While cancer has consistently been the leading cause of death among the people in our country, cardiovascular-related diseases usually rank second. Among the top ten causes of death in our country, at least four to five of them are attributed to cardiovascular and related diseases. From an international perspective, cardiovascular diseases have been a major global cause of death since 1900, with over one-third of the world’s population dying from cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is essential for everyone to pay more attention to this issue.
What Are Cardiovascular Diseases?
Any disease that affects the heart or blood vessel tissues can be collectively referred to as cardiovascular diseases.
These can be broadly categorized into diseases that affect the heart, such as angina, myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, endocarditis, etc., or diseases that affect blood vessels, such as hypertension, stroke, and aneurysm. It’s worth noting that among the causes of cardiovascular disease and its complications, hypertension has the highest contribution, accounting for up to 13%, followed by smoking at 9%, diabetes at 6%, lack of exercise at 6%, and obesity at 5%.
What Are the Symptoms of Cardiovascular Diseases?
The symptoms of cardiovascular diseases vary depending on the progression of the disease.
|Mild||Fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing with mild physical exertion, lower limb swelling, cold sweats, palpitations, and more.|
|Moderate||Pressure or pain in the chest or heart, and this pain may radiate to the arms, neck, and jaw, accompanied by dizziness and nausea, among other symptoms.|
|Severe||Dizziness, unsteadiness while standing, fainting, or even death, among other symptoms.|
The Department of Health has created a mnemonic for recognizing the symptoms and emergency response for stroke, called FAST (Facial droop, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, Time to call for help) to identify important early symptoms of a stroke and emphasize the importance of the “golden 3-hour window for acute stroke treatment.” 
What Causes Cardiovascular Diseases?
Cardiovascular diseases are challenging to predict, and it’s difficult to pinpoint a single factor that causes these diseases. However, they are often associated with the following risk factors:
– Family history
– Underlying chronic diseases such as diabetes, gout, or kidney disease
– Dietary habits
– Poor lifestyle, such as staying up late and lack of exercise
– Temperature fluctuations (especially during the four months from December to March)
The more risk factors that exist, the higher the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Progression of Cardiovascular Diseases
Except for some congenital genetic defects that lead to abnormalities in the structure of the heart and blood vessels, most cardiovascular diseases begin with a condition called atherosclerosis and worsen gradually. A brief review of the function of arteries is that they primarily carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to various tissues in the body, as all body tissues require sufficient oxygen for normal metabolism. When the inner lining of arteries gets damaged due to various reasons, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and the action of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL-ox), it leads to the accumulation of substances like cholesterol, fat, and calcium in the blood. This accumulation forms fatty plaques, and with further accumulation and hardening of blood vessels, the condition of vascular calcification worsens, making the inner lining of the arteries rough and irregular. The process mentioned above is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis makes blood less likely to flow smoothly, increases blood flow resistance, and results in tissue hypoxia and ischemia. When atherosclerosis occurs in the coronary arteries, it is referred to as coronary artery disease.
How to Prevent and Improve Cardiovascular Diseases?
Cardiovascular diseases can be prevented and improved through dietary and lifestyle adjustments, and in some cases, the use of supplements and medications.
Changing Dietary Habits
Many national research institutions such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have different dietary recommendations for preventing and managing cardiovascular diseases. Here are some recommendations that they commonly emphasize:
– Increasing fiber intake: Consuming high-fiber foods such as vegetables and fruits helps control weight and lower cholesterol levels.
– Increasing intake of vegetables and fruits: These are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, which have antioxidant properties that can prevent the progression of atherosclerosis.
– Reducing refined sugar consumption: Reducing the intake of added sugars in processed products or sugary beverages.
– Reducing sodium intake: Opt for unprocessed foods and reduce the use of seasonings.
– Mediterranean diet: It has a protective effect on cardiovascular health.
Additionally, many research institutions recommend reducing the intake of saturated fats and trans fats.
– Weight control: It is currently recommended to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a guideline and maintain a BMI between 20 and 25. Both excessive and low body weight have adverse effects on the mortality rate associated with cardiovascular diseases.
– Moderate exercise: Review articles suggest that increasing any form of physical activity is effective in reducing the incidence of coronary heart disease, as exercise can boost metabolism, increase calorie expenditure, and reduce fat accumulation.
– Alcohol consumption: The impact of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular diseases is subject to some controversy. Some studies indicate that the mortality rate from cardiovascular diseases is lower in groups that consume small amounts of alcohol compared to those who abstain completely. However, excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, which is an undeniable fact.
– Smoking cessation: Smoking has long
been considered a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Smoking causes various chemical components such as nicotine and tar present in cigarettes, which are crucial contributors to heart disease.
Remember that prevention is key, and it’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance on managing cardiovascular risks.
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Intake of Health Supplements
You can choose appropriate products based on your needs to delay the use of medication. The following are some recommended nutritional supplements related to cardiovascular protection:
Fish Oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
The American Heart Association recommends that people consume fish rich in Omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids at least twice a week. In addition to natural food sources, commercially available fish oil supplements are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can be incorporated into cell membrane structures to maintain better membrane fluidity. They may also achieve cardiovascular protection through other means, such as reducing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing blood clotting, and anti-inflammatory effects, among others .
