Ageing Well – Heart Health

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According to the British Heart Foundation, heart and circulatory diseases remains the number one killer in the UK, so maintaining a healthy heart is vital to a longer, more fulfilled life.

Thankfully, mortality rates have decreased by more than 60% since 1968 in most age groups, however, the prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) remains high and still accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK- some 170,000 deaths each year.

In addition to a balanced diet, and positive lifestyle choices, the use of vitamin supplements can reduce or prevent the risk of common cardiovascular diseases.

The most commonly reported cardiovascular diseases affecting our ageing population include Hypertension, Atrial Fibrillation, Heart failure, Stroke and CHD. The main cause of these diseases is the blockage or interruption to the heart’s blood supply, most commonly due to a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries – a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Adding vitamin C, amongst other vitamin supplements can help reduce heart disease. This is because vitamin C acts to help protect arterial walls throughout the body. Important blood vessels that are under the most stress are the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle. Vitamin C helps reduce infections and other forms of oxidative stress that affect these blood vessels and can prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Risk factors

There are a number of factors that contribute to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Sadly, some of these cannot be avoided for example, your age – risk increases as you get older, your gender – before the age of 60 men are at greater risk than women, and your family history – your risk may increase if close blood relatives also experienced heart disease early in life.

But there are other risk factors that you can control, including your blood pressure, your cholesterol levels or susceptibility to Type 2 Diabetes through certain lifestyle choices including smoking, drinking, eating a high fat diet or being inactive.

When we present more than one of these risk factors, in combination the overall risk of a cardiovascular disease is much higher. For example, when high blood pressure is present along with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases even more.

Blood Pressure

Sadly, blood pressure tends to rise throughout one’s lifetime and high blood pressure is harmful to the arteries. The condition tends to run in families, but blood pressure is also influenced by lifestyle. To keep it low, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight, moderate alcohol and salt intake, manage your stress levels and try to be physically active. If these measures fail, there are of course drugs available that are effective in reducing elevated blood pressure, but we also suggest a range of nutrients that, as part of a healthy diet can help keep your blood pressure in check.

Blood cholesterol

Cholesterol is vital for healthy cells. It is so important that the body doesn’t just rely on a dietary source, but makes its own. If, however, the body accumulates too much cholesterol, it can become deposited in the walls of arteries, which become damaged and may become blocked. A common cause of too much cholesterol is a diet that is rich in saturated fats.

To combat this, rigorous cholesterol-lowering food plan, usually combined with drug treatment, is required to reduce and control blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

Supplement your diet

A combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid can support your cardiovascular health by lowering homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid in your blood that has been linked with increased risk of heart disease. You get it mostly from eating meat.

High levels of it encourage the development of blood clots, impair the tone of the blood vessels, promote lipid peroxidation, and encourage the development of inflammation and plaque formation in the arteries

Vitamin B12 helps in its metabolism, Vitamin B6 reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis by preventing the accumulation of homocysteine, inhibiting of platelet aggregation and lowering blood pressure

Furthermore, due to the ability of Vitamin E to inhibit platelet aggregation, it is believed it may play a role in the prevention of heart attack or venous thromboembolism

In conclusion, the good news is that while we are more prone to suffering some of these diseases as we age, often, with positive lifestyle choices and the addition of dietary supplements, many of them are preventable.