Bring Health to Your Heart with These Strategies

February 20, 2022

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I'm Kimberly - a women's health functional nurse practitioner.  I am here to help you achieve vibrant health!

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Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. Attending to the health of our hearts is important business at any age. Heart health is especially important, however, as we head into our middle years and beyond. (Read about my 13 Foundational Pillars of Midlife Health). In honor of Healthy Heart Month, lets gift our hearts with the best so that we may live long, healthy and vibrant lives.

At Valencia & Sage, LLC, I utilize a functional medicine and holistic health approach in my practice with women. This approach identifies the root cause of symptoms, illness and disease, including heart disease. Once the root causes are identified, I prescribe an individualized holistic and integrative approach for treatment. You can find out more about my approach HERE.

There are many commonly recognized recommendations to improve heart health and lower CVD risk. Maintaining healthy weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol… ensuring healthy sleep habits, getting enough exercise, prioritizing stress management… eating a heart healthy diet such as a plant based or Mediterranean diet… knowing your risk factors for heart disease, smoking cessation, and getting regular check ups for disease prevention are some of the basics. I commonly recommend all of these. There are a wealth of other strategies to consider. The following 13 strategies are some of the less commonly known or misunderstood, yet can have profound impact on heart health.

Know Your Options: Statins versus Red Yeast Rice for Heart Health

Medical providers commonly prescribe statins to help lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease. However, statins can cause side effects such as muscle pain, weakness, brain fog, and negative effects on the liver. Studies suggest that certain nutrients used in combination with statins may reduce adverse effects such as muscle-related symptoms. This may help patients maintain a prescribed statin intervention. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant. It is found in many fruits and vegetables. This nutrient supports optimal cardiovascular performance in patients with heart conditions and may help to counteract some statin-related side-effects.

Red yeast rice (RYR) is a fermented food well-known in traditional Chinese medicine for its beneficial effects in cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that RYR may be comparable to statin therapy, helping to lower lipid levels in patients with high cholesterol. RYR comes in a supplement form. Studies have shown that 1,200 mg of RYR extract orally per day can be effective in lowering cholesterol. As with all supplements, it is important to purchase from companies recognized for quality sourcing and manufacturing. It is also important to check with your medical provider before starting any supplements. If you would like to see my recommendations for responsibly sourced quality supplements, you can go HERE.

Eat Soluble Fiber to Lower Cholesterol & Improve Heart Health

Many foods and their nutrients help to support heart function through impacting levels of cholesterol. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be especially beneficial for heart health. Oatmeal and its soluble fiber are just one common example. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. Oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables all contain soluble fiber. A common fiber supplement, psyllium, also contains soluble fiber. It is important to get soluble fiber in your diet every day to protect your heart!

Eat Fish for Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Support Heart Health

Many people include fish in their diets. But where some fall short in regards to heart health, is getting ENOUGH fish or omega-3 fatty acids to be beneficial. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which are extremely beneficial to the health of the heart and cardiovascular system. We should strive to eat fish at least 2 times weekly. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids to include regularly in the diet are chia seeds, flax, walnuts, walnut oil. Research confirms the association between the consumption of marine omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and CVD mortality risk. Furthermore, both are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. Research suggests an increase of 20 grams of fish or 80 mg of omega-3 fatty acid intake daily can reduce CVD mortality risk by four percent.

Eat Grapes! Doing So Daily may Improve Cholesterol

A study showed that people who ate grapes every day for four weeks experienced a 6.1% decrease in total cholesterol and furthermore, a 5.9% decrease in LDL cholesterol. Eating grapes is heart healthy for several reasons. The polyphenols in grapes may help prevent CVD. In addition to scavenging free radicals, grapes have anti-inflammatory effects, antiplatelet effects, and support endothelial function. All of these benefits improve overall heart health and reduce the risk for heart disease.

Consider Caffeine – It May Help Protect Against CVD

A study found that caffeine may be able to help prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing LDL cholesterol. As suggested in the study, caffeine blocks certain proteins, which allow for LDL cholesterol to be removed quickly from the blood.  Of course, it’s best to consume caffeine only in moderation. Evidence suggests that typical moderate caffeine intake is not associated with increased risks of total cardiovascular disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, or blood pressure changes.

