interventions, and yet the encouragement of this from doctors’ offices is likely not as thorough as it could be.

When we consider the above risk factors we start to understand the importance of diet and lifestyle in the management of cardiovascular health. The maintenance of healthy lifestyle signals is a powerful and necessary therapy for individuals at all points along the continuum between vibrant health, dysfunction, pre-disease and diagnosed disease.

Dietary patterns have changed dramatically in Western countries over the last 100 years. With few exceptions, studies have shown that these changes have been harmful for the populations that consume them, leading to a higher risk of nearly all chronic disease. 

A review of the data has shown that diets consisting of saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, high glycemic load and low folate levels are linked to increased heart disease; while diets consisting of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, low glycemic load and high in fruits and vegetables consistently lower cardiovascular risk in populations that consume them.

Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve cardiovascular health by decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation, improving mitochondrial function, cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

Nutrients that are essential for optimal heart health include omega fatty acids, magnesium, CoQ10, Alpha-lipoic acid, Vitamin B3, Vitamins, D, E and K and more.

Statins are not the only answer.

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Functional Testing options

The risk of developing heart disease has traditionally been assessed by measurement of LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; the carrier of “bad” cholesterol) and HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; the carrier of “good” cholesterol). Recent studies demonstrate that about 50% of heart attacks and strokes occur in people with ‘normal’ cholesterol levels. This suggests that many people at risk are presumed low-risk because they have “normal” or controlled cholesterol levels. Therefore, routine cholesterol tests may fail to fully identify people at risk of heart attack and stroke. 

Although it is essential to assess your cholesterol levels, adverse cardiac events (such as heart attack, stroke or death) have been associated with inflammation, specifically vulnerable plaque related to increased white blood cell activation.

More comprehensive cardiovascular profiles including markers of inflammation such as homocysteine, myeloperoxidase, oxidised LDL and F2-Isoprostanes better help evaluate cardiovascular risk. These indicators help us understand more specifically the development of metabolic or cardiovascular disease, and the formation of vulnerable plaque which may contribute to an increased risk of an adverse event.