Kate Miller takes a look at heart disease, the increasing risk for women, and the natural ways available to maintain heart health
We all know what the pink ribbon means. No doubt many female readers have worn it, run for it and raised money for it – often with someone dear in mind but also with a nagging thought that, one day, someone might be wearing it for them.
The pink ribbon is, of course, for breast cancer and you’ll be hard pushed to find a woman in Britain who is not aware of her own risk. But breast cancer is by no means the biggest killer of women in the UK. In fact heart disease kills three times as many women in the UK as breast cancer and, combined with stroke, is more likely to kill women than men; 82,000 women die from heart disease and strokes in the UK versus 79,000 men every year.
The good news? Well there is none as the situation is getting worse. While it used to be that women showed signs of coronary heart disease around ten years later than men, these days more young women are experiencing vascular problems, with those under 50 faring worse than older women because they’re even less likely than post-menopausal women to recognize symptoms. In the UK, 710,000 women aged 16-44 live with cardiac illness compared with 570,000 men of the same age.
Natural health expert and author Dr Marilyn Glenville says that heart disease is still seen as a ‘man’s problem’: “Heart disease is a bigger killer for women than breast cancer, but many more women will fear breast cancer and not necessarily think about heart disease as a woman’s issue. In fact, women are twice as likely to die from heart disease than any form of cancer. “What adds to the situation is that women’s symptoms for a heart attack, for instance, can be very different to a man’s and so can be easily missed or even dismissed as something as simple as indigestion or heartburn.”
A study in the US found that of 1.4 million patients, 10% of women didn’t experience heart pain during a heart attack.
The menopause factor
Practitioner and founder of Feel Better Nutrition, Lorna Driver-Davies, agrees: “One significant change for women and their hearts is once they go through menopause. Women who are menopausal can suddenly start to experience high blood pressure. We don’t know why this is, but one theory is due to the decline in the female hor-mone oestrogen. Oestrogen is a naturally relaxing hormone, and amongst other things it’s thought that this may have a relaxing effect on the heart.”
According to Glenville, when women do approach her, it’s often as a result of a cholesterol test: “They have been told by their GP that they need to change their diet and have been given maybe three months to make some changes before having their lipids re-tested.”
Driver-Davies says she recommends that women seek professional advice from a nutritional therapist or herbalist if they are starting to go through the menopause or even if they are completely through it. “This is the time to focus on heart support, and the earlier the better. Obviously any issues should also always be looked into by their doctor.”
She recommends black cohosh to support natural levels of oestrogen, combined with B vitamins, magnesium, omega-3 and the herb hawthorn for all-round heart support. “Hawthorn is an amazing heart herb that can be used at any age (but not with heart medication) and it supports the heart muscle and blood flow.”
Naturopath and technical director of Hadley Wood Healthcare, Marcus Webb, says that he thinks that both sexes are becoming more heart aware these days when it comes to the obvious health points at least: “In my mind, being heart aware is more a case of simply addressing a healthy lifestyle rather than a lifestyle specifically targeted at the heart and circulation. The other aspect that needs far more promotion is the importance of eating well during a pregnancy. The data is out there now that confirms the importance of maternal nutrition in relation to heart disease in later life for the offspring.”
Webb says that people attending his clinic with specific heart problems have usually been diagnosed previously but are either not getting the approach they are looking for from the conventional system or are suffering intolerable side-effects from medication. “In many cases I have to work parallel with some of their drugs and urge them not to be ‘cavalier’ in turning their back on the conventional because of the severity of their situation whereby the risk of coming off a medication far outweighs any benefit. For example, many people with irregular heartbeats take powerful anticoagulants to help prevent clots forming, and it would be unwise to endorse stopping such medication! On the other hand, statin drugs are being dished out like sweeties these days and they can cause a variety of nasty side-effects.”
The Q10 factor
When it comes to natural products which can be taken in parallel with conventional heart medicine, research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology regarding the naturally occurring coenzyme Q10 could have major implications for the industry, according to Pharmanord national sales manager Rasmus Henriksen. “Q10 is already very well established, with more than 900 clinical trials on it, and it’s used in lots of hospitals in Scandinavia,” he says.
What’s exciting about the latest trial is the use of Q10 as a conjunctive treatment. Danish cardiologist and researcher, chief physician Svend Aage Mortensen, who headed the trial, says that recommended medical treat-ment for heart failure is primarily based on inhibiting various hormonal factors which are activated by the disease. These factors put strain on the heart. “The cells of the heart muscle are particularly dependent on coenzyme Q10 in order to function optimally, and studies have found that coenzyme Q10 levels are lower in tissue from chronically failing hearts,” says Mortensen.
