Cardiovascular Health By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA For a healthy cardiovascular system it is important to get plenty of nutrients over the whole range. B-Vitamins, for example, help to produce energy and to control metabolic processing, including the one that results in excessive levels of the inflammatory compound homocysteine. Homocysteine is a greater risk factor for cardiovascular risk than total cholesterol level. Antioxidants support each other, and clinical research indicates that total antioxidant status is more important than a single level of a single antioxidant nutrient. Antioxidants protect cholesterol from oxidizing, and also protect arterial surfaces from being damaged, leading to plaque formation and cholesterol “patches”. Minerals are also useful for cholesterol metabolism - especially chromium - also calcium, copper, and possibly magnesium and selenium. With the recent stories about obese children – some with Type-2 “adult-onset” diabetes - and with kids getting heart attacks in their teens, there is a growing awareness that cardiovascular health issues are not limited to middle aged men. Recent reports also point to the increased risk for women after menopause or who are on hormone replacement drugs, hammering the point home that age and gender are no longer rigid dividers of people into cardiovascular risk groups. That’s not to say that everyone is aware of these cardiovascular risk factors, but the risk categories in terms of age have certainly broadened dramatically in recent years. We have seen an increasing number of college-aged young men be afflicted by cardiac events at sports or training events, with some dying. Still, the risks do not seem as immediate to young adults with their heightened sense of immortality, especially young men. By the time men hit their 40s, there is an increased awareness of cardiac risks that keeps increasing throughout their lives. The young are mostly oblivious to health risks unless some event creates the beginnings of awareness that they may be at risk, such as a close relative suffering a cardiac event at an early age or a health scare. Unfortunately, these events seem to be increasing. Genetics, sedentary lifestyles, poor diet and obesity all make people susceptible to vascular problems. The emergence of hemorrhoids or any hint of varicose veins should be obvious indications of cardiovascular weakness at any age. Obesity and lack of stamina are also good indicators. Family health history is another consideration that should affect awareness. Circulation depends on body movement/exercise and requires an unobstructed blood flow through flexible blood vessels that have structural integrity. Collagen, elastin and supporting nutrients (proline, lysine, Vitamin C, Pycnogenol®, rutin) help to strengthen these tissues, while certain herbs (cayenne, garlic, horse chestnut, prickly ash extract, hawthorn extract) help to improve blood flow. Smoking and stress narrow the blood vessels, increasing the risk of forming clots or obstructions. Certain amino acids in the diet (arginine, citrulline) support NO (nitric oxide) formation that dilates blood vessels to reduce blood pressure and enhance blood flow to the peripheries. The presence of these components and modulators in the diet help to maintain cardiovascular health and vascular integrity. People should be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, in order to provide nutrients essential to the integrity of blood vessels. Products include beta sistosterol, vitamin C, Vitamin E, chromium, garlic, guar gum, Guggul extract, tocotrienols, policosanol, vitamins B1, B6, folate, B12, iodine, magnesium, selenium, potassium, carnitine, ginger, cayenne, hawthorn extract, CoQ10, lipoic acid, homocysteine regulators (B6, B12, folate, TMG), Policosanol, Red Yeast Rice Extract (plain or with CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid and silymarin), prickly ash extract, horse chestnut extract, butcher’s broom extract, grape seed extract, Pycnogenol® and rutin. However, other products are also helpful for cardiovascular health including gamma and delta tocotrienols, amino acids (taurine, carnitine, lysine, proline), Nattokinase (fibrin enzyme for supporting the body’s control of clotting), fish oil, and lecithin. Remember, you must take care of your heart and cardiovascular system if you expect them to take care of you for a lifetime!