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We've all heard the morbid statistics telling us heart attacks and strokes are the top killers of Canadian men and women. However, heart disease is usually preventable. Rarely do the conditions and symptoms leading to heart disease require more than a dedicated change of habits.

We've all heard the morbid statistics telling us heart attacks and strokes are the top killers of Canadian men and women. However, heart disease is usually preventable. Rarely do the conditions and symptoms leading to heart disease require more than a dedicated change of habits.

Your local health food store is your best source of heart-healthy foods, herbs, and nutritional supplements. Available individually or in combined formulations, here's what qualified natural health experts are recommending as your top heart-support products.

Fishy Stuff

Fish oils provide remarkable heart health benefits due to their natural omega-3 fatty acids. They lower triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), minimize inflammation, reduce risk of blood clots, and keep blood vessels and the arterial network in good working order. Omega-3 fats also reduce the risk of insulin resistance by improving cellular response to insulin. Flaxseeds (whether ground or oil) are a good plant source of these heart-healthy fats. The recommended daily dosage of omega-3 fats is approximately 1,000 mg.

The Three Bs

Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid are the foundation B vitamins for reducing blood homocysteine and protecting arterial walls from its potentially damaging effect. Many medical researchers believe that high homocysteine is a better indicator than cholesterol
for predicting cardiovascular disease. For those with a history of heart disease the recommended therapeutic dosages are 100 mg vitamin B6, 100 to 250 mcg vitamin B12, and 400 to 1,000 mcg folic acid.

Amazing CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10, often simply called CoQ10, is highly recommended by natural health experts as one of the most important antioxidant supplements for protecting the heart and cardiovascular system. This remarkable substance works in a variety of important ways. It protects low density lipids (LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol) from oxidation that damages arterial walls. It also helps to maintain healthy blood vessels, protect against clots and plaque, and strengthen the heart muscle by re-energizing the mitochondria (cellular energy centres) in the heart cells. Recent studies have found that gum health is closely linked to heart health. Interestingly, CoQ10 is also effective in treating and preventing gum disease. Approximately 60 mg daily is recommended.

Magnificent Magnesium

Magnesium, one of the major minerals in the body, plays a primary role in heart health. Magnesium deficiency is frequently linked to congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump adequate blood, causing fluid retention. A recent study conducted in Japan determined that magnesium supplementation may have significant beneficial effects in preventing cardiovascular disease in general and congestive heart failure in particular. Daily recommended doses average between 500 to 1,000 mg daily.

Hearty Hawthorn

A popular traditional European heart tonic, hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) has garnered positive reports from many researchers. A review of 54 references covering all aspects of hawthorn's use was published in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (June 2002). The article reported that hawthorn improves coronary artery blood flow, circulation, the symptoms of angina (heart pain), and general heart health. Consult a qualified herbal advisor to determine your most appropriate form and dosage.

Garlicky Goodness

Nothing says "heart health" like garlic. For many people, supplement form is the most convenient and palatable way to use garlic therapeutically. Thousands of studies have shown that garlic acts to promote heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, inhibiting blood clots, and lowering blood pressure.

Get With Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba's most well-known claim to fame is in relation to memory and brain health. But ginkgo's clinically proven actions also support cardiovascular health by increasing blood flow and circulation. Always choose a reputable brand of ginkgo with 24 percent standardization of ginkgolides (ginkgo flavonoids). Take 60 mg, twice daily with a meal.

People who use these seven supplements, along with daily exercise, healthy eating, and a loving attitude are clearly walking the path with heart.

A Checklist of Heart-Healthy Foods

Flaxseeds are a vegetable source of omega-3 fats. Sprinkle freshly ground organic flaxseeds on your oatmeal porridge every day.

Leafy green vegetables like kale, mustard greens, arugula, and spinach are sources of folic acid, the homocysteine neutralizer.

Raw nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are packed with essential fats, protein, fibre, and magnesium.

Wild, cold-water fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and Alaskan cod deliver a powerful dose of omega-3 fats. Farmed fish does not provide the same benefits.

Yogourt. Plain, organic, low-fat yogourt is a good source of vitamin B12, protein, and calcium. It makes a great, quick dessert when topped with fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Fermented soy foods such as soy yogourt, miso, and tempeh provide animal-free sources of B12, calcium, magnesium, iron, and a wide range of phytonutrients. Always choose organic sources.

Herbs and spices. Tea especially green tea cinnamon, ginger, garlic, oregano, and rosemary are excellent sources of antioxidants that promote healthy circulation and protect arterial walls against damage. Drink two cups of green tea daily and incorporate these herbs and spices into your daily diet.

Beans and peas. Pinto, navy, and kidney beans make superb soups, chili, and Mexican refritos. They're high in fibre and protein and help control cholesterol levels.

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