A 2019 meta-analysis indicated that daily supplementation of 376 milligrams to 4000 milligrams of fish oil Omega-3 effectively reduces the risk of heart attacks, coronary heart disease, mortality, cardiovascular disease, and mortality .
Studies have tested different doses of EPA+DHA and found that over 80% of EPA+DHA have better absorption .
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
From the perspective of the heart’s physiological function, the heart continuously pumps blood to various tissues, requiring a significant amount of energy. CoQ10 is primarily present in organs and tissues with high metabolism and energy demands, such as the heart, liver, and skeletal muscles.
CoQ10 achieves heart protection through the following two main effects:
- Assisting in energy supply: Although CoQ10 cannot directly provide energy, it is an essential co-factor in the energy production process.
- Antioxidant: CoQ10 has excellent antioxidant effects and can reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), effectively preventing the progression of atherosclerosis and maintaining the integrity of blood vessel endothelium.
In 2017, a study involving 14 randomized controlled trials (with over 2,000 participants) investigated the impact of CoQ10 supplementation on mortality rates in heart failure patients. It was found that the administration of CoQ10 could reduce the mortality rate by 31%, and it also improved exercise performance.
Red Yeast Rice (Monacolin K)
The most representative active component in red yeast rice is Monacolin K. This substance has a structure similar to the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin and has the activity of inhibiting the key enzyme HMG-CoA reductase involved in cholesterol synthesis, reducing cholesterol biosynthesis. In a 2020 meta-analysis, it was found that administering 1,200 mg of red yeast rice extract daily to myocardial infarction patients with concomitant borderline hypercholesterolemia improved the prognosis of cardiovascular disease and overall lipid profiles . The active component Monacolin K needs a dose of 13-15 mg/day to achieve the expected health effects.
Consuming red yeast rice should be done with caution as it can deplete Coenzyme Q10, so additional supplementation of Coenzyme Q10 should be considered when using red yeast rice.
Nattokinase is a product obtained from the fermentation of soybeans by natto bacteria. The most thoroughly studied component in natto is an important protein-degrading enzyme called Nattokinase. It mainly achieves the prevention of blood clots through three mechanisms:
- Enhancing tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) activity
- Activating urokinase (UK)
- Directly breaking down blood clots (fibrin)
The first clinical trial of Nattokinase was completed in 1990, which found that daily intake of Nattokinase can increase the dissolution ability of fibrin and enhance t-PA activity . More recent research gave high blood lipid patients 6,500 FU of Nattokinase daily for 26 weeks, effectively reducing atherosclerotic plaque formation, lowering total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides (TG), and increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) .
💡Nattokinase activity in natto is expressed in Fibrinolytic Units (FU). It is recommended to achieve a minimum of 2,000 FU per day through dietary natto intake to experience its benefits.
Green Tea (Epigallocatechin Gallate, EGCG)
In Asian regions, green tea has long been a focus of attention among popular beverages. Studies
have found that green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has powerful antioxidant activity to protect the heart. In addition to its antioxidant properties, the components in green tea also play a role in cardiovascular protection through anti-inflammatory effects and improved endothelial function, among others.
A study involving 40,530 Japanese adults found that participants who consumed more than 5 cups of green tea daily had a 26% lower risk of heart attack or stroke-related death. Furthermore, a 2015 meta-analysis of nearly 260,000 subjects found that green tea consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic-related diseases .
Flaxseed oil contains a significant amount of unsaturated fatty acids, with the most abundant being α-Linolenic acid (ALA). It is used to prevent high blood lipids and atherosclerosis. Flaxseed also contains a significant amount of lignans, so flaxseed may regulate cardiovascular disease risk factors through other mechanisms, such as reducing oxidative stress, decreasing platelet adhesion, and lowering blood pressure. In a study from 2005 involving over 2,000 individuals aged 32 to 93, the intake of ALA was found to lower the incidence of coronary heart disease and exhibited a dose-response effect .
Precautions for Cardiovascular Disease Patients
Exercise or Lifting Heavy Objects
Sudden increases in physical activity or heavy lifting when you are not used to it can lead to angina. Additionally, going to the toilet can also strain the heart because straining during bowel movements can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure.
After a large meal, a significant amount of blood is diverted to the digestive system for food digestion. If there is blockage or hardening of the coronary arteries, it may not be able to supply enough blood to the heart, leading to angina.
Avoid extreme cold or hot environments, large temperature fluctuations, or poor air quality, as poor vascular elasticity may not adapt well to rapid changes in blood vessel size.
Excessive stress or sudden emotional fluctuations, such as experiencing a shock, can trigger angina.
Take Medications on Time
Maintaining the appropriate concentration of medications in the blood ensures that they are effective.
Cardiovascular diseases consistently rank as the second leading cause of death among the population. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to the fundamental maintenance of cardiovascular health, including diet, lifestyle, and exercise. Tailoring the use of appropriate health supplements based on individual needs can help maintain a healthy heart and clear blood vessels.