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Nutrients for the Heart & Arteries

For many of us with essential hypertension, the predisposition of our genetics can be staved off by doing what we can to reduce organ damage to our kidneys, eyes, arteries, our heart & of course our brain. These are the organs that are the most directly affected by decreased oxygenation, a result of elevations in our blood pressure. Pathophysiology of hypertension begins with an inflammatory response that causes neurohormonal responses that leads to oxidative stress. This causes the initial insults to the inner lining of our artery (endothelium). Over time, if high blood pressure goes unchecked, and a damaging lifestyle continues, plaque builds up around the artery as the image shows as well as thickening of the outer layers of the artery causes this hourglass-like narrowing. This results in smaller amounts of oxygenated red blood cells being able to get through narrowed passages over time. This is what can lead to end-organ damage: heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, & kidney disease. A comprehensive approach can help to lower the amounts of oxidative stress and prevent organ damage.

Reducing inflammation & oxidative stress can occur with increased intake of antioxidants. Antioxidants act much like diplomats, not allowing physiologic environments to be inflamed, reducing and neutralizing oxidative stress. Antioxidants such as vitamin C when consumed through diet or supplementation correlate with decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressures as well as heart rate. It also reduces the neurohormonal responses which increase vasoconstriction and improves the elasticity of the aorta. Foods that are high in antioxidants are berries, cherries, citrus fruits, brassica family of vegetables (collards, kale, mustards, turnips, cabbage, rutabagas), winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes. Be sure to include these selections in your daily eating choices. In addition, foods that lower inflammatory responses such as healthy fats (olive oil, avocado & coconut oil) help to nip inflammation in the bud. A plant-based diet helps to clean and clear the narrowing of the arteries as seen in the real life picture above.

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