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Heart Problems and Prevention


This article was authored by Klaus Ferlow, HMH (Honorary Master Herbalist), innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder Ferlow Botanical Enterprises Ltd, Vancouver, B.C. manufacturing/distributing organic toxin-free medicinal herbal and personal care products to professional health & wellness practitioners in Canada and parts of USA since 1993.

Heart Problems and Prevention

Cardiovascular disease is the leading health problem in the Western world. It is the number one cause of death in the United States (Canada is following suit), claiming over one million lives annually. An estimated 50 million Americans are afflicted with heart and blood vessel disease, although many are unaware of it because they show no symptoms.

Statistically, 70 to 80 percent of all women experiencing heart attacks do not have any symptoms. Narrow blood vessels in the heart are unable to provide the oxygen the heart needs, characterized in males by angina pectoris, symptoms include heavy, tight chest pain, and pain or numbness in the left arm. Pain can often be extended to the shoulder, neck, and jaw. Other warning signs include excessive tiredness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, feeling anxiety, difficulty swallowing, ringing in the ears, loss of speech, and breathlessness.

The primary cause of most heart problems can be traced to a poor diet, particularly the consumption of excessive red meat and saturated fats, salt, sugar, alcohol and smoking. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is often the precursor of heart problems and it is caused by a decrease in the elasticity or a reduction in the interior diameter of the arteries, in some cases both. This can be a result of arteriosclerosis, caused by improper sodium metabolism, stress, nutritional deficiencies, and enzyme imbalances. The amount and type of chest pain vary from one person to another. Some people have intense pain, while others feel only mild discomfort. Heart attack occurs when a part of the heart muscle is denied blood and oxygen for a long enough period of time for cells to die.

Hardening of the arteries, a build up of plaque inside the arteries and the presence of a thrombus, or blood clot, in a blood vessel are the most common causes of obstruction. Hypertension is often the precursor to heart problems and is the leading cause of stroke. It greatly increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure. There are a variety of other cardiovascular diseases which include arrhythmias/palpitation or irregular heartbeat, angina pectoris (pain or heavy pressure in the chest), aneurysm (is an area in the blood vessel where the wall becomes thin and bulges outward), cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating), cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart), cardiomyopathy (group of diseases of the heart muscle), carditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure (a condition of chronic heart failure), ischemic heart disease (is caused by obstruction of the blood flow to the heart), endocarditis (inflammation of the endocardium, the membrane surrounding the heart muscle), valvular disease (impairs the functioning of one or more of the heart's valves).

Your heart can benefit from the use of herbs, supplements and foods such as hawthorn berries (Crataegus oxyacantha), coenzyme Q10, quality fish oils, unrefined nut and seed oils (e.g. hemp, flax, coconut, pumpkin, etc.), and organic raw fruit and vegetables. Hawthorn berry and flowering tops extracts are widely used in Europe for their cardiovascular activity. They exhibit a combination of effects that are of great value to patients with angina and other heart problems. Studies have demonstrated that hawthorn extracts are effective in reducing angina attacks as well as in lowering blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels.

Hawthorn's ability to dilate coronary blood vessels has been repeatedly demonstrated in experimental studies. In addition, hawthorn extracts have been shown to improve cardiac energy metabolism in human and experimental studies. The improvement results not only from increased blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle but also from hawthorn flavonoids interacting with key enzymes to enhance myocardial contractility.

Cardiovascular diseases including angina, hypertension, and congestive heart failure are examples of diseases that require increased tissue levels of coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 deficiency is common in individuals with heart disease. Heart tissue biopsies in patients with various heart diseases show a CoQ10 deficiency in 50 to 75 percent of cases. One of the most metabolically active tissues in the body, the heart may be unusually susceptible to the effects of CoQ10 deficiency. Accordingly, CoQ10 has shown great promise in the treatment of heart disease.

Unrefined nut and seed oils and high quality fish oils are an excellent source of fatty acids, in particular, omega-3 fatty acids. A significant body of evidence now indicates that including fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids with meals just twice a week could significantly reduce the incidence of sudden death from a heart attack. On the basis of these and several other studies, it is now estimated that this one change in diet could save at least 150,000 people annually from fatal heart attacks in the United States. Increased daily intake to five to sevent servings of fruits, vegetables, and nuts rich in antioxidants daily may also reduce the incidence of heart attacks.

The habitat in which fish grow has a major impact on their fatty acid composition. Studies have shown that wild fish have higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids than pond-reared or cultured fish grown in fish farms and fed commercial feedstuffs. For individuals who do not or cannot consume seafood, foods such as tofu, canola oil, black currant oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, nuts and soybeans are important sources of alpha-linoleic acid; however, soy-derived oils and foods and most nuts contain large amounts of omega-6 fatty acids that can reduce some of the therapeutic benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids, so finding a prudent balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is suggested.

Having a proper diet is very important to prevent heart problems. An increase of dietary fibre is recommended. Onions and garlic (both raw and cooked), vegetables and fish should also be increased, while reducing the consumption of saturated fats, cholesterol, sugar and animal proteins. All fried foods and food allergens should be avoided. Patients with reactive hypoglycemia should eat regular meals and carefully avoid simple carbohydrates of all forms (e.g., sugar, honey, dried fruit, fruit juice).

Individuals with angina should not smoke or drink alcohol and coffee. Stress should be decreased by using stress management techniques such as progressive relaxation, meditation or guided imagery. A carefully graded, progressive, aerobic exercise program (30 minutes three times a week) is a necessity. Walking is a good exercise with which to start.

This article is intended to offer simple, easy to incorporate suggestions which will benefit the overall health of this vital organ. We would encourage you to investigate this subject to your heart's content!

This information is offered for its educational value only and should not be used in the diagnose, treatment, or prevention of disease. Any attempt to diagnose and treat illness should come under the direction of your health care practitioner.

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