The health of our heart is at the mercy of a number of nefarious forces, including but not limited to a poor diet, lack of exercise and bad genetics. While we may not be able to control every aspect of our health, we often have a greater degree of control than we realize. When it comes to promoting a healthy heart, certain natural supplements may help, but you should discuss them with your doctor before using them.
Olive Leaf Extract
Back in 3,500 BC, the people of Crete used olive leaf to clean wounds as it contains strong antimicrobial properties. Research suggests it may have beneficial uses internally as well, particularly for the heart. A study that appeared in the August 2008 issue of Phytotherapy Research tested the effects of olive leaf extract on hypertension, or high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in identical twins. One twin received the herb in 500 or 1,000 mg doses while the other received a placebo for eight weeks. At the end of the study, researchers found the 1,000 mg dosage had a â€˜â€™substantial effectâ€™â€™ on reining in mild hypertension; it also lowered cholesterol.
Another study, appearing in the February 2011 issue of Phytomedicine, tested the effects of 1,000 mg of olive leaf extract against Captopril, a commonly prescribed blood pressure medication. The researchers found the olive leaf worked equally well, but provided the added benefits of lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels significantly.
Psyllium husk is a type of fiber that has been shown in numerous studies to lower cholesterol, according to the University of Maryland Medical Centerâ€™s profile on this supplement. Fiber in general is good for lowering cholesterol because it prevents it from being absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, where it would then move into the bloodstream. It also lower triglyceride levels and may help keep blood pressure in check. If you are diabetic, psyllium husk can keep your blood sugar levels under control, vital for decreasing your risk for heart disease and a host of other conditions linked to poorly controlled diabetes.
Talk to a health care provider about the appropriate dose and always take it with at least a full glass of water to prevent constipation. Take fiber supplements at least one hour prior, or at least two hours after, any medications or supplements to prevent interfering with their absorption. Because psyllium may affect blood sugar and cholesterol levels, taking it in combination with drugs used for these purposes may cause excessive drops; work with your doctor who may need to adjust medication dosages to compensate for the effects of psyllium.
Niacin, one of the B-vitamins, has been shown to significantly decrease â€˜â€™badâ€™â€™ cholesterol, increase â€˜â€™good cholesterolâ€™â€™ and lower triglycerides in several well-designed clinical trials, according to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. When it comes to using vitamins and minerals to address health problems, you often need to take amounts much larger than you consume in your diet or in supplement form to simply prevent deficiency. This is the case with niacin and you should work with your doctor who can suggest the appropriate dose and monitor your condition.
If you take higher doses of a particular B-vitamin, it can cause imbalances in the levels of other B-vitamins so you may need to supplement. Niacin may interfere with the effectiveness of several medications, including but not limited to blood-thinners, statins and diabetes medications.
There are many natural strategies for improving our heart health; while natural supplements often enjoy a greater safety profile than many prescription drugs, natural and safe are not always interchangeable terms. If an herb, vitamin or mineral is powerful enough to effect any change in your body, it has the potential to interact with other substances or be inappropriate if you have certain health conditions. Working with a health care provider knowledgeable in this area of medicine will ensure you receive safe and effective treatment.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. Learn more about all aspects of heart health by visiting Cardiac Vascular & Thoracic Surgery Associates.