Cardiovascular Health: Supportive Foods and Supplements
February 11, 2024
By Vida Shahriar RHN, BA, JD (simplyvida.ca)
The Cardiovascular System Defined
The cardiovascular system is a complex system that is at the core of our well-being and serves as the lifeline to our entire body. It encompasses numerous functions such as pumping blood through the heart, transporting nutrients and oxygen to every cell, and removing waste products from the body.
This intricate system includes the heart, vessels, arteries, veins, capillaries, and among other components that influence blood pressure, circulation, energy, sleep, and our overall well-being. It is important to ensure that our dietary and supplementation habits are supportive towards cardiovascular health to protect and optimize our well-being long term. This article will explore specific foods and supplements that we can incorporate daily to nourish and support our cardiovascular system for an improved quality of life.
Foods to Nourish the Cardiovascular System
There are specific foods that we can incorporate in our daily meals to promote a healthy cardiovascular system. It is recommended that you choose organic, when possible, to limit the degree of chemicals, toxins, and pesticides as these harmful substances can circulate throughout the body and negatively impact the cardiovascular system among all other body systems.
First, berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain antioxidants and flavonoids that are linked to a lower level of heart disease. These compounds work to reduce blood pressure and improve blood vessel function to allow for greater mobility and ease of blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. Additionally, berries contain a reasonably high amount
of fiber which helps to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. An accumulation of LDL can collect in the walls of blood vessels and lead to plaque, which makes it a risk for heart disease and stroke. The fiber also feeds healthy gut bacteria known as probiotics which work to resolve inflammation in the digestive tract. This is important because inflammation, particularly in the gut, can become systematic. This type of inflammation can lead to atherosclerosis which is the accumulation of plaque from fat deposits, cholesterol, and inflammatory cells on the inner walls of the arteries. This can increase the chance of heart attacks and strokes given the restriction of blood flow in the body from the plaque accumulation.
Second, avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid. This type of fat is associated with lowering LDL while boosting high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol which is “good” cholesterol that strives to protect our heart as it is anti-inflammatory and has antioxidants. Healthy fats such as avocados can combat oxidative stress by lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke. Healthy fats help to neutralize free radicals caused by oxidative stress and helps to bring the body back into balance on a cellular level. This can also be achieved by healthy fats found in nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds. As well, olive oil can achieve this as a source of omega 9. It is best to consume raw, unfiltered, and unheated olive oil to maximize the polyphenols and antioxidants components of it to achieve the cardiovascular health benefits.
Third, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and swiss chard are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Leafy greens are high in vitamin K which inhibits the calcification of arteries that can lead to heart attacks, strokes, poor circulation, and lower oxygen supply contributing to low energy, impaired nutrient absorption, and higher blood pressure.
Supplements to Nourish the Cardiovascular System
There are specific supplements that we can incorporate daily to promote a healthy cardiovascular system. It is recommended to choose high quality and professionally tested supplements.
First, omega 3 fatty acid supplements can provide eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are supportive for heart health. Specifically, omega 3 works to lower triglycerides, a fat found in blood that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and diabetes. It also combats inflammation by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory signalling pathways that in turn modulates inflammation on a cellular level. Omega 3 is best taken with a meal that contains healthy fats for greater absorption.
Second, magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body and plays a critical role with cardiovascular health. Magnesium works to support muscle and nerve function by inhibiting the entry of calcium into smooth muscle cells. This in turn supports healthy blood circulation given the role of magnesium to relax the blood vessels. In addition, this process helps to regulate healthy blood pressure levels which reduces the degree of strain on the heart, as elevated blood pressure forces the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. This process helps to lower the risk of blood clots as high blood pressure can damage the lining of blood vessels promoting the formation of blood clots. It is recommended that for cardiovascular purposes, magnesium bis-glycinate be considered as it is the least abrasive form on the digestive tract and does not drastically impact the bowels in comparison to the other forms of magnesium.
Third, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant that plays a role in energy production on a cellular level. It is found in high concentration in the heart and has been studied for its positive effects on endothelial function. This is known as the inner lining of blood vessels and proper functioning and formation are required for healthy vascular function. CoQ10 enhances this functioning by promoting the release of nitric oxide which helps to dilate blood vessels. This results in better blood flow, energy, and focus given the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to all body systems. It is important to consider that those taking statin medications should consider supplementing with coQ10 as statin medications can deplete coQ10 levels.
Nutrition and supplementation can be a powerful holistic approach to support and optimize cardiovascular health. This article has offered examples of natural foods and supplements that can be incorporated daily to strengthen and support the cardiovascular system to improve your vitality and overall quality of life. It is highly recommended that you consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming any of the foods and supplements mentioned in this article to ensure that you are making the best decision for your unique health circumstances and needs.