Ischemic Heart Disease is the number one cause of death in the USA, and number two worldwide. To say that “we need to keep our hearts in good health” would be an understatement based on how common it is for this organ to fail. In this article, I will discuss a few medicinal herbs, exercises and foods that can used to maintain cardiac health and assist in managing certain heart diseases.
(The following are to be used under the supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor)
Arjuna is a medicinal herb that has been used for treating heart disease in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. In clinical research, Arjuna has displayed rehabilitative and prophylactic protection in cardiac failure and reduced cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis. Ayurvedic doctors almost always advise the use of this herb in patients of both cardiac diseases as well as those who have just recently had a heart attack. It has the ability to tone up and strengthen the cardiac muscles and improve its overall function. However, there are very specific ways to use Arjuna and it should not be used without proper supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor.
In clinical trials, this herb has been effectively used for:
– Reducing Ischemic Mitral Regurgitation (see study)
– Increasing Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction (see study)
– Reducing Blood Pressure & Cholesterol (see study)
– Reducing Cardiac Mass (see study)
– Reducing Chronic Stable Angina (see study)
Apart from the cardiovascular effects of this herb, it’s also used in Ayurvedic medicine for healing ulcers, arresting bleeding, treating premature ejaculation, reducing heartburn and burning urination.
Snake Root (Sarpagandha) is a potent herb for reducing high blood pressure and heart rate (see study). This herb dilates the blood vessels and is used for the treatment of hypertension. Snake Root is a sedative, relaxant, and aids in relieving mental tension. (Allopathic medicine uses an alkaloid from this plant known as “Reserpine” to treat hypertension.)
It’s able to lower the blood pressure and reduce the effects of stress by producing a calming effect on the mind due to its mildly sedating properties. However, it can be dangerous and must be used under proper medical supervision as it does have a strong effect on the body.
Who should avoid this herb?
Those suffering of Asthma, reduced libido, ulcers, GERD & acidity, renal pain, obesity and rhinitis.
Especially useful in Atherosclerosis, Garlic is wonder herb for treating a wide range of heart related conditions. Garlic, when combined with Lemon juice, increases HDL (good cholesterol), reduces LDL (bad cholesterol), lowers blood pressure, reduces arterial stiffness, and increases nitric oxide which improves circulation (see study). Most Ayurvedic doctors recommend garlic to be taken daily by patients suffering from cardiac problems. It has also been seen in research to improve exercise capacity in patients with heart conditions. Let’s not forget the zinc content in garlic that is beneficial for the formation of thyroid hormone (thyroxine) and testosterone production, both of which are essential for cardiovascular health.
Consumption of Avocado is also associated with higher HDL cholesterol – the good type (see study)
Diet & Nutrition
The following foods, antioxidants and vitamins are essential in cardiac health and managing cardiac diseases. Including them in your diet is essential.
In clinical research, consumption of Pomegranates (usually its juice) has been found to significantly reduce blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and the effects of oxidative stress while also increasing HDL cholesterol and improving endothelial function (see study). Simply consuming the juice of one pomegranate a day can usually produce massive benefits. I don’t recommend buying bottled pomegranate juice. Its better, in my opinion, to consume the fresh juice – early in the morning, on an empty stomach.
This antioxidant plays a major role in energy production and is vital in maintaining cardiac health. Patients with heart disease tend to have low levels of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which in simple terms, is the source of energy for cells. CoQ10 is essential in the production of ATP. CoQ10 also prevents plaque oxidation (see study), enhances blood flow (see study) and is considered to be cardio-protective. It is better to take a sustained release supplement of CoQ10. Natural sources include organ meats like liver, kidneys and heart meat.
3. PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinone)
Stimulates mitochondrial growth and significantly reduces C-Reactive Protein and trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), both of which tend to be high in atherosclerosis. Natural sources include Natto, Parsley, Papaya, Green pepper, and kiwi. If supplementing with PQQ, no more than 20mg is needed to see results.
4. Vitamin D3
Studies have shown that Vitamin D3 plays an important role in cardiac health. Some studies suggest that people who are deficient in vitamin D are at risk for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, and high blood pressure (see study). I have personally witnessed that supplementing Vitamin D3 together with K2 can effectively reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Natural sources include Cod liver oil, beef liver, whole eggs, and fish. Sunlight is the easiest and best source. Supplementing Vitamin D3 with between 2000-5000 IU is more than enough.
5. Vitamin K2
This vitamin plays an important role in vascular elasticity and preventing calcification of plaques within the arteries by assisting in increasing Matrix Gla Protein (MGP) which inhibits calcification within the arteries (see study). Vitamin K2 should be taken together with Vitamin D3. Natural sources of K2 are whole eggs, butter, milk, natto, cheese, chicken liver, and cheese. When supplementing with K2, a dose between 60-100mcg is enough.
This mineral plays a vital role in hundreds of biochemical functions including the regulation of blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and blood sugar. In clinical studies, supplementation with magnesium has resulted in a reduction in arrhythmias (see study) as well as blood pressure (see study) via nitric-oxide independent induction of vasodilation (opening of arteries) (see study). It also resulted in a reduction in insulin resistance – something that is directly linked to heart disease (see study). Magnesium consumption was also associated with a reduced occurrence of sudden death from cardiac causes (see study).
Try to include as many of these in your diet and remove packaged, frozen and processed foods. Sodas, bottled juices, and excessive caffeine should also be reduced. Refined flour & sugar are 2 major health destroyers and should be removed completely. Limit salt intake in hypertension and increase salt intake in hypotension. Get enough potassium and healthy fats.
The best exercise for health, in general, is to simply walk (preferably outdoors). Walking increases circulation reduces cortisol levels, and if outdoors, allows for the intake of fresh air which helps calm the mind. The openness of outdoor walking also has psychologically beneficial effects which may go beyond simply calming your mind. Walking reduces your chances of developing a wide range of diseases including Coronary Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, and Osteoporosis. Walking also supports the release of pain-killing endorphins. Walking outdoors also gives you a chance to get more vitamin D. Walking barefoot is even more beneficial.
Yoga has a wide range of benefits and can greatly improve heart health. The yogic breathing (pranayama) exercise known as “Alternate nostril breathing” is referred to in Yogic terminology as “Nadi Shodhana Pranayam”, which means “Breath Control for Purification of Channels”. Although it is not well understood, this breathing exercise has been used to aid in numerous illnesses including high blood pressure (see study). In my personal experience, I have witnessed many patients make great improvements in their health with the use of this breathing technique alone. Some doctors theorize that it is due to CNS regulatory effects and anti-stress effects of deep breathing.
(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
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by Dr. Nishal R.