Consider Your Hormones: New Research Shows A Relationship Between Inflammation, Hormones, & Heart Disease

CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) is thought to be a lipid storage disease. Now, new research is signaling a stronger relationship between hormones (cortisol, estrogen, testosterone), chronic inflammation, and plaque buildup in the arteries. We know cortisol drives inflammation, but that’s not the whole story. Monitoring cortisol along with other hormone levels results in a much clearer picture of cardiovascular risk. One of the best hormone tests on the market it the DUTCH test which I use frequently in my practice. You can find out more about the DUTCH hormone tests HERE.

A recent study showed that adults may be at greater risk for developing heart disease due to higher incidence of anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. This finding stresses the importance of addressing anxiety and depression not only for mental health but for heart health as well. One way to address depression and anxiety is through telehealth psychiatry. CEREBRAL is one great option for this. Find out more about Cerebral Telepsychiatry HERE. I am contracted as a health provider part time for Cerebral. Therefore, if you live in Washington State and would like to see me through Cerebral, to address depression or anxiety, you can do so HERE.

Consume EVOO: Olive Oil can Reduce Mortality from Cardiovascular Disease (but make sure it’s quality oil!)

According to research, consuming even a small amount of olive oil (1/2 Tablespoon daily) is associated with lower total mortality. In addition, specifically related to the heart, those who consume more than 1/2 Tablespoon daily may have up to a 19% lower cardiovascular disease mortality. What many people don’t realize about olive oil, however, is that the quality of the oil is very important.

The highest quality olive oil is virgin or extra-virgin olive oil. This means it is not refined or highly processed. It should always say “virgin” or “extra-virgin” on the label. The highest quality olive oil will have a “pressed on” or “harvest date” noted on the bottle (this is different than the “best used by” date). Additionally, olive oil should smell and taste good… not rancid. It should smell and taste like fresh olives… grassy, green, and some can taste fruity or peppery. Rancid tasting or smelling oil is a sign of damaged oil, and this can actually be harmful to our health. Lastly, olive oil should come in a dark bottle as the 3 enemies of olive oil are light, heat, and air.

Brush Your Teeth! CVD Risk May be Higher in Adults with Periodontal Disease

Research shows that adults with periodontal disease such as periodontitis or gingivitis may have a higher risk of developing CVD than those who do not have periodontal disease. According to the American Heart Association, brushing your teeth twice a day for a least two minutes may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Know Your Tests: Testing These Specific Lipid Ratios Predicts Future Cardiovascular Events

New research has found that a test which measures the ratio of two lipid transporters in the blood is highly predictive of future cardiovascular disease. The test predicts events occurring as long as 20 years later. The test called “apoB/apoA-1 ratio” and can detect higher risk for CVD even in individuals who have seemingly normal or even low LDL cholesterol. I commonly order this cardiovascular health test panel that includes the apoB/apoA-1 ratio.

Include a Variety of Nutrients for the Heart

A diet that includes a variety of foods and adequate amounts of nutrients helps to support heart health. Nutrients work together in the body as cofactors. This ensures healthy cardiovascular and metabolic pathways, therefore, it is important to consume enough of each of them. The American Heart Association encourages individuals to include fruits and vegetables at every meal in order to consume a range of heart-healthy nutrients. Heart healthy nutrients include magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium, as well as other antioxidants and soluble fiber. A wide body of research concludes that higher intakes of fruits and vegetables result in lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and overall incidence of cardiovascular diseases. 

Consider these Targeted Nutrients for Heart Health

A large body of evidence suggests that selenium and antioxidants can decreases CVD mortality risk by up to 23%. Supplements used in the studies consisted of vitamin C (120 mg to 1,000 mg), vitamin E (15 to 30 mg or 200 to 800 IU), zinc (20 to 30 mg), beta-carotene (6 to 25 mg), and selenium (50 to 200 mcg) given in capsule or pill form. As always, when considering supplement use, it is best to check with your medical provider first. Find my favorite source for supplements HERE.

Have You Had COVID? You May Be At Higher Risk for Heart Disease…

A massive recent study has shown a long-term, substantial rise in risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular problems for at least a year after diagnosis. If you notice symptoms such as fatigue, lower activity tolerance, chest discomfort, heart palpitations (sensation of skipping beats) or heart racing, shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles or legs, lightheadedness, even if subtle, it is best to have this evaluated by your medical provider.

I created Valencia & Sage, LLC to offer women a different approach to health care. Furthermore, my approach focuses on finding the root cause of symptoms and illness, and treating the whole person with a holistic approach for foundational healing and living vibrance! Read more about why I created Valencia & Sage, LLC. If you would like to work with me specifically for heart health or for other health concerns, schedule your FREE CONSULTATION HERE. And if you would like to join my email list, JOIN HERE.

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