Our heart is a wonderful organ. Its central role makes it essential for our operations. Our heart keeps our metabolism running properly by acting as a pump to move nutrient-rich blood through our blood vessels. The heart and the blood stream are also responsible for the supply of nutrients and oxygen to our body and the release of used oxygen (breathing).
When our hearts stop beating, we die. So you need to pay close attention to heart health, as unfortunately heart attacks and strokes are very common, life-threatening conditions that can take a long time to recover from.
Our heart health is at its best when we manage to maintain a healthy weight - overweight and obese people are most at risk of cardiovascular disease, although there are exceptions. The reason is that obesity is a process, arguably caused by an inappropriate lifestyle. Overeating, through high sugar and animal fat intake, increases inflammation, which damages cells and can lead to insulin resistance and high cholesterol. If a person does not change their lifestyle at this point, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis follow. In atherosclerosis, an inflammatory process causes a high calcium substance (atheroma) to form and the concentration of calcium causes the vessel wall to calcify, causing it to lose its elasticity and at any time a blood clot can form and become blocked (this is called a heart attack or storke). The stiffness of the vessel walls and the build-up of deposits can further increase blood pressure, which can cause the blood vessels to burst (a stroke), and high blood pressure can also cause varicose veins.
Another key preventive measure is stress management, excessive stress increases adrenaline (a survival hormone). The hormone causes blood pressure and blood sugar levels to rise, which, when they reach a critical level, can lead to cardiovascular disease in those who are susceptible for some reason (weak heart or obesity). This is why moderate caffeine intake is important for all people.
The third most important is exercise, as mentioned above a weak heart can be a predisposing factor for various cardiovascular diseases. Muscles are as much responsible for the heart's pump function as they are for moving our arms and legs. If we want to strenghten our legs, we squat a lot, if we want to strenghten our heart, we should choose an activity that results in an elevated pulse (heart rate) for a longer period of time. Walking, cycling, swimming can be good for this.
Depending on these factors, which herbs can help to keep our cardiovascular system healthy?
As we have seen, there is always inflammation in the hatter, so anti-inflammatory herbs can bring significant improvement with the right lifestyle changes. Inflammatory cells also damage healthy cells with free radicals (oxidation), so herbs with strong antioxidant activity at a certain level can be very beneficial for our heart health.
Such powerful anti-inflammatory herbs include garlic, pomegranate and rosehip, which can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels when combined with lifestyle changes.
There are also herbs that specifically regulate blood sugar, such as cinnamon and bitter melon.