Eliminate Oxidised Cholesterol and Improve Your Health

The risks associated with having high cholesterol levels are well documented. Particularly low-density lipoprotein [LDL] which is referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’. Eliminating high oxidized cholesterol from our diet is so important to good health. But what is oxidized cholesterol? How does it differ to normal cholesterol, whether it is high-density lipoprotein [HDL] or LDL ?

In this article I will be explaining what oxidized cholesterol actually is, how it is formed and the associated foods that need to be avoided.

What is cholesterol ?

Cholesterol is a fat that is carried in your blood and produced by the liver from saturated fat in your diet. This is absorbed directly from cholesterol-rich foods like egg yolk and dairy products. Cholesterol consists of LDL and HDL. Low-density lipoprotein is considered to be the real culprit behind heart disease [https://jules4heart.com/the-foods-to-lower-cholesterol/] While HDL actually protects against heart disease, by drawing cholesterol away from the arterial walls and back to the liver.

So what about oxidized cholesterol ?

It is important to the health of arteries that cholesterol is able to move freely into and out of cells. HDL typically transports about 20-25 percent of the cholesterol in your blood, carrying it away from tissues to your liver, which disposes of it. In general, the more HDLs in your bloodstream, the more artery-clogging cholesterol is removed. If cholesterol levels start to build up within the artery instead of returning to the liver, then they are likely to become oxidized.

Research has shown that for every 1 percent increase in HDL level, your risk of heart attack drops by 3-4 percent. In comparison, a 1 percent drop in LDL levels reduces your risk of heart attack by just 2 percent. Having low levels of HDL means that LDL cholesterol can start to build up within the artery walls. This is due to there being fewer ‘dust carts’ or HDL to dispose of the bad cholesterol. This may then go through the process of oxidation.

To understand oxidation, you have to think of it as a metal chair being left outdoors. After a while, the metal chair begins to rust. This is more or less the process of oxidation that occurs to the cells in the body. Oxidized cholesterol develops when ‘normal’ LDL cholesterol is damaged by chemical interactions with free radicals [[https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652.php].

Free radicals are produced naturally in the body from normal cellular processes. There are also lifestyle choices that we make, that accelerate their production. These include:-

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as pesticides and air pollution
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Fried foods

There are protective compounds in our body called antioxidants, that can stop the cholesterol in our bloodstream from becoming oxidized. Antioxidants basically prevents or lessens the effect of free radicals. This is achieved by donating an electron to free radicals, thereby reducing their reactivity. What makes antioxidants so unique, is their ability to donate an electron without becoming reactive free radicals themselves. As you can see, antioxidants play a critical part in our bodies defense system.

Developing atherosclerosis

In response to the presence of oxidized cholesterol, the body releases white blood cells called Monocytes to engulf and dispose of them. However, these monocytes are unable to achieve that, if there are a large amount of oxidized cholesterol. This results in monocytes themselves becoming stuffed and turning foamy. These foam cells collect in the blood vessel wall, where they turn dangerous and begin producing more free radicals. These free radicals further oxidize the cholesterol and eventually form a fatty streak, referred to as Plaque. This is the first stage phase of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries [https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/atherosclerosis].

Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen -rich blood to your organs and other parts of the body. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious problems, which includes heart attack, stroke and even death.

Preventing cholesterol from being oxidized

You can control some risk factors for oxidized cholesterol, such as a lack of physical activity, smoking and an unhealthy diet. Other factors such as age, family history of heart disease are unfortunately out of your control. I want to focus on the main enemy associated with oxidized cholesterol. That enemy is trans-fatty acid.

Trans-fatty acids are called ‘hidden fats’ because they masquerade as healthy vegetable oils. But a process called hydrogenation changes the original chemical composition of oil, resulting in a higher melting point and longer shelf life. Hydrogenation is a process, dating back to 1912, that enables the food industry to use polyunsaturated fats as a food spread, instead of butter and lard. During hydrogenation, oils are heated to a high temperature and hydrogen is sent through them. In the process, synthetic trans-fatty acid [TFAs] are produced, but with a different molecular structure from the essential fatty acid normally found in humans and other mammals.

Trans-fatty acid are very damaging to your arteries. They increase LDL cholesterol and heighten your risk of heart disease. The government food standards agency stated that trans fats found food containing hydrogenated vegetable oil are harmful and have no nutritional benefits. An eight-year study of 85,000 women by Harvard Medical School found that those eating margarine had an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Hydrogenated vegetable oils have not only failed to provide the expected benefits as a substitute for highly saturated fats, but they have actually contributed to the occurrence of coronary heart disease [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8094827]. Foods high in trans-fatty acid

The Harvard study reckoned that TFAs could account for 6 percent of all deaths from heart disease, or 30,000 deaths a year in the USA alone. And of course, heart disease rates are higher in northern European countries, where consumption of TFAs is high, but low in the Mediterranean countries, where TFA intake is low because the main dietary fat is olive oil.

Major sources of trans-fats include:-

  • Anything made with partially hydrogenated oils, such as crackers, doughnuts, breads and many frozen potato products.
  • Most bagged snack foods, including crisps, cheesy puffs and popcorn.
  • Chips or chicken fried in hydrogenated fats.
  • Some types of margarine and reduced fat spreads.

Choose healthy options

If you want to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise good cholesterol [HDL], then research is clear that you should exchange saturated fats with unsaturated, particularly polyunsaturated fats. According to research undertaken, this can reduce cardiovascular disease by about 30 percent. This is a similar reduction achieved using statin medication [https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510].

I would suggest the following foods to be introduced into your diet, which will go a long way to eliminating oxidized cholesterol:-

  • Oily fish – such as mackerel and salmon
  • Nuts – such as almonds and cashews
  • Seeds – such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Avocados
  • I would recommend peanut, soybean, sesame, canola and olive oil.

