The cardiovascular system is comprised of the heart, blood vessels and blood; and is responsible for transporting oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and cellular waste products throughout the body, and helping to maintain body temperature and pH balance.
Atherosclerosis is a common disease of the circulatory system in which the fatty deposits in arteries cause the blood vessel walls to stiffen, thicken, narrow the lumen and make them more susceptible to damage. Narrowed arteries restrict blood flow which may result in a heart attack or stroke (blockage to blood vessels in the brain).
High blood pressure or hypertension increases the workload of the heart, and may predispose the person to complications such as heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure.
In 2011 there were 160,000 deaths as a result of cardiovascular disease (NHS-UK). Risk factors for cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction, stroke, peripheral arterial disease) have been defined as modifiable by dietary and lifestyle management. These risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of exercise
Dietary management of cardiovascular disease
Foods which may positively influence heart and blood vessel health are:
- Adequate intake of omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish, nuts and seeds may improve artery health, reduce blood pressure and reduce risk of heart arrhythmias
- Adequate intake of deeply coloured fruits and vegetables may improve artery health, reduce cholesterol levels and reduce risk of coronary artery disease
- Reduced intake of animal fats and trans fats from cakes, pastries and confectionery, and increasing monounsaturated fats i.e. olive or canola oil, and increasing soluble fibre, onions and garlic in your diet may reduce cholesterol levels
- Adequate intake of dietary fibre (25-30g per daily) may help to lower elevated LDL cholesterol levels
- Reducing salt intake (if you are genetically susceptible) may help blood pressure reduction.
- Avoiding burning or over-browning of your food as this may damage artery walls.
- Limiting alcohol intake to 1 unit per day for females and 2 units per day for males may reduce high blood pressure
- Weight reduction if you are overweight may reduce blood pressure, high cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease
- Regular exercise (government guidelines are 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercises daily) may help reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease and improve heart health
Useful tests may Include:
- Genetic testing using the Nordic laboratories DNA health profile. This mouth swab test may be carried out to identify whether you may be at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and guide modification in the diet that may reduce high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. For example knowledge of susceptibility to alcohol, smoking, salt, fat metabolism, inflammation, blood clotting, cholesterol metabolism, methylation, and antioxidant capacity and their influence on disease, may all influence dietary and exercise choices.
- Methylation profile testing (www.doctorsdata.com/methylation-profile-plasma)
- Liposcanning of cholesterol particles to assess the seven sub-sizes of LDL cholesterol particles (larger particles are less atherogenic) and help identify risk of heart disease and suitable therapy options