Your heart is crucial to every function of your body. It is the sole organ which pumps oxygen-rich blood through the entire circulatory system, feeding your cells and making life possible. Only recently are Americans realizing the importance of a proper low-fat diet, regular exercise, giving up cigarette smoking, and cutting down alcohol consumption to maintaining a healthy heart.
Every day, the human heart beats about 104,000 times, pumping over 8,000 liters of blood through the body! Because it requires so much energy to perform efficiently, specialty nutrients such as Coenzyme Q10 and LJ100 — integral factors in the body's energy production cycles —may help enhance the body's energy supply.
There are three main interconnected energy generating cycles in our cells — the Glycolytic (sugar-burning) cycle, the Krebs' (citric acid) cycle, and the Electron Transport Chain. Together they supply about 90 to 95% of our body's entire energy supply, using fats, sugars, and amino acids as fuel.
B Vitamins help improve the ability of the heart muscle to function optimally. Each B Vitamin, after being converted to its active coenzyme form, acts as a catalytic “spark plug” for the body's production of energy. Vitamin B-1, for example, is converted to Cocarboxylase, which serves as a critical link between the Glycolytic and Krebs' Cycles, and also participates in the conversion of amino acids into energy. A deficiency of B coenzymes within contracting muscle cells can lead to a weakened pumping of the heart.
While many people have heard that high cholesterol levels may negatively affect normal heart function, few people understand exactly what cholesterol is, or how it can become harmful. Cholesterol is a white, waxy substance produced in the liver by all animals, and used for a variety of necessary activities in the body. Your liver also manufactures two main kinds of carrier molecules which transport cholesterol throughout the system: Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL). Cholesterol is either carried out by LDL from the liver to all tissues in the body where it is deposited, or carried back by HDLs which remove cholesterol deposits from the arteries and carry them to the liver for disposal. Because of this, LDL cholesterol is considered damaging, while HDL is considered protective. Problems occur when there is too much LDL cholesterol in the body and not enough HDL.
When the body becomes overloaded with fat, an over-abundance of LDL articles are manufactured to process it, and they in turn become elevated in the body to a degree that the liver cannot handle. Rich in fatty acids and cholesterol, these particles are highly susceptible to free radical attack (oxidation). Once oxidized, LDL particles are no longer recognized by the body, which attacks them with immune cells. Immune cells which are bloated by oxidized lipids (called foam cells) are a key factor in the development of “fatty streaks” — the first sign of excess arterial fat accumulation.
The bloated immune cells accumulate in artery lesions and create plaque in blood vessels, leading to obstruction and constriction of the vessels. Plus, these lodged foam cells continue to secrete free radicals into the bloodstream, making the problem worse. The development of lesions in the arteries is not an uncommon problem. Arterial (and all blood vessel) walls are composed of a chemical matrix which holds the endothelial cells in place.
That endothelial layer is the first and most important line of defense in preventing large molecules, such as cholesterol and fat, from entering the vessel wall. This matrix is composed of proteins, collagen, elastin, and lycosaminoglycans (amino sugars). Arterial lesions can be caused by suboptimal collagen and elastin synthesis due to three factors:
1. Vitamin C deficiency (since Vitamin C is a key building block for collagen and elastin);
2. excessive consumption of rancid fats, or heavy usage of alcohol or cigarettes; and
3. free radical damage.
Once these lesions are created, the body attempts to repair them by depositing LDL cholesterol — similar to the way one would patch a tire. If that cholesterol is not oxidized, i.e. chemically changed to a harmful, unstable molecule, then this process does not create a problem. But when arterial lesions are “patched” with foam cells, arterial walls suffer even more damage, because those foam cells release free radicals which can further damage cell membranes.
Unfortunately, most people have a lot of oxidized cholesterol floating through the bloodstream. The typical American diet, with its low antioxidant intake and overconsumption of fried and overcooked foods, contributes to the overall levels of harmful oxidized cholesterol. In fact, the average American intake of antioxidants is low even by USRDA standards, making Americans particularly prone to having high levels of oxidized cholesterol.
To maintain healthy arteries regular exercise wholesome diet is needed for a well-balanced cardiovascular program.
Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, and its subsequent ill effects on health. In addition to cutting out high-cholesterol and fatty foods, supplementation can protect existing cholesterol and all tissue cells — from oxidation. Antioxidants, substances which scavenge and neutralize free radicals, protect the cardiovascular system by halting the oxidation of cholesterol, and helping to prevent plaque accumulation in the arteries and the continual secretion of free radicals by foam cells. Supplementing the diet with high amounts of Vitamin C, a key antioxidant, also encourages a more healthy “patching” of existing lesions by using collagen (made from Vitamin C) instead of cholesterol.
Under a microscope, a fat cell looks like “a huge, clear droplet of fat that takes up nearly the entire cell and shoves the nucleus aside, squashing it up against the membrane so that the cell appears empty.” Triglycerides are made up of these fat cells. Moreover, fatty tissue is fully loaded with the defense system cells called macro-phages, which produce substances that can cause redness, puffiness, and discomfort in the heart and elsewhere in the body. These fat cells produce extra hormones that can dramatically impact the body’s sensitivity to insulin causing weight gain, glucose-processing difficulties and rising blood pressure (Grady 2004)
Balancing lipids is about more than cutting back on saturated fat, which is found primarily in meat and dairy products. Eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates from bread, cereal, candy, desserts and other junk food can also have a profound impact on triglyceride levels (Gardner 2005)
The 1990's mark a decade of increased awareness among Americans of important health issues. Much of the discussion has revolved around protecting that precious center of life we call the heart. Simple lifestyle change is one of the most effective ways to maintain and protect the functioning of the cardiovascular system. In order to take a holistic approach to heart care, make sure you include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (organic, if possible) in your diet, and cut down on fatty and cholesterol-forming foods. Reduce your salt and alcohol intake to a minimum. Try to get regular, sustained aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week. Don't smoke – or if you do smoke, try to eat even more fresh fruits and antioxidant-rich vegetables to counter the amount of free radicals being produced in your body.
The Untied States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investigating how compounds found in grapes and berries can spur activation of the biological processes that support healthy triglyceride levels. According to a USDA report,, “Lipid-(benefiting) compounds can help people battle heart (ailments) and alleviate some of the health problems associated with obesity” (Pons 2006)
“Lipids are the most important bio-molecules because they are the ultimate controllers and regulators of our bodily processes, “explains Edward Dennis, Ph.D. a professor of biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and principal investigatory of the Lipid MAPS Consortium, which was funded buy the National institutes of health (Pro Health 2003)
Flaxseed has recently gained attention in the area of cardiovascular disease primarily because it is the richest known source of both alpha-linolenic acid ( ALA) and the phytoestrogen, lignans, as well as being a good source of soluble fiber. Human studies have shown that flaxseed can modestly reduce serum total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, reduce postprandial glucose absorption, decrease some markers of inflammation, and raise serum levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, ALA and eicosapentaenoic acid. In a human clinical conducted at Harokopio University, Athens, Greece, supplementation with flaxseed oil resulted in significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels compared with linoleic acid.