Conclusion

In this article I have been able to shine the light on oxidized cholesterol and the risks to your health, if you consume those associated foods that contain trans-fatty acid.

Better life-style choices and the introduction of healthier oils into your diet, can have a huge impact on your health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

I hope you have found this article to be informative. Which foods have you been able to introduce into your diet, that has helped to lower your cholesterol levels ?

What Supplements Lower Your Cholesterol ?

Supplements to lower cholesterol

Walking into any pharmacy, you can be overwhelmed by the wide variety of supplements available. Which of these supplements can help to lower cholesterol? By putting this blog together, I will hope to answer this question for you.

Using supplements to maintain optimum levels of cholesterol in the blood, is important because it can have a great impact on the health of your heart. High cholesterol usually has no clear symptoms, but it is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Along with dietary changes, a number of supplements may be effective in helping you to control your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk to your heart. I will be discussing 6 different supplements and the possible side effects with their use.

What is high cholesterol ?

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance circulating in the blood. The body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to maintain cell membranes and perform other vital functions. Have high levels of low-density lipoprotein [LDL], which is referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, can lead to artery blockage and heart complications [https://jules4heart.com/the-foods-to-lower-cholesterol/].

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter [mg/dl]. Here are the healthy levels of cholesterol, based on your age and gender:

Anyone aged 19 and younger
Type of cholesterolHealthy level
Total cholesterolLess than 170mg/dl
LDLLess than100mg/dl
Men aged 20 and over
Total cholesterol125 to 200mg/dl
LDLLess than 100mg/dl
HDL40mg/dl or higher
Women aged 20 and older
Total cholesterol125 to 200mg/dl
LDLLess than 100mg/dl
HDL50mg/dl or higher
Healthy cholesterol levels, based on your age and gender.

Fish-oil supplements

Fish oil supplement to lower cholesterol

The fat in fish contains a class of polyunsaturated fatty acid called Omega-3. These fatty acids differ from the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils, called Omega-6. They both have different effects on the body. The two most potent forms of omega-3 – Eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and Docosaphexanoic acid [DHA] – are found in abundance in cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and tuna. The sources of a third type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], are found in certain vegetable oils [such as flax seed oil] and leafy greens [such as purslane].

Fish oils can be beneficial in reducing your risk of heart disease. This is achieved in a number of ways. With the presence of omega-3, this causes the platelets in your blood to be less likely to clump together and form the clots that lead to heart attacks. Secondly, omega-3 can reduce the rate at which the liver produces triglycerides [https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186]. Recent research has also shown that omega-3 strengthens the heart’s electrical system, preventing heart rhythm abnormalities.

Adults are recommended to eat at least two servings of omega-3 rich fish a week. Women who are pregnant or planning to have children should limit the amount of fish they consume. This is due to them being susceptible to the potential effects of toxins in fish. If you don’t enjoy eating fish and you are struggling to get the recommended amount of omega-3 in your diet, then I would recommend fish oil supplements. Taking high doses of omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit blood clotting, especially if you are on blood thinning medication or have diabetes. So it is important to consult with your doctor before you start taking fish-oil supplements.

Possible side effects:-

  • Belching
  • Flatulence
  • Feeling bloated
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea

It is adviseable to try and get omega-3 directly from food sources, but if you choose to use supplements then please take these points into consideration:-

  1. Take omega-3 oil rather than fish liver oil.
  2. Please be aware of the vitamin A content. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition [SACN] advises not to take more than 1.5mg [1500ug] a day from food and supplements combined.
  3. Do not take supplements containing Vitamin A if you are pregnant or planning to have a baby.
  4. Please be aware that the supplement dosage will be different for a child and an adult [https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/supplements.pdf].

Coenzyme Q10

This is a natural substance that is produced by your body and it belongs to a family of compounds called Quinones. The word coenzyme means an enzyme that acts in conjunction with other enzymes to speed up the metabolic process. Providing the energy that cells need to digest food, heal wounds, maintain healthy muscles and perform bodily functions.

Higher concentrations of the coenzyme are found in the heart than any other organ. It helps the heart to beat more than 100,000 times each day. People with heart disease have up to 25 percent less coenzyme than their healthy peers [https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-coenzyme-q10/art-20362602].

In addition, this natural substance acts as an antioxidant, much like vitamin C and E. It piggybacks on the LDL particles as they travel around the body, helping to protect them from oxidation. Therefore, neutralizing the cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals.

Despite coenzyme Q10 being manufactured in the body, unfortunately our blood levels of this substance decreases with age. They are also lower in people with hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes and those prescribed statins [to lower cholesterol levels]. Studies have found that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs deplete coenzyme Q10 by interfering with the body’s ability to make the compound.

Therefore, anyone with high LDL levels and anyone taking a statin drug should seriously consider supplementing their diet with coenzyme Q10. Please consult with your doctor before you start taking the supplement.

Dosage:-

The general dosage for coenzyme Q10 is 50mg twice a day. Higher dosages of 100mg twice a day maybe useful for heart or circulatory problems. Most research suggests that this supplement is generally safe, even in large doses. In rare cases it may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, nausea or a loss of appetite.

When you choose your coenzyme Q10 supplement, please ensure the product is certified, is of the highest quality and contains a consistent amount of the compound.

Side effects:

While coenzyme Q10 is generally quite safe and well tolerated by most adults, you need to be aware of mild side effects:-

  • Stomach upset
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Light sensitivity

By dividing up your total daily dose of coenzyme Q10 into smaller amounts 2 or 3 times a day, can help you to reduce possible side effects.

