The CDC estimates that close to 50% of the American population has increased risk of heart disease. Worse, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death world-wide, claiming almost 18 million lives per year. So, aside from the most foundational lifestyle habits including exercise, whole food diet, quality sleep, and stress management, what can we all be doing to reduce risk?
Turns out that due to many external factors such as depleted nutrients in the soil and increased stress of the body from environmental toxins and other burdens, we are running at depleted levels of a few key nutrients linked to heart health. In addition to a whole food and plant-focused diet, boosting these critical nutrients can make a significant difference in your cardiovascular risk.
Magnesium is required to maintain healthy blood pressure and vascular “tone”. It is also essential for preventing the buildup of plaque on the arterial wall. Chronically low magnesium levels are not only associated with metabolic syndrome (a primary risk factor for heart disease), but with coronary artery disease, itself.
Low magnesium levels are associated with thickening of the arterial wall and plaque formation. Increased intake of magnesium counteracts the calcification of the arterial wall associated with stroke and heart attack. In fact, treatment with IV magnesium immediately following diagnosis of a heart attack for a period afterward has been shown to reverse damage associated with heart attack and improve survival rates for up to 5 years after.
It is now suggested, that due to countless environmental factors, most people are magnesium deficient, worldwide. Moreover, normal blood tests are no longer considered a strong indicator of magnesium status, and we recommend that red blood cell magnesium levels are checked at annual physical exams for better assessment of magnesium requirements.
It’s not uncommon for cardiologists and family practice doctors, alike, to recommend oatmeal or oat bran to patients at risk of cardiovascular disease. The reason for this is because those oat-based foods are rich in soluble fiber, a fiber that binds fat, cholesterol and toxins in the GI tract, carrying them out of the body via bowel movements. Soluble fibers have also been shown to drop blood pressure. Diets high in
- Brussels sprouts
- Whole grains
are linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s essential to eat soluble fiber at each meal and aim for 20 grams per day (in addition to insoluble fibers from vegetables). Most people struggle to hit that goal, so we often recommend our favorite soluble fiber supplement, developed by our co-owner Megan Barnett, Florasophy.
Unfortunately, many, if not most people, are now low in vitamin C. While this may be surprising, it makes sense given that stress, environmental toxins, infections, alcohol use, coffee and other external factors all deplete vitamin C levels. All of this, while fruits and vegetables have lower levels due to depleted soil. This means that most of us are eating less and losing more. This puts all of us at higher risk of infections, allergies, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
Studies show that low plasma Vitamin C is linked to increased risk of heart disease, but taking adequate levels (which is likely a lot higher than your daily multi) inhibits oxidation of LDL protein, reducing atherosclerosis.
In patients with reduced blood flow to the heart, triggering angina or chest pain, high dose vitamin C infusions increased blood flow by restoring endothelial function and promoting vasodilation. Other studies have shown that IV vitamin C locally dilates veins as well.
High high doses may be called for is some people, even small doses of vitamin C between 500-2000mg show benefits. One study found that patients with reduced endothelial function and hypertension given one dose of 2000mg vitamin C, orally followed by 500mg daily for 30 days had significant improvements in vascular function. Researchers concluded that in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), long-term ascorbic acid treatment has a sustained beneficial effect on endothelial function. Because endothelial dysfunction may contribute to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular events, this study indicates that ascorbic acid treatment may benefit patients with CAD“. And it’s never too late; in patients that received cardiac surgery, relatively small doses of vitamin C (2,000mg) beforehand, followed by 1,000mg daily for 4 days, given by IV had shorter hospital stays and faster recovery.
Concerned? Keep reading...
Concerned that you may be low in these essential nutrients, but not sure what to do or where to start? Follow these steps:
1. Get started
You can safely take 1,000-2,000mg vitamin C daily. We like these and suggest a mix of both as they absorb differently. You can also safely take 150mg magnesium complex before bed each night. Well absorbed magnesium is a gentle muscle relaxer and can even help with sleep. It’s important to take a complex for best absorption. Make sure to boost your soluble fiber foods and research shows that supplementation is important for heart health so consider adding 1 tbsp/day Florasophy to your routine.
2. Get a heart health baseline
We offer monthly screenings that easily and quickly assess your cardiovascular risk. CIMT (carotid intima media test) is once of the most sensitive screenings for early detection. By measuring the thickness of your carotid artery wall, our heart expert Dr. Dan can assess your risk and advise you on the evidence-based lifestyle and medical interventions for your unique situation. Call us to schedule your screening @ 971-770-1655.
3. Measure your intracellular micronutrients
Wondering if your diet is giving you what you need? The best test to assess nutrient status is an intracellular micronutrient tests which assesses the concentration of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids in your white and red blood cells, giving us a 3-month average of your nutrient status. From there, our nutrition experts build a dietary and supplementation approach aimed at optimizing your nutritional status. Reach out to schedule.
It can be easy to forget the foundations of optimal health with so many “hacks” and trends. However, the truth is that our bodies don’t function without adequate nutrition and obtaining adequate nutrition is more difficult than it seems. Whether you’re interested in heart health or any aspect of health and longevity, a full nutrition assessment is essential.