Cardiovascular disease is America's number one killer, taking the lives of 37% of the people who die each year. 71.3 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, congenital cardiovascular defects, hardening of the arteries, and other diseases of the circulatory system. Cardiovascular disease cost Americans $403.1 billion in 2006 for medical costs and disability. Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol within healthy limits, and not smoking, are the three most important and controllable factors in preventing or stopping the progression of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, there are many natural methods for maintaining a healthy blood pressure and keeping cholesterol levels optimal. (Remember to consult with a qualified health care professional before starting any supplementation program. Just because they are natural, that does not mean that all supplements are safe for each individual case.)
Sodium RestrictionApproximately 40-50% of people with high blood pressure are sensitive to sodium intake. Reducing sodium intake is an important first step in reducing blood pressure. This requires restriction in adding salt to foods, as well as avoiding processed foods. Processed foods include canned vegetables, prepared foods, pickles, salted snacks, and foods containing MSG.
CalciumStudies have revealed that calcium supplementation of 1000-1500 mg per day lowers blood pressure. Calcium aids the kidneys in excreting sodium, and, along with magnesium (see below), helps to relax the smooth muscle lining of some blood vessels, which lowers diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).
Magnesium600 mg per day of magnesium has been shown to decrease blood pressure. Magnesium helps the heart produce energy and beat regularly. Magnesium is found in almonds, lima beans, peanuts, seafood, and spinach, but many people do not get enough magnesium from their diets alone.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (also known as EPA/DHA, fish oil, or flaxseed oil) There are a multitude of studies that show that omega-3 supplementation is effective in reducing blood pressure. You need approximately 1000 mg twice per day to achieve this effect. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which compromises blood vessels.
This supplement also reduces clots and helps the heart beat regularly.
GarlicA garlic supplement with 4000 mcg of allicin, or between a half and a whole clove of garlic, daily, will lower blood pressure by about 20-30 mm Hg systolic (top number) and 10-20 mm Hg diastolic. It also reduces plaque in the arteries in people with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries.) Garlic has been shown to improve the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL (bad cholesterol).
Coenzyme Q10Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplementation of 60 mg twice per day has consistently shown to lower blood pressure. It requires four to twelve weeks to take a noticeable effect. CoQ10 works by helping heart cells create energy, and is especially effective in people with heart failure. It also allows blood vessels to relax and widen, especially in the heart. In food, it is found in beef, broccoli, chicken, eggs, fish, nuts, spinach, vegetable oil, and wheat germ.
Phytonutrient Fruit and Vegetable SupplementationA recent study has shown that subjects taking a green phytonutrient-rich fruit and vegetable powder for 90 days decreased systolic blood pressure by 12.4 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 7.1 mm Hg when compared to a control group. The powder consisted of micro algae, barley grass juice powder, multiple fruit and vegetable powders, lecithin, acerola cherry, fermented cabbage, milk thistle, plant enzymes, quinoa sprout, lemon peel, oat beta-glucan, soluble rice bran, green and white tea extracts, resveratrol, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, cinnamon, raspberry, is quercitin-rutin, and aloe vera. The study showed that the benefit of phytonutrients is much stronger when the nutrition of multiple fruits and vegetables are taken together, rather than consumed as isolated nutrients.
Resveratrol, a compound found in high amounts in the phytonutrient powder, and also commonly found in red wine and grape juice, improves blood flow within the brain, which decreases the chances of stroke. It also helps fight obesity and type2 diabetes, two risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and hardens damaged heart tissue.
Vitamin C, which was also found in high amounts in the powder, helps increase blood vessel flexibility and reduces LDL oxidation. Nutritionally, it is found in citrus fruit, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, and tomato juice.
The potassium in the powder helps control blood pressure by regulating water balance. It is also required for proper electrical impulse transmission within the heart. It is found in beans, milk, vegetables, and most fruits.
Folic acid was also high in the powder. It is found in beans, citrus juice, peas, and green leafy vegetables. It reduces homocysteine, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.
GuggulThis supplement is found in gum taken from the myrrh tree. It has been shown to simultaneously decrease LDL levels while raising HDL levels.
HawthornThis botanical opens blood vessels, reduces blood pressure, and improves oxygen usage in the heart. Its usage in heart-related conditions dates back to Greco-Roman times.
Reishi MushroomThis Chinese mushroom is now commercially grown in northern Asia and North American. It has been shown to decrease blood pressure and LDL levels, and also helps prevent blood clots.
ArginineArginine is an amino acid is found in chocolate, dairy, fish, meat and nuts. It counteracts blood vessel constriction. High levels of arginine are inversely proportional to levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a telltale marker of inflammation.
NiacinNiacin, or nicotinic acid, one of the water-soluble B vitamins, improves all cholesterol levels when given in doses well above the recommended daily allowance. It is inexpensive and widely accessible without a prescription but must not be used for cholesterol lowering without the monitoring of a physician because of the potential side effects. The most common side effect is flushing or hot flashes, which are the result of the widening of blood vessels. Most people develop a tolerance to flushing, and it can be decreased by taking it during or after meals, or by taking a slow-release form. People on nicotinic acid are usually started on low daily doses and gradually increased to an average daily dose of 1.5 to 3 grams per day. ConclusionThere is a plethora of research that supports the use of supplementation and natural interventions in controlling the risk of cardiovascular disease. In some cases, they can reduce the need for medication, which helps reduce the chances of side effects from these drugs. In other cases, natural interventions, along with dietary changes and exercise, are all that are needed to control blood pressure.
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