The human heart operates like a pump sending blood around your body to keep you alive so its importance cannot be overstated. The greatest threats posed to the body’s vital organ come in the form of poor lifestyle decisions, such as eating an unhealthy diet. Eating unsaturated fats poses the most serious threat. This a type of fat found in processed foods that cause a fatty substance called cholesterol to clog up the arteries that transport blood to your heart.
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If your arteries become clogged up, the heart is starved of oxygen, and this can trigger a heart attack, so shunning foods high in saturated fat is a key protective measure.
In addition to shunning known offenders, increasing your intake of certain supplements has been shown to boost heart health.
According to Dr Sarah Brewer, medical director of Healthspan recommends the following two supplements:
Glucosamine is naturally made in the body from glucose, a sugar, and an amino acid called glutamine.
As Dr Brewer explains, glucosamine is known to reduce inflammation, which is why so many people find it helpful for their joints.
Heart disease is also associated with a low-grade inflammation of the arteries, which may explain why a growing number of studies suggest that glucosamine has beneficial effects on the heart, too, she says.
As Dr Brewer reports, the first indication came when researchers from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked at supplement usage in over 77,700 people aged 50 and over.
They were astonished to find that those who took glucosamine on at least four days a week, for at least three years were 17 percent less likely to die than non-users over the following five years.
Similar results were found for chondroitin, a similar dietary supplement, reports Dr Brewer.
Surprised that both glucosamine and chondroitin were individually associated with decreased total mortality, the study researchers continued following 77,510 of the original group of people for an average of eight years.
Once again, they found that use of glucosamine (with or without chondroitin) was associated with a 20 percent reduced risk of death from any cause, including heart
attack, during the eight-year study period.
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This protection remained even after accounting for other factors such as smoking, weight, age, alcohol intake, physical activity, vegetable intake, cholesterol-lowering medication and HRT.
Research conducted in Australia attests to the benefits of taking glucosamine supplements for heart health.
When researchers analysed data from 266,844 Australians aged 45 and over, they found that taking glucosamine was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of heart attack or angina and an 18 percent lower risk of other heart diseases than non-users, reports Dr Brewer.
“Vitamin K comes in several forms, of which vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in older people,” explains Dr Brewer.
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As she explains, most of vitamin K in our diet is in the form of vitamin K1, however, which is found in plants such as cauliflower, broccoli and dark green leaves.
Heart-friendly K2, on the other hand, is obtained from liver, cheeses, egg yolk, salmon, meats and bacterial fermented foods such as probiotic yoghurt, aged hard cheeses and natto (fermented soy beans).
How does vitamin K2 protect the heart?
Dr brewer explains: “While the liver uses vitamin K1 to make clotting proteins, vitamin K2 is the preferred form used in other parts of the body.”
She continues: “Vitamin K2 helps to regulate where calcium is deposited in the body, and can reduce the build-up of calcium in artery walls by directing calcium towards the bones.”
What does the evidence say?
Researchers looking at dietary intakes of over 16,000 women aged 49 – 70 years found that every 10mcg increase in dietary intakes of vitamin K2 reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by nine percent.
Another study involving 36,600 people found that those with the highest vitamin K2 intake were 29 percent less likely to develop peripheral arterial disease due to vascular calcification over a 12-year period than those with the lowest intakes.
According to Mayo Clinic, peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs.
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