The study involved 420 patients going through two years of treatment for chronic heart failure. Half of the patients were assigned to three daily 100mg capsules of coenzyme Q10 a day while the other half received a placebo. The capsules were taken alongside the patients’ regimen of prescribed medicine. After two years it was found that 43% fewer heart-related deaths occurred in the Q10 group compared to the placebo group. There were also 43% fewer complications among the Q10 treated group.
Henriksen says that the findings are ground-breaking and will change the way that the company promotes Q10: “We’re going to be promoting a lot more towards heart health with our Q10 products.”
The company has just completed it’s first round of retailer symposiums designed to explain the significance of the trial, and will be putting more in the new year in the South West. A booklet – Q10 – For better health and a long life – explaining more about Q10 has also been published by Pharma Nord and is available to retailers.
For retailers, dealing with customers who may be on very powerful conventional drugs with possible inter-actions can be a potential minefield, says Viridian technical director Ben Brown: “There’s still quite a bit of stigma that cardiovascular disease is still seen as a serious illness that should only be treated by a doctor, so in the UK you have lots of fantastic formulations that are not being used.” He points out that in other countries, especially in the US, there is a much higher use of heart health products than here. “Our market has a very long way to go in both managing and prevention,” says Brown. “It’s important to remember that cardiovascular disease is a huge area and encompasses a lot of different illnesses.”
However, he thinks there has been a bit of a shift in the public mind in that people are beginning to realize that this type of disease is due to diet and lifestyle. Brown has written a chapter on the natural components in food which have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease in the book Nutritional Strategies in Cardiovascular Disease which is out next year.
Webb says that a holistic approach is particularly important with heart health: “Because cardiovascular dis-ease is such a complex condition, just correcting one factor, such as an elevated cholesterol, is rarely all that needs doing. A truly holistic approach is needed, covering all aspects of lifestyle and diet through to emotional health and wellbeing.
“Only when someone is fully on board with the con-cepts of the holistic approach will they actually make the serious lifestyle changes that really need commitment to see it through. Just taking a few fish oils and hoping for the best won’t work when you consider that most cardio-vascular problems have probably taken decades to mature to the point where symptoms are apparent. Education and understanding are vital.”
Webb says that to get cholesterol down effec-tively and safely he uses Organic Red Yeast Rice (ORYR). “This is a very effective supplement and with the latest manufacturing process I know that there are no issues with contaminants and that the ORYR is fully standardized (0.6%) for its monocolin-K content. The only side issue with ORYR is the fact that it can’t be taken alongside any other cholesterol-lowering drug, especially those from the statin class.”
He also recommends a high grade fish oil that delivers good levels of EPA and DHA. “Its important to re-member that, in theory at least, the ALA content in flax oil can be converted into EPA and DHA within the body, but this conversion is not very efficient; it runs at roughly a 5% conversion rate. If a vegetarian/vegan is looking to boost EPA and DHA they should opt for the marine algae versions of fish oil. People forget that the only way a fish contains EPA and DHA is because it eats algae to start with. Marina algae oils are more expensive than premium fish oils but for vegetarians/vegans there is no real option. I would generally be recommending up to 1,000mg of EPA and 500mg of DHA daily. Remember, it’s the EPA and DHA levels in supplements that are key, not the total oil dose.”
Webb says that his recom-mendations have changed over the years and he now uses more ORYR because the manufacturing process is so good. “Years ago we never really knew how much monocolin-K there was in products and it could vary from batch to batch. ORYR works so well for elevated cholesterol that I feel obliged to use it alongside all the lifestyle modifications pre-viously mentioned, especially when the endogenous choles-terol production far outstrips what can be controlled by diet alone.”
He says that ORYR is particularly good for customers who find statin medication gives them intoler-able side-effects. “In these cases I suggest a wash-out period of one month over which time the person takes a good 200-400mg of CoQ10 before restarting their cholesterol-lowering plan using ORYR and 100mg Q10.”
Glenville says retailers need to think about recommending a good supplement pro-gramme with a multivitamin and mineral, omega-3 fish oils and a vitamin D supplement. If stress is a big problem then they may suggest ways of reducing stress as well as a supplement such as NHP’s