Follow (and Nurture) Your Heart
Anne Salazar, RH (AHG)
One of the basic concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years is- ‘The Heart houses the Mind’; that is, there is an inextricable connection between a healthy heart and a sound mind. This connection extends to the point where the words ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ can be used interchangeably. Although this has been considered theoretical by modern medicine, we now know there is actual scientific truth behind this! A study in 1991 discovered that the heart has its "little brain" or intrinsic cardiac nervous system (1). This "heart brain" is composed of approximately 40,000 neurons that are similar to neurons in the brain, meaning that the heart has its own nervous system. The vagus nerve spends 80% of its time carrying information from the heart and other internal organs TO the brain. The brain is “listening” and receiving information from the heart constantly. Ancient TCM wisdom states that the heart is the seat of the emotions and the residence of the consciousness while awake.
That being said, it is clear that the heart is MUCH more than a mere pump! The care and support of our hearts affect so many of our daily functions and the way we feel and think. Good news: heart disease is preventable. Optimizing heart health sets the foundation for an overall improved quality of life and longevity. While there are many lifestyle choices you can make to improve your heart health, herbs and supplements can be a big part of a thriving heart protocol.
Natural Heart Support
Although it is generally true that combining botanicals and neutraceuticals creates optimal benefit and balance for maximum results, it is also helpful to know the individual players in the natural world of heart health and how they work. Below we will discuss individual herbs and supplements and their role in supporting cardiovascular vitality. Following that, we will share with you our tried and true favorite formulations.
Hawthorn (Crataegus) is one of the most widely used and recognized herbal allies for heart support (2). The compounds in Hawthorn work together to support coronary blood flow and provide antioxidant protection to the heart. Hawthorn also has a long traditional history of bringing comfort to a grieving heart and can help you connect to the energy of your heart. “It is not that hawthorne opens up our heart, It is that it opens us up to our heart, which is always open, always waiting, forgiving all, accepting all and touching all.” - Matthew Becker, Clinical Herbalist/Poet
Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) can help reduce inflammation and oxidation, and therefore could lower the risk of heart disease. Studies show that turmeric may help reverse the heart disease process (3).
Red Yeast Rice is the product of yeast (Monascus purpureus) grown on white rice. In Chinese medicine is used to lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation, and improve digestion (4). Red yeast rice contains natural plant chemicals that are similar to synthetic prescription statin medications. It can deplete CoQ10, just as statin medications do, but otherwise has substantially fewer side effects. Supplementing with CoQ10 alleviates this issue and also has multiple cardiovascular benefits (see below).
CoQ10 (aka Ubiquinol) is a powerful antioxidant. It protects the brain, heart and muscles (5). It is necessary for healthy heart function. CoQ10 has multiple benefits and is an excellent addition to just about any protocol. Ubiquinol is the form of coenzyme Q10 that is considered to be the "active" form of the antioxidant, as it is the bioactive form that's utilized in the body. Because it is the active form, it does not need any additional conversion steps to be used by the cells. Typically you can take about ½ the dose of ubiquinol to get the same effects of CoQ10.
Magnesium is a mineral that supports many processes in the body. Inadequate levels have been linked with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, and death (6). Most people are deficient in magnesium, due mostly to soil depletion. To learn more about this vital mineral, see our article devoted to magnesium.
Nattokinase is a natural enzyme in natto, a Japanese soy-based food. The enzyme is produced during natto’s fermentation process by a specific bacterium called Bacillus subtilis. Studies show that nattokinase dissolves blood clots — which helps maintain good blood vessel structure, improves blood flow, and lowers the risk of heart disease (7). It can also help lower your blood pressure, reducing strain on the heart that can lead to heart attacks. It's a great alternative for low-dose aspirin (always check with your doctor).
Rose has been used in traditional herbal medicine for a long time. We are familiar with its beauty and ubiquitous relationship to the heart and love. Although there are no high quality conventional studies on this plant (yet) for heart health, I can say, as a long-time practicing herbalist, that the rose flower holds great sway in the world of calming and uplifting the heart during times of sorrow and grief. A well-made rose elixir is a boon to anyone who needs this kind of support. “Rose’s magic…. releases the sorrow that deadens the heart and releases the story that betrays the heart”
Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in some fish and certain plants, lower the risk for abnormal heart rhythm, lower triglyceride levels, and thereby decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and death (8). Fish oil is a great supplemental option for ensuring you get enough omega 3 on a daily basis. If you are vegan, you can get your omegas by using algae-derived supplements.
