Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of fatalities throughout the world. In 2008 alone, an estimated 17.3 million people died of cardiovascular diseases accounting for nearly 30% of all global deaths. This figure is expected to rise to 23.3 million by 2030. Research and medical professionals unanimously agree that when it comes to heart health, prevention is better than cure.
While there is a variety of pharmaceuticals, such as statin drugs, that cater directly to CVDs, the simple fact is that a healthy lifestyle is the most effective way to ensure a healthy heart, not only for those who have a spotless cardiac history, but also those people who suffer from CVDs.
Cessation of tobacco use, reduction of salt in ones food intake, consuming at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day, regular exercise and avoiding harmful use of alcohol have been known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The cardiovascular risk can also be reduced by preventing or treating hypertension, diabetes and raised blood lipids. Experts advise that along with at least 40 minutes of cardiovascular physical activity a day, one should maintain a balanced diet that is as close to nature as possible.
However, in today’s world, with maximising shelf life a priority, a lot of the food sold in supermarkets and general stores loses nutritional value by the time it reaches our tables. Seeing as how the daily nutritional requirements of our body can not be met in entirety by adding fruits, whole grains and vegetables to our diet, it can be beneficial to supplement it with different vitamins and minerals to regulate our daily intake.
Over the years many naturally sourced products have been tried and tested to control chemical processes in the body that effect the heart and it’s health. Some of them are discussed below, however, it is highly important that you consult a medical professional before consuming any, since they may react adversely with other medication and conditions.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Heart Health
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil. They provide significant reductions in triglyceride levels and increases in good HDL cholesterol. They have been shown to improve heart health and considered one of the more important heart health supplements due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil supplements can reduce triglycerides by 20% to 50%.
Plant sterols for Heart Health
Plant sterols, derived from plant-based foods are used to enrich margarines and other food products.Studies show that plant sterol-enriched products lower total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol by up to 10%. Taking a statin drug along with a plant sterol supplement can reduce LDL by up to 20%.
Niacin for Heart Health
Also known as vitamin B-3 or nicotinic acid, niacin can significantly improve HDL cholesterol by 15% to 30%. It can also help in reducing LDL levels. It is known to have side-effects in a very small percentage of patients so it is important that small doses are taken under strict medical supervision.
Psyllium for Heart Health
Psyllium, also known as ispaghul, comes from the husks of seeds from Plantago ovata. Psyllium, provides fiber that can reduce total and LDL cholesterol. Some research suggests fiber may help increase HDL, however, just 15 grams of psyllium can reduce LDL by up to 9%. It also boosts the effects of statin drugs.
Red Yeast Rice for Heart Health
Red yeast rice is derived from a specific yeast that grows on rice. It is known to lower total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, help prevent heart attack, and improve blood flow. It shares the same active ingredient as some statin drugs.
Green Tea Extract for Heart Health
Green tea extract is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, and is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine. Research shows that it can lower LDL levels by 16%.
B Complex Vitamins for Heart Health
B-complex vitamins, including B-6, B-12 and folic acid, help keep the nerves and red blood cells healthy. They may also lower blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that’s has been linked to heart disease, blood clots, heart attack, and strokes.
Coenzyme Q10 for Heart Health
Coenzyme Q10, produced by the body, is necessary for basic cell functioning. Studies suggest that CoQ10 may reduce chest pain (angina) and can make exercising easier for those with clogged arteries. It can help to prevent the muscle pains or liver damage that occurs in some people taking statin drugs.
Policosanol for Heart Health
Policosanol is a natural plant mixture helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol. Studies have shown that policosanol helps reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 10% and can also help maintain healthy HDL and triglyceride levels.
As mentioned earlier, a healthy lifestyle is integral to having a healthy heart, and these supplements while beneficial, are only meant to reinforce the effects of regular exercise, a balanced diet and a stress-free life.