Psyllium

Psyllium husk supplement to lower cholesterol

This is derived from the seeds of plantago ovata [a herb grown worldwide but mainly in India] and is a commonly used source of soluble fibre. It is able to absorb excess water from the intestine to make large and soft stools. It is also able to bind to cholesterol which is then expelled. It is therefore useful in reducing cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Research has been undertaken among men and women to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of psyllium husk fibre on treating people diagnosed with primary hypercholesterolemia [high cholesterol]. Eligible subjects with bad cholesterol [LDL] concentrations between 70 and 85mg/dl were randomly assigned to receive either 5.1g of psyllium or a cellulose placebo twice daily for 26 weeks.

Results showed a significant reduction of 6.7 percent in LDL cholesterol concentrations among men and women with primary hypercholesterolemia than those in the placebo group [https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-3-17]

Dosage:-

According to the Harvard Medical School, you need to consume 10-20g of psyllium husk per day with 8 ounces of water in order to lower cholesterol. This is taken three times a day, just before each meal. Taking more than this, can cause serious digestive problems. It would be adviseable to start with a smaller dose each day and then slowly build up to the full dose [https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-much-psyllium-is-needed-to-lower-cholesterol].

Available in powder form, it can also be stirred into juice or water before drinking.

Side effects:-

The most common side effects are:-

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea

Arginine

Arginine or L-arginine is a chemical building block called an “amino acid”. This is eventually converted to nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide plays a vital role in the health of your arteries and ultimately your heart.

This compound is mainly produced in the lining of blood vessels [endothelium]. Nitric oxide helps to maintain the patency of the vessels by increasing blood flow and preventing fatty deposits from sticking to the endothelium. Therefore, inhibiting the walls from getting too sticky and stiff.

US heart specialist, Professor John Cooke, gave 43 volunteers large doses of L-arginine [6.21g per day]. Research showed their blood flow and artery flexibility improved significantly after just one week. Professor Cooke also found supplementing with this same compound was effective in reducing the likelihood of plaque and clots in the bloodstream, by reducing the stickiness of blood platelets and white blood cells.

Side effects:-

  • Stomach upset
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headche
  • Shingles

Possible drug interactions:-

  • Anti-coagulant and anti-platelet medication has the effect of reducing blood clotting. Therefore, to supplement with L-arginine can put you at greater risk of bleeding.
  • Hypertensive drugs can be effective at lowering high blood pressure. But there is a risk that your blood pressure will drop too low, if L-arginine supplements are used alongside this medication.
  • Research has shown that L-arginine can be effective in lowering blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If you are also taking diabetic tablets, then this supplement will affect your insulin dosages and will need to be adjusted accordingly.

It is adviseable to consult with your doctor before you start supplementing your diet with L-arginine because of the contraindications with other medication.

Hawthorn

This is a herb that has valuable medicinal properties due to its high concentration of antioxidants known as flavonoids.

Hawthorn can have beneficial effects on the heart. It is able to widen the arteries, by interfering with enzymes [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angiotensin-converting_enzyme], which constricts blood vessels. This action therefore improves blood flow through the arteries. By blocking these enzymes, hawthorn supplements have the double effect of strengthening the pumping action of the heart.

Antioxidant properties of the herb may also help to protect against damage associated with the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries.

Animal studies have shown that the hawthorn extract has the ability to lower total cholesterol and LDL in the blood. More research is needed to provide clear evidence of its effectiveness in humans.

Side effects

Hawthorn extract is widely regarded as one of the safest herbal preparations. But you need to be aware of some reported side effects. These include:-

  • Agitation
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Artichoke

The leaves of the artichoke contain several substances that have beneficial effects when consumed. Artichoke contains Cynarin and various flavanoids, particularly Luteolin.

Scientific research dating back to the 1930s showed that artichoke leaf extract was able to reduce cholesterol levels in patients with hypercholesterolemia [high cholesterol]. These findings have been substantiated by research published in 2000, which showed 143 people who took 450mg of artichoke extract tablets for six weeks – were able to lower total cholesterol by 18.5 percent and reduce LDL by 22.9 percent. This was in comparison to the placebo group, who had an 8.6 percent reduction in total cholesterol and 6.3 percent drop in LDL.

Artichoke supplement to lower cholesterol

Another study found that the artichoke extract was able to lower the levels of LDL and at the same time to slightly raise the levels of HDL. There is speculation that the cholesterol lowering properties of this substance, is due to the presence of cynarin. This increases the production of bile in the liver and the flow of bile from the gallbladder. These actions help the body to excrete cholesterol.

Side effects:-

Artichoke leaf extract is well tolerated by most people, even after long tern use. In a small number of people, this supplement can cause flatulence and mild gastrointestinal problems.

Conclusion

I believe that supplements may be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. It must be emphasized though, that no dietary supplement is a substitute for the lifestyle changes and improved eating habits that can contribute to good health.

If your doctor prescribes medication to reduce your cholesterol, then I would advise that you continue with your drug regime. Before introducing supplements to your diet, please ensure you consult with your doctor.

I hope this blog has given you a greater awareness of some supplements available, that have the potential of lowering your high cholesterol levels.

I would welcome comments about which supplements are currently being used to lower cholesterol levels and any side effects or problems with their usage.

The Foods To Lower Cholesterol

The Foods to lower Cholesterol

Foods to lower cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat [lipid] that is found in your blood and every cell of your body. It is important to the body because it is used to produce sex hormones [including estrogen, progesterone and testerone], vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Without enough cholesterol, you simply couldn’t live. However, you only need a relatively small amount to take care of all these functions. High levels of “bad” cholesterol called Low density Lipoprotein [LDL) in your blood increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-density_lipoprotein]

In this article I would be discussing foods that you can start to introduce into your diet, that will help to lower your cholesterol levels.