Resveratrol found in grapes, wine, peanuts and soy, is high in beneficial polyphenols. Initially used for cancer therapy, Resveratrol has shown beneficial effects against most degenerative and cardiovascular diseases, inclduing atherosclerosis, hypertension, ischemia/reperfusion, and heart failure to diabetes, obesity, and aging (9).
Vitamin D3 deficiency (which is more prevalent than we used to think) can be linked to chronic heart failure and stroke (10). One review article looked at the effects of many types of foods, vitamins and minerals, and eating patterns on a person’s risk for stroke. The research shows that people with low levels of vitamin D in their bodies have a higher risk for stroke (11). Vitamin D may help by improving the lining of blood vessel walls to allow blood to flow freely and by reducing the harmful effects of inflammation, along with several other effects. A study from Ohio University also explored the connection between vitamin D and high blood pressure by studying blood vessel walls and showed that vitamin D3 can repair damage to the heart and blood vessels caused by high blood pressure (12). If you haven’t had your vitamin D levels checked recently, you should!
Effective Blends for Heart Health
CardioMET by Orthomolecular is a Remedy favorite. Providing a targeted blend of three different formulas in easy-to-take packets, it features berberine, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), highly absorbable EPA, DHA, and DPA omega-3 fatty acids, and Bergamot extract to maintain heart function, metabolism, and lipid and glucose levels.
ProOmega LDL is an impactful supplement combining Red Yeast Rice with appropriate amounts of the EPA and DHA contained in fish oil and CoQ10. ProOmega LDL promotes the metabolism of dietary fat and cholesterol, supports healthy blood vessel function, and provides antioxidant protection from damaging free radicals.
Carditone is a combination of Ayurvedic extracts including Rauwolfia, which has been used traditionally to maintain blood pressure and support heart function. Carditone is also noted for having calming properties, due to the inclusion of Convolvulus pluricaulis and rose powder. Terminalia arjuna is traditionally used to support heart health and has high levels of heart-healthy antioxidants.
Fundamentally, there are four basic lifestyle habits to keep in mind, when looking to maintain a healthy heart:
1.Get to know your risk factors- Lack of sleep and being overweight are the most frequent risk factors, but these are not the only ones. Keeping hypertension, blood cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, stress, and smoking at bay are key to helping prevent heart disease. While we cannot do anything about other risk factors like age or family history, we have much more control over our lifestyle choices and we can positively affect our heart health with even just a few healthy habits.
- Get Moving- Together with a healthy diet, physical exercise is the best way to keep our cardiovascular health in shape. Regular physical activity not only prevents heart disease, it can also improve the quality of life of those who already suffer from it. People who practice some physical activity regularly for 30 minutes, three times a week, considerably reduce their risk of suffering from heart disease.
- Eat Healthy- When trans fats, which are mainly found in processed products such as cookies, industrial pastries, precooked foods, snacks, and creams, are consumed frequently, they can negatively affect our cardiovascular health by increasing total cholesterol levels, blood triglyceride levels, and inflammation. And while the taste of salt is naturally appealing to our palates, excessive salt intake causes an increase in blood pressure that over time can lead to hypertension. For more information on nutrition see our article.
- Get Enough Rest- Getting the right amount of sleep our body needs is essential for optimal health. This was revealed by a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, where it concluded that people who, in addition to leading healthy lifestyle habits such as regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet, also sleep a minimum of seven hours a day, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 65%.
Of course, there are varying factors involved in every situation. That is why we are here. By speaking with one of our experienced staff members, we can help figure out specific protocols and plans for your continuing well-being. And, as always, scheduling a consultation could go a long way in maximizing your overall health plan going forward.
Wishing you the best - From our hearts to yours!! <3 <3
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- Weng Y, Yao J, Sparks S, Wang KY. Nattokinase: An Oral Antithrombotic Agent for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Feb 28;18(3):523. doi: 10.3390/ijms18030523. PMID: 28264497; PMCID: PMC53725
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- Want T, Pencina M, Booth S, et al. Vitamin D deficiency and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2008; 117: 503-511