Nutrient to prevent heart disease

The twentieth century has seen an unprecedented epidemic of heart disease in the developed world. People from other cultures are also affected when they move into developed countries, and it has even begun to affect parts of the Third World where people have copied the unhealthily sedentary, junk food oriented lifestyles of the West. We do not yet fully understand what has gone wrong, but we have at last begun to investigate and tackle the problem.

Known risk of heart disease

  • Tobacco smoking is the single most easily avoidable cause of heart disease.
  • Raised cholesterol levels in the blood undoubtedly increase the risk of heart disease. It is likely, however, that dietary deficiencies also contribute to the narrowing of arteries in the heart muscle that can cause angina and, if they become totally blocked, heart attacks.
  • Hypertension is the technical term for raised blood pressure. It has many causes and can itself cause heart attacks, heart failure (when the heart becomes less effective) and strokes.
  • Obesity can contribute to raised blood pressure, diabetes and raised cholesterol, as well as reduce the inclination to exercise.
  • Stress can also lead to raised blood pressure through increased adrenaline (epinephrine) output, and its effects may be intensified through excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol and an unbalanced diet.
  • Lack of exercise means that the heart muscle does not get a 'work out' , which it needs, like other muscles of the body, to remain strong.
  • Drinking soft water can mean an inadequate intake of magnesium and calcium.
  • Family history cannot, of course, be changed. Heart disease does 'run' in some families, but it is not inevitable, and members of such families may well avoid it by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Checklist to a healthy heart

CONSIDER TAKING ONE OF THE FOLLOWING HERBAL HELPERS
GARLIC helps to normalize the level of fat in the blood and can reduce the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries.

CAYENNE CHILLI may reduce the risk of blood clots in the arteries.

GINGER can stimulate the circulation.

OATS can help to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when available.

  • stop smoking.
  • If you are overweight, try to reduce your weight to within about 10 per cent of the ideal weight for your height.
  • Eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains: the fibre that these contain helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Eat nuts and seeds in moderation.
  • Reduce intake of animal fat both in red meats, cheese, butter and dripping, and in cakes, pastries and pies. Try to reduce the fat in your diet to about 25-30 per cent of your total calorie intake (around 55-80g (2-3oz) per day).
  • Eat fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week.
  • Limit your intake of salt, sugar and alcohol.
  • Take regular exercise three or four times a week. (Consult your doctor before starting vigorous exercise if you are over 30, or have any medical condition.)

Help your heart to health

MAGNESIUM may be the single most important nutrient to protect against heart disease, so eating food that is rich in magnesium should be a high priority. It helps to dilate the arteries of the heart, steadies the activity of the heart muscle, and has a generally mild tranquillizing action.

SELENIUM AND VITAMIN E are antioxidants that are thought to be able to reduce the risk of heart attacks.

ZINC helps to repair damaged tissues, but in high doses (over 100mg a day) may increase cholesterol levels.

CALCIUM works with magnesium to keep the heart beating normally.

VITAMINS C, E, B3, B6, F, CHROMIUM AND SELENIUM all help to prevent the fatty deposits (atheroma) that cause narrowing of the arteries carrying oxygen to the heart muscle.

To avoid dietary imbalance, mineral and vitamin supplements should not be taken in large doses, except with professional guidance.