Fish

Fish provides a wealth of omega-3 fatty acids [which are “good fats”] that help to protect against heart and circulation problems. They are also thought to reduce the risk of thrombosis [blood clots] and improve the flow of blood through small blood vessels. Therefore, reducing your risk of heart disease. This is achieved in several ways. Most importantly, the presence of omega-3s makes platelets in the blood less likely to clump together and form the clots that lead to cardiovascular disease.

Fish that contain high levels of omega-3 include cold water fish especially cod, tuna, salmon, halibut, shark and mackerel. Other good sources are bluefish, shrimp, flounder, swordfish and herring. Please be aware that despite tuna being rich in vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, most of the oils are removed during the canning process. So canned tuna is not a great source of omega-3. Canned salmon however is fine.

Salmon on a plate

Studies conducted support the fact that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can have a beneficial effect on your heart health. There were positive results in both healthy people and in those people with underlying conditions that put them at increased risk of heart attack, stroke or heart disease.

The trial was carried out among 26,000 US men and women aged 50 and older. There was a 28 percent reduced risk of heart attack over a five-year follow-up period. A lower risk of heart attack was found particularly in those who had low fish consumption. Within this group, there was a 19 percent reduction in all major cardiovascular events plus a 40 percent reduction in heart attack. [https://www.cbsnews.com/news/eating-fish-taking-omega-3-fish-oil-supplements-cut-heart-attack-risk-studies-find/]

Vegetables

Vegetables that are grown in good soil, picked when ripe and eaten while still fresh provide a rich source of minerals. These include potassium, magnesium, calcium and other trace minerals, all of which are beneficial to the heart.

Vegetables contains lots of fibre. The cell membrane of vegetables contains fibrous material that is indigestible in the human digestive tract. This then “sweeps” the intestinal tract clean, as it passes through both the large and small intestines. The fibre helps to clear excess cholesterol out of the large intestine before it can be reabsorbed.

Fruit

Fruits are rich in fibre and antioxidants – two important heart protectors. Another reason why fruit is so important to the diet is because it contains both soluble and insoluble fibre. The insoluble fibre helps to prevent constipation and is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer, while soluble fibre can help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Apparently it helps to produce a gel in the intestines that attaches to cholesterol. This causes it to be excreted as waste instead of being reabsorbed by the body.

Selection of fruit

Fibre-rich fruits include apples, pears, strawberries, prunes, oranges and bananas.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has documented research undertaken among 4466 adults, to study the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and low density lipoprotein [LDL]. Results support the evidence that higher intakes of fruit and vegetables is inversely related to LDL concentrations in men and women independent of other risk factors.

Nuts

Nuts are widely advocated for their health benefits. While they may be relatively high in fat, nuts are high in unsaturated fats, including omega-3 as well as being high in fibre. These are known to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

In August 2002, a study published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that when 27 people with high cholesterol ate one or two handfuls of almonds daily for a month, they managed to reduce LDL levels by between 4.4 and 9.4 percent.

Another study looked at the effect of eating walnuts every day. The researchers studied data for 514 older adults, with an average age of 69 years who were participating in the Walnuts and Healthy Ageing [WAHA] study. Around half of the participants added a half of walnuts to their daily diet, which was 15 percent of their daily calorie intake. Whereas the other half consumed their usual daily diet without nuts. The results were conclusive. After 1 year, researchers found that these people on the walnut diet had significantly lower levels of LDL cholesterol compared with those who ate their usual diet.

Avocados

The flesh of a ripe avocado is a rich source of vitamin E and potassium. It also supplies vitamin C, riboflavin and manganese. Vitamins C and E are both antioxidants and can therefore help to prevent the free radical damage that might lead to certain cancers. Potassium helps to control blood pressure as well as maintain a regular heartbeat [https://jules4heart.com/the-best-way-to-lower-blood-pressure-naturally/].

Like olive oil, avocados have a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are thought to lower blood cholesterol levels. But be aware that avocados are high in calories. Avocado contain approximately 400 Calories.

Studies have shown that eating one avocado a day can lower your harmful LDLs by as much as 17 percent, while raising your good HDLs.

Garlic

Most of garlic’s health benefits are the result of more than 100 sulphur compounds it contains, including those that are responsible for the pungent odour released when a bulb is crushed.

Several studies suggest that garlic can prevent heart disease in various ways. For example, garlic makes platelets (the cells involved in blood clotting) less likely to clump and stick to artery walls, and so reduce your risk of a heart attack. There is evidence that the herb dissolves clot-forming proteins which can affect plaque development. Garlic also lowers blood pressure slightly, mainly through its ability to widen blood vessels and help the blood to circulate more freely.

In one analysis of five different trials in which participants received either garlic supplements or a placebo, the authors concluded that you could lower your total cholesterol about 9%, with the equivalent of 1.5 to 3 cloves of garlic a day for two to six months.

Legumes

The most health promoting legumes include  beans such as French, kidney, navy, snap, stringless and green beans. Adzuki beans, alfalfa sprouts, carob, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, lima beans, mung beans, peas, string beans and possibly soybeans.

An abundance of fibre, amino acids, iron, B vitamins and calcium are available in these foods. The reason why legumes are the mainstay of vegetarian diets is because they supply so many of the same nutrients that meat does.

Research undertaken confirms that a daily serving (3/4 cup or 4.5 ounces) of legumes was linked to a reduction in LDL by 5 percent. This also meant a reduced risk of heart disease, according to Dr. John Sievenpiper [https://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/news/20140407/beans-lentils-peas-your-recipe-for-lower-cholesterol#1] Canadian researchers examined 26 U.S and Canadian studies that included a total of 1,037 volunteers with an average age of 51. The average duration of follow-up was six weeks.

