Posted by Dr. Ian Bier on Oct 21, 2022 12:42:11 PM
For men, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Even with a family history of heart problems, you have power over your present and future cardiovascular health. Learning to adopt heart-healthy habits is a critical part of ensuring long-term cardiovascular health.
While we can't always control all our risk factors, we do have control over several. Changing what you eat, building daily habits, and adding supplements to your routine can help improve heart health.
First and foremost, it's essential to understand what contributes to men's heart problems and learn how to optimize cardiovascular well-being with men's vitamins, lifestyle strategies, and lab testing.
Heart problems arise in men as they get older, yet many contributors can be traced back years or decades. Here are some contributors to consider:
Chronic stress – Mental and emotional stress contributes to heart issues because stress inhibits a healthy inflammatory response.
Poor diet – The standard American diet is high in processed food, refined carbohydrates, and processed oils, which has been linked to heart problems in both men and women.
Sedentary lifestyle – Lack of movement and exercise decreases cardiovascular fitness.
Excessive alcohol use or smoking – Poor habits can put unduly stress on organ systems.
Genetics – While we can't control our genetics, we can support healthy genetic expression by adopting healthful habits (called epigenetics).
Estrogen – Estrogen is protective for heart health—a woman's risk for heart problems increases in menopause, similar to a man's. While we typically think about estrogen’s relationship to women’s health, it also plays a role in men’s wellbeing. Pre-menopausal women have much higher estrogen levels than men, but this gap narrows as estrogen declines with menopause.
Supplements are a tool to target the underlying factors affecting heart health. Working with your naturopathic doctor or integrative practitioner is key to understanding your individual risk factors. Your provider will be able to evaluate you in terms of the contributors discussed above, as well as:
This information will help you create a personalized diet, lifestyle, and supplement protocol specific to your needs. For example, if systolic blood pressure (top number) is elevated, this may suggest an acute stress response. Conversely, if diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) is high, this may mean a loss of elasticity in the blood vessels. An elevated waist-to-hip ratio suggests excess abdominal weight, which is predictive of future heart issues. Each case needs to be addressed differently with supplements.
Here are eight common supplements integrative doctors recommend for heart health:
Diet, exercise, and stress management are fundamental for men's cardiovascular health, and many of these factors are largely within our control. Small changes in daily habits often produce significant health results over time.
Reduce or eliminate processed food in favor of whole, unprocessed options, including:
Much of the dietary rhetoric around heart health continues to promote a low-cholesterol diet. However, updated information suggests that dietary cholesterol contributes very little to cholesterol levels in the blood and health risk. Even government nutrition regulations have removed the recommendation to limit dietary cholesterol.
Transitioning from sedentary behaviors to more daily activity protects your heart and body. Start slow and work up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week. Moderate physical activity might include walking with friends, fitness classes, and yoga. Find something you enjoy, which makes it more likely that you'll stick with a consistent program.
Managing modern life stressors isn't always easy. However, adopting tools today will provide lifelong support. Find ways to let go of the stress you can't control, such as setting limits around media consumption. In addition, relaxing your body and mind through meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling can help you manage stress.
Your naturopathic or integrative provider will help you obtain the necessary bloodwork to promote optimal heart health. Here are some pertinent labs to consider:
Aldosterone-to-renin ratio – Aldosterone and renin are critical hormones in blood pressure regulation via the kidneys. This test is less common, but new research highlights the connection between kidney and heart problems.
Heart issues are a leading health concern for men as they age. The good news is that many factors contributing to heart problems are within your control. Through diet and lifestyle changes, along with personalized supplements, you can support heart health now and in the future.
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