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Coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death in Australia in 2018. These frightening facts are sending out a clear message – look after your heart today, not tomorrow!
An estimated 1.2 million Australian adults had 1 or more conditions related to heart disease, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017-2018 National Health Survey.
Risk factors for heart disease
The prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) was twice as higher in men than women and it increased rapidly with age.
Eighty percent of CHD can be prevented by good lifestyle choices. These include regular physical activity, such as brisk walking or anything else that makes you reach a sweat, undertaken for at least 30 minutes at least three times a week. Diet is another important consideration. Eating fatty foods can contribute to high cholesterol levels, which may potentially encourage the accumulation of plaque on artery walls, which would put extra strain on the Cardiovascular system.
However, don’t eliminate all fats; you still need to consume good fats, such as essential fatty acids found in avocados and oily fish. Include more wholegrains in your diet as well as foods with a low glycaemic index (low GI), such as oats and brown rice that keep you full for longer. Include plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit each day and also healthy sources of protein, such as lean meat and chicken.
The fruit of the Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus laevigata) has been used traditionally in Europe for hundreds of years to support the cardiovascular system (CVS). Both the berries of the plant and its leaves contain OPCs, a well-researched antioxidant that is also found in the herb Ginkgo biloba. The berries, however, contain other antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, which increase healing power by preventing free-radical damage. In western herbal medicine Hawthorn is considered the most significant herb for ischemic heart disease and there is considerable evidence to support this. Studies show that Hawthorn increases coronary blood flow, decreases blood pressure (when it is high) and allows better use of available oxygen. It also protects against heart muscle damage, improves heart rate variability, has lipid-lowering properties, a protective action against diet-induced high cholesterol and may also reduce fatty deposits in the liver and aorta.
Apart from being one of the best culinary herbs we have, garlic also demonstrates a number of beneficial therapeutic actions, particularly on the cardiovascular system. These include the ability to reduce cardiovascular risk factors, possibly lower lipid levels, decrease serum cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and provide an anti-platelet effect. Because of these properties, Garlic should not be taken in conjunction with blood thinning medications such as warfarin.
Another traditional spice used in cooking is Capsicum, also known as Cayenne, it has an extensive history of use due to its ability to warm blood and improve the circulation. Any herbal formula will therefore benefit from this warming herb.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring compound that is found in every cell in the body, and in particularly high concentrations in heart muscle cells. Unfortunately, production tends to diminish with age. For people in their 40s and 50s supplementation with CoQ10 may help combat diminishing levels of CoQ10 and keep hearts functioning optimally. Supplementation with CoQ10 is also thought to increase energy production in the heart muscle and therefore increase the strength of the pumping action. For people with high blood pressure CoQ10 may also help to lower it. CoQ10 may also reduce oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Recently, CoQ10 supplementation has been suggested when taking statin medications. Used to lower cholesterol, statin drugs also deplete the body’s natural reserves of CoQ10. People with a personal or family history of heart disease, and people with high cholesterol should all consider a daily supplement of CoQ10. Dosages vary according to weight and CVD extent, but the general recommendation is 75 mg daily for general health benefits and up to 150 mg daily as a therapeutic dose.
If you have a history of heart disease or are currently taking any prescription heart medications, always discuss your individual needs with your healthcare professional before undertaking any alternate therapy.