Large quantities of soluble dietary fibre are contained within legumes. Within the digestive system, these soluble fibres attach to cholesterol particles and takes them out of the body. Therefore, reducing the amount of cholesterol that are left, which then minimizes your risk of heart disease.

Whole Grains

Whole grain food to lower cholesterol

Whole grains especially oats, are frequently recommended for the heart and overall health. It is not fully understood how whole grains protect the heart, but some believe that compounds play a major part. Compounds such as phytoestrogens and antioxidants found in these food types, may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

A study funded by Quaker Oats at Tufts University in Boston investigated 43 women and men who ate a diet rich in oats. At the end of the six-week study, the participants demonstrated lower blood pressure and cholesterol [https://www.oatly.com/uk/healthcareprofessionals/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Oatly-high-res-reprint-of-Linda-Mains-article5.pdf]

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] authorized the use of a specific health claim on the label for whole oats, oat bran, rolled oats and whole oat flour. The decision was based on the ability of water-soluble fibre from whole oats to reduce total cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol-lowering margarines

Margarine is not exactly good for your arteries, but there are special kinds of margarine that may be able to help lower your cholesterol. In 1999 the UK government approved the addition of natural plant chemicals called plant stanol ester to margarines, such as Benecol and Flora Pro-Activ were launched. These plant based margarines are marketed as being effective in your lowering cholesterol because they partially block the intake of cholesterol by the gut. Therefore limiting the amount absorbed into the bloodstream.

US studies have found that 2-3g a day of one of these margarines can reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels by 9 to 20 percent.

Conclusion

In this article I have discussed a number of foods that can be incorporated into your diet, that can help to lower the bad cholesterol in your blood. It is very important that these levels are monitored closely because they pose a serious risk to your health, particularly cardiovascular disease.

If you have had success with lowering your cholesterol levels by introducing certain foods into your diet, I would love to hear from you. Please leave comments below.

Jules

Causes of high blood pressure in women

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious condition that may damage blood vessels and vital organs over time. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 3 adults in the US have hypertension, putting them at risk for the two leading causes of death – heart disease and stroke.

Recent research published in the Journal of Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease suggests that women with high blood pressure are at a higher risk of vascular disease than their male counterparts. Researchers found “significant differences” in the mechanisms that causes high blood pressure in women, compared to men [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5159215/ ]. In this blog, I will be discussing some possible causes of hypertension among women and their associated risk factors.

Menopause

Developing hypertension is said to affect 13% of women under the age of 44. Nearly 50% of women in their 60s and 80% or more of those aged 75 and over. During the menopause your body goes through a number of changes. One of the symptoms that may develop includes hypertension. There is no conclusive link but there are various schools of thought to explain an increase in blood pressure and the onset of the menopause. For decades, estrogen has been thought to protect premenopausal women from heart disease. So when your estrogen levels start to decline, the level of high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) decreases, which then leads to the formation of plaque in the blood vessels, which narrows the arteries. This reduces the amount of blood that can get through, diminishing the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart. This then puts you at a greater risk of causing serious damage to your heart.

Due to an assumed link that estrogen lowered low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), menopausal women are encouraged to consider using hormone therapy simply to protect their heart and improve health outcomes. But research conducted among participants between 2002 and 2004 found conflicting results. Women were given combined derivatives of progestin and estrogen. Results showed a slight increase in heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer. Several limitations to the study were found, which could have clouded the results. The progestin used in the study was previously linked to coronary artery spasms, while progesterone relaxes the arteries.

Research would indicate that the estrogen derivative taken alone or combined with a biologically identical progesterone, may have given different results. In other words, effectively increasing high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol). This has been supported by an article in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society. Studies reviewed, found that post menopausal women who were taking biological identical estrogen and/or progesterone did not have any significant change in blood pressure.

There is another school of thought that links menopause with weight gain. Muscle mass tends to diminish with age, whilst fat increases. Excess body fat puts a strain on your heart, increasing your risk for developing hypertension and damage to your blood vessels. This can then lead to more serious health threats.

Bearing in mind menopause weight gain, it is important that you assess eating habits and your attitude to physical activity. If you continue to eat as you always have done and fail to exercise, then you can expect to continue to gain weight. Reducing body fat is crucial to controlling and preventing high blood pressure. According to a study published, a reduction of 5-10% can have a major impact on your blood pressure [https://jcp.bmj.com/content/56/1/17]

Pregnancy

High blood pressure is affecting more and more pregnant women. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of pregnant women who developed hypertension in the United States almost doubled between 1993 and 2014 [ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323969.php ]

In some women, blood pressure may also increase as a result of pregnancy, which can be dangerous for both mother and baby. Many babies born to mothers with hypertension are perfectly healthy, but the condition can cause low birth weight and premature delivery. The mother on the other hand, can experience kidney damage and other organ impairment. Close monitoring of hypertension and treatment is therefore very important, because this would help to reduce harm.

Blood pressure normally falls during pregnancy due to the increased production of hormones. These hormones foster fetal growth as well as to sustain and prepare the ‘mother-to-be’ for delivery and breastfeeding. These hormones, particularly progesterone, cause a general relaxing of the walls of your blood vessels.

As you approach the third trimester of the pregnancy, your blood pressure will then start to slowly rise. To coincide with your due date, the blood pressure should reach the level it was prior to pregnancy.

There are three main causation of hypertension during pregnancy:-

  1. Chronic high blood pressure
  2. Pre-eclampsia
  3. Gestational hypertension

Chronic high blood pressure

This is hypertension that was present before pregnancy or that occurs before 20 weeks of pregnancy. This blood pressure may increase during the first trimester and then fall again during the second trimester [to the original level prior to pregnancy].

