Caring for our Hearts: A Functional Nutrition Perspective

February 15, 2022

Author: Angela Trotter, M.S., CNS, AFMCP, Clinical Functional Nutritionist

Care for your Heart

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality here in the U.S and is the #1 killer of women. Despite an increase in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize it as their leading cause of death. Some of the top risk factors for developing CVD include hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, dyslipidemia (imbalance of lipids), obesity, and smoking.  By focusing solely on biomarkers like elevated cholesterol levels, we often miss the fire that may be ensuing underneath.  To improve risk outcomes, we need to better determine what underlying imbalances may be contributing to the expression of these disease processes.  Most commonly with CVD we will find inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune vascular dysfunction playing a role.  However, there are approximately 25 other modifiable CVD risk factors.  Modifiable–meaning we have the ability to implement dietary and lifestyle changes to greatly improve these risk factor values.  That should be encouraging!

Modifiable Risk Factors for CVD Include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Increase immune dysfunction
  • Inflammation: increased hsCRP (highly sensitive C-Reactive Protein), interleukins
  • Increase oxidative stress and decreased defense
  • Elevated serum iron
  • Renal disease
  • Elevated fibrinogen
  • Homocysteinemia
  • Subclinical hypothyroidism
  • Micronutrient deficiencies
  • Chronic infections

So as we can see with some of the above modifiable factors, it goes back to the basics.  Reducing body burden, addressing imbalances and/or deficiencies, and supporting balance daily with diet and lifestyle intervention, as needed.  In some cases, there may need to be a more direct intervention to address imbalances.  

For those who may have been diagnosed with any of the above top 5 risk factors (hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, obesity, smoking) doing a full analysis of additional biomarkers can be a guide to further improve, and support long-term health to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  Often there are specific nutrient deficiencies that are discovered that can be addressed to improve symptoms, and further reduce imbalances contributing to disease expression.

So what about diet and heart health?

There are so many factors that are unique to each individual such as genetics, microbiome, metabolomics differences, and unique modifiable risk factors.

However, there are some basics we can conclude from research that helps determine dietary factors that are shown to contribute to the reduction of cardiovascular disease.  Most commonly we find the Mediterranean diet being a great foundational dietary approach that focuses on: low glycemic impact, is high in fiber (low glycemic vegetables), balances blood sugar, and incorporates healthy dietary fats (increased omega-3 intake), increased intake of antioxidants and polyphenols (reduce oxidative stress), and provides an anti-inflammatory dietary approach.  In addition to the foundations of the Mediterranean dietary approach, there are specific phytonutrients and therapeutic foods that can be implemented to further support one’s unique presentation.  

As foundational dietary interventions are implemented, there is a need to not lose hope if biomarkers do not shift dramatically, or at all.  Clinical Nutritionists like myself continue to modify the dietary approach to more directly target where we are continuing to see imbalances.  This often leads to a more interventional nutritional style, while also continuing to consider what further modifiable risk factors may be contributing to the disease expression, what is keeping it in motion?  

In the literature, we can note that there can be vast improvements in CVD with the implementation of optimal nutrition, exercise, and avoidance of all tobacco products.  From here we can greatly support overall health and continued well-being by addressing any additional modifiable risk factors more directly. Interested in learning more about how you can support your cardiovascular health? Contact Angie Today

Author: Angela Trotter, M.S., CNS, AFMCP, Clinical Functional Nutritionist

*Please Note: The information provided on or through this website or blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Engaging with this material does not constitute a client/therapist relationship*

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