Heart Health Month: February 2016
risk factors for heart disease. The majority of these risk factors can be controlled with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
High blood pressure control: One of the most important things that can be done to prevent cardiovascular conditions and heart attack is to reduce high blood pressure. A healthy blood pressure reading is generally 120/80 or less. When blood pressure levels exceed 140/90, a visit to a health care professional for treatment is recommended, as high blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels and the heart. Pharmaceutical and herbal agents are available to help reduce blood pressure levels along with regular exercise, stress management, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol intake. For those who prefer to use food as medicine, a diet that is high in fiber, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and a wide variety of vegetables are recommended to keep blood pressure in check.
Hawthorn: Hawthorn (Crataegus sp) is known among many herbal medicine and natural health circles as being the ultimate cardiovascular tonifier. Hawthorn contains many bioflavonoids, allowing it to be a wonderful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant alternative. The actions of Hawthorn range from regulating the rhythm of the heart, stabilizing vasculature, improving blood pressure, protecting against arterial plaque formation, balancing cholesterol, improving venous stasis, and much more. Beyond addressing physical ailments, hawthorn is recognized as having positive effects on the mental and emotional sphere. Hawthorn is thought to be beneficial for individuals whom are irritable or for those suffering from heart conditions related to emotional heartache. The Hawthorn tree is admired for opening the heart to forgiveness of others or forgiveness of life events that may be keeping a person from healing. Medicinal properties of Hawthorn are present in the flowers, stems, and berries of the sacred Hawthorn tree. Hawthorn can be purchased and consumed as an herbal tincture, tea, capsule, or in combination with other botanicals and cardio protective nutrients.
Skullcap: Often overlooked, skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) can aid the cardiovascular system by addressing nervous tension, stress and anxiety. When not properly addressed, stress and tension can constrict blood vessels, contributing to high blood pressure. Considered in botanical medicine as a nervine, a compound that has a high affinity for the nervous system, skullcap may help individuals address the physiologic effects of stress that can otherwise lead to cardiovascular ailments.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Current research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system by helping to lower harmful cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels and may also help boost beneficial cholesterol levels (HDL). When ignored, cholesterol imbalances can contribute to cardiovascular disease by contributing to plaque formation inside of blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of ischemic events such as stroke and heart attack. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, can be beneficial by balancing cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation inside of the arteries. Other than fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids can be found abundantly in grass-fed beef, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and cod liver oil.
*If you are pregnant or considering using herbal agents listed in this article, please consult your health professional to assess potential herb/drug interactions. These statements are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent disease. The FDA has not evaluated the statements used in this article.
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