Research has shown that chronic hypertension is associated with a high incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes compared with the general population. This research supports the need for increased antenatal surveillance for women with chronic hypertension, in order to enable early identification of evolving complications.

The most recent UK Confidential Inquiry into Maternal and Child Health identified chronic disease as an underlying factor in preventable maternal deaths (reference). The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that daily calcium supplementation (1.5g – 2.0g orally) is prescribed for pregnant women to reduce the risk of hypertension. This is particularly vital where there is low dietary calcium intake [https://www.who.int/elena/titles/calcium_pregnancy/en/].

Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia arises only during pregnancy and disappears after the fetus is delivered. It is a combination of high blood pressure, ankle swelling and protein in the urine during the second half of pregnancy. These symptoms are not evident during the early stages of pregnancy and as such, pre-eclampsia can be difficult to diagnose. It is only detectable by regular antenatal checks of maternal blood pressure and urine.

The British Charity Action on Pre-eclampsia (APEC) estimates that:

“Every year in the UK about 1000 babies die because of pre-eclampsia – many of these as a consequence of premature delivery, rather than the disease itself. Some 7 mothers die each year from complications or pre-eclampsia in the UK.” [https://www2.aston.ac.uk/aston-medical-school/amri/an-introduction-to-preeclampsia/index]

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not fully understood. Many experts believe that some cases of pre-eclampsia are caused by a shallowly implanted placenta, which becomes deficient in oxygen due to a problem with the blood vessels supplying it. The shallow implantation of the placenta in the lining of the womb, is believed to stem from the woman’s immune reaction. This then triggers a destructive attack on the tissues of the developing fetus, causing her blood pressure and protein levels to rise. The baby is now put at serious risk of harm.

A number of studies have identified a link between genetics and pre-eclampsia. Research has shown there to be an increased risk for women who have family members who have also been diagnosed with this condition [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121115132613.htm]. There are also schools of thought that suspect nutritional factors and obesity plays a role in its development. This is as yet, to be fully understood.

The treatment decisions for pre-eclampsia depends upon a number of factors:

  • How severe the condition is;
  • Potential for maternal complications;
  • How far along the pregnancy is;
  • Potential risks to the fetus.

Signs of severe pre-eclampsia include:-

  • Blurry vision, sometimes seeing flashing lights
  • Headaches, often severe
  • Malaise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain just below the ribs on the right side
  • Rapid weight gain (caused by fluid retention)
  • Vomitting
  • Decrease in urine output
  • Decrease in blood platelets
  • Impaired liver function

If the pregnancy is 37 weeks or later, then doctors may probably choose to deliver the baby to treat pre-eclampsia and avoid further complications. Less than 37 weeks and doctors may consider treatment options that give the fetus more time to develop. It just depends on the severity of the mother’s condition. They could simply choose to monitor the baby and mother closely. Encouraging bed rest and then wait for delivery.

If you have severe pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks of pregnancy or later, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends delivery as soon as medically possible. If the pregnancy is less than 34 weeks, then the use of corticosteroids could be advised. This will help to speed up the maturation of the fetal lungs before attempting delivery.

There is current research being undertaken in the United States and the United Kingdom, which is looking at whether a drug called ‘Pravastatin’ could be safe and effective to prevent or treat severe or early on-set pre-eclampsia. Studies have been carried out to mimic many of the key characteristics of this condition, and has shown that Pravastatin improves several of the biochemical measures associated with severe pre-eclampsia in women.

This research is still in its infancy, but these exciting results are definitely a move in the right direction [https://www.preeclampsia.org/].

Gestational Hypertension

Gestational hypertension is defined as high blood pressure without swelling or the presence of protein in the urine. This occurs in women who had normal blood pressure before conception. It usually arises in the late stages of pregnancy and then resolves within a few weeks of the delivery. It tends to occur again in future pregnancies.

Gestational hypertension is just as serious a condition as pre-eclampsia and requires the same careful monitoring.

Birth control pills

One very effective birth control method is the combined oral contraceptive pill. It is a combination of synthetic female hormones developed specifically to prevent pregnancy.

Medical researchers have found that the use of birth control pills can increase blood pressure in some women. There are no symptoms with this side effect. It is more likely to occur if you are overweight, have had hypertension during previous pregnancies or a family history of hypertension or mild kidney disease.[https://www.uptodate.com/contents/effect-of-hormonal-contraceptives-and-postmenopausal-hormone-therapy-on-blood-pressure]

Before you start taking oral contraceptives, I would advise that you speak with your doctor about the risks and to ensure close monitoring of your blood pressure.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects the way your ovaries work. 6 – 10% of women of reproductive age are diagnosed with this condition (ref). Research has shown that women diagnosed with PCOS have malfunctioning ovaries, which produce an excess amount of the male sex hormone called ‘Androgen’. These hormones are also typically present in women, in very small amounts.

With the presence of large amounts of hydrogen, this will affect your menstrual cycle. The hallmarks of PCOS are therefore menstrual cycle irregularities, excessive hair growth, weight gain, oily skin and acne.

One of the most devastating symptoms is a high risk of heart disease, which is due to hypertension and high cholesterol levels that many women with this condition develop. Despite this link, the exact mechanism responsible for hypertension in these women remains controversial. There is also an additional risk of developing diabetes. The combination of these findings is referred to as ‘metabolic syndrome’. Please follow the link below to learn more about this [https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/metabolic-syndrome#1].

Research documented in the International Journal of Cardiology 2014 found there to be an increased incidence of cardiovascular events in women with PCOS, but did not distinguish between coronary heart disease and stroke. They also failed to consider fatal and non-fatal events separately.

In any case, this highlights the need for clinicians to prioritize the screening of women with PCOS, as soon as a diagnosis is made. Along with the pharmacological treatments for hypertension, dyslipidaemia (high levels of fat in your blood) or insulin resistance (ref), I would recommend that you explore lifestyle modifications that may also prove effective in reducing your risk of a stroke or other heart complications.

Here are some suggestions that could help to decrease the effects of PCOS:-

  • Maintain a healthy weight – weight loss can reduce insulin and androgen levels and may restore ovulation.
  • Limit carbohydrates. Low-fat, high carbohydrate diets might increase insulin levels. Choose complex carbohydrates, these raise your blood sugar levels more slowly.
  • Be active. Exercise helps to lower blood sugar levels. By increasing your daily activities and participating in a regular exercise program may treat or even prevent insulin resistance. This will also help to keep your weight under control and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.

Conclusion

Once considered a “man’s disease”, heart disease is a complex illness that affects all genders. We cannot underestimate the risks associated with cardiovascular illness. The more awareness raised, hopefully lifestyle modifications can be explored that will help to prolong and improve your quality of life.

This blog has focused primarily on some causation of hypertension among women. Links have been made to references in order to substantiate some points made. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and has given you ‘food for thought’.

I would welcome any comments that you may have.

Jules

The Best Way To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally

The serious health problems caused by high blood pressure, and the outward symptoms being difficult to detect, have given it a reputation as a silent killer. I will highlight the best ways to lower your blood pressure naturally, which may provide viable alternatives to prescription drugs.

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the flow of blood through the main arteries. In a person with high blood pressure or hypertension, this force is greater than normal and causes the arterial walls to narrow and thicken. This then puts extra strain on the heart.

Having hypertension is the single biggest trigger of heart disease and stroke. It is therefore very important that this condition is properly managed. Prescription drugs can be used to dilate the arterial walls and so lowering their resistance to blood flow. However, along with its intended results, medication may cause a number of unwanted side effects.

So if you have hypertension, I will show you the best ways you may lower your blood pressure naturally, using non-medicinal treatments and lifestyle changes.

Introduce regular exercise to your life

Routine exercise continues to be one of the most effective ways to help lower blood pressure because the physical activity strengthens the heart. This makes it easier to pump blood with less effort.

Researchers have found the combination of endurance and dynamic resistance, to be very effective in reducing blood pressure. This was supported by research published online December 2018 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The studies analysed the results of 40,000 people, assessing the effects of structured workouts and the impact of prescription drugs on blood pressure. [https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2018/12/05/bjsports-2018-099921]

[https://www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/exercise-may-be-as-effective-as-prescribed-drugs-to-lower-high-blood-pressure/]

Endurance exercises:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing

Dynamic exercises:-

  • Strength training with weights
  • Push ups
  • Walking lunges
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Torso twists
  • Leg swings

When you are just starting out with your exercise regieme, it is important to build it up slowly. Maybe begin initially with 10-15 minutes and then gradually build up. The AHA [American Heart Association] recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous activity per week. Or you could say 30 minutes a day, five days per week.

Bringing your blood pressure below 120/80 eliminates any need for blood pressure medications and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. You can lower blood pressure today, by practising simple exercises. To learn more and test these exercises for yourself, click here:

https://jules4heart.com/Exercises to lower blood pressure

Introducing Supplements into your diet

Food supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients that are taken as a dietary top-up. But as the word itself suggests, a supplement is not meant to replace the variety of foods that are important to a heathy diet. Scientific research has shown that some nutritional supplements can be beneficial to lowering your blood pressure.

[1] Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in foods of animal origin and is known as the “sunshine vitamin”. Due to the fact that that it is produced in the skin, from the energy of the sun.

Research undertaken in Denmark in 2012, studied the link between vitamin D supplements and its effect on blood pressure. For 20 weeks participants were either given 3,000 IU per day of vitamin D or simply a placebo pill. Results showed that the people taking the supplement were able to lower their blood pressure, more than those who had taken the placebo. The only drawback with these results, was that all the participants were taking hypertensive medication, so it is not conclusive that Vitamin D supplementation was the reason for the reuction in blood pressure.

An experiment conducted in Italy 2013 was able to draw on the same conclusions. There results also reflected a link between the use of Vitamin D supplements and blood pressure reduction.

Please refer to the link below, which goes into some depth about the links between hypertension and the use of Vitamin D. Highlights numerous research that has been undertaken, which you may find interesting. [https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/hypertension/#.XIu_DCj7TIU]

[2] Magnesium

Magnesium relaxes the muscles that control blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely. This then helps to maintain a balance between potassium and sodium in the blood.This has a positive effect on your blood pressure.

Research conducted by Klass et al 2012, has shown that people who take magnesium supplements for 3 months, lowered their blood pressure compared with other participants who did not take the supplement.

[3] Folic acid

Folic acid is necessary for every function in the body, that requires cell multiplication. The body cannot store folic acid for a very long time, so it is important to be able to replenish your supply daily. Cooking or even long storage can destroy up to half the folic acid in food, therefore using supplements maybe the best way to ensure that your body is getting enough.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, highlighted the results of 11,000 Chinese hypertensive patients. Each was given their daily blood pressure tablet as well as the B vitamin. It was concluded that a high proportion ( 73%) of these were less likely to suffer a stroke, in comparison to those who were not given the vitamin supplement. [https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/956354/folic-acid-tablets-reduce-high-blood-pressure-stroke-risk]

[4] Garliac

Garliac belongs to the onion family and is one of the best known and most used medicinal plants. Despite its strong odor, its health-giving and preventive properties make it well worth suffering the effects.

Scientists, showed a significant reduction in blood pressure, among people taking garliac supplements. [https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/146/2/389S/4584698]

Give up smoking

It is well documented that smoking has an adverse affect on your health. Nicotine is one of many toxic chemicals found in tobacco. It acts as a transquilizer but also stimulates the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. This can cause a rise in blood pressure. Therefore, to lower your blood pressure, you need to seriously consider quitting smoking.

A lot of people are turning to the use of electronic cigarettes from conventional smoking, in order to quit the habit. The problem is that there is clear similarity between the deterimental vascular effects of both products.

Research documented in the Journal of Hypertension (2018) studied the effect of electronic cigarette smoking on blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Results showed a significant increase in blood pressure, among these patients. This has also been backed up with other research that has studied the effect of smoke on young to middle aged subjects. They were  able to draw the conclusion that these hypertensive patients were accelerating the damage to their cardiovascular system, be continuing to smoke. [https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1358863X16647509]

Reduce stress in your life

To achieve success in lowering your blood pressure, it is important to reduce your stress levels. There is no direct link between stress and long term hypertension, but will have a positive impact on your general health and cardiovascular system.

According to Kulkarni et al 1998, research has shown stress does not directly cause hypertension, but can have an impact on its development, because it leads to repeated blood pressure elevations.[https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9894438] During these stressful episodes, the body responds by releasing large amounts of hormones, which cause vasconstriction of the blood vessels. This could then lead to a hypertensive diagnosis being made.

This is a great article, that goes into some depth about the correlation between stress and hypertension. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/managing-stress-to-control-high-blood-pressure.

Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

A study conducted among 17,000 adults showed that moderate alcohol consumption – seven to thirteen drinks per week, substantially increases a person’s risk of high blood pressure. These findings contradict previous studies that have associated moderate drinking with a lower risk of some forms of heart disease. However, other research has failed to analyse hypertension among these moderate drinkers.

Alcohol is high in calories, therefore drinking it in large quantities can result in substantial weight gain which can then have a detrimental affect upon your heart.

It is adviseable to avoid alcohol or to cut down its consumption to moderate levels, in order to help lower blood pressure and reduce health risks associated with your heart.

The UK Chief Medical Officers have published guidelines regarding safe drinking limits. Please refer to the link below.

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/latest-uk-alcohol-unit-guidance/

 

Eating fresh fruit and vegetables

A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk to heart disease and strokes. Evidence continues to grow to support these findings. Research published online, pooled dietary data from 187,000 people for an average of 20 years. People who ate more fruit and vegetables were less likely to develop hypertension compared to those people who rarely ate those foods. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160406181538.htm]

Fresh vegetables and fruit are very high in potassium. It is the potassium content in these food groups, that contribute to a reduction in blood pressure. This effect holds true even when sodium intake remains high (though reducing sodium produces better results).

The kidneys help to regulate your blood pressure by balancing the amount of fluid stored in your body. The levels of sodium and potassium in the body, are used to maintain the optimum amount of fluid stored. Eating a high salt diet reduces the ability of the kidneys to remove the water. This can be counter-acted by eating more fruit and vegetables, which will increase your potassium levels and restore the delicate balance. This aids the kindneys to function effectively and to lower your blood pressure. [https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316823.php]

A final word…

In this blog, I have discussed lifestyle changes that can be explored further, that may help you to lower your blood pressure.

Hypertension is a major problem that puts you at risk of heart disease and strokes. Therefore by reducing your blood pressure, you will improve your cardiovascular system and general health.

Medications are prescribed to treat hypertension, but there are many lifestyle changes that can be adopted, that have the potential of lowering your blood pressure.

Hypertension is a serious condition and expert medical advice needs to be sought and discussions had, before you go ahead and start adopting change. This is particularly important, if you are already taking prescribed medication. You need to be aware that some supplements may interact with drugs you are taking.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and have found it to be informative.

I would welcome your comments.

About Me

My name is Jules and I work as a Registered Nurse in the UK. I have been working within the operating room, since 2005. I specialise in orthopaedic and general surgical procedures.

I work as part of the medical team. Every day is different and I enjoy being able to positively impact people’s lives.

WHAT HAS CHANGED ?

While working on shift in 2013, I had the misfortune of suffering a major nose bleed while at work. I was immediately referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat department within the hospital. After further investigations were made, I was diagnosed with hypertension [high blood pressure] and prescribed 5mg of Amlodipine to be taken daily. Aged 40, I felt fit and healthy. To be given this diagnosis, came as a complete shock.

I have grown up seeing both my parents taking prescribed medication for hypertension for over 40 years. It was a daily part of their life. But I was determined that I did not want to follow this same path.

I am fully aware that high blood pressure, puts you at great risk of developing cardiovascular (heart) disease, stroke, kidney disease or impaired vision. Instead of just simply relying on prescribed medication, I have been very focused on adopting lifestyle changes that would help to improve the health of my heart and minimise any deterioration.

WHAT IS MY GOAL ?

It is well documented that high blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is essential that treatment is sought and we explore lifestyle modifications in order to prolong our lives.

The goal of this website is to highlight lifestyle and dietary changes that can be adopted, as effective strategies for improving your health and minimising your risk to developing serious cardiovascular disease. The latest research studies will be highlighted, which will be used to support recommendations made. This website will also focus on product reviews, so that customers are aided in making those important purchasing decisions in relation to their health.

This website will be a valuable resource for people looking to improve their health and to minimise their risk of heart problems.

WHY DO I WANT TO HELP ?

I am passionate about helping people and improving their quality of life. I have done this during my nursing career and I hope this will continue to define my life. Diet and lifestyle change are options that do exist, that can be explored in order to improve the health of your heart and reduce your risk of heart disease. This is important to me and I feel that many people can really benefit from the information that is shared on this website.

All the best,

Jules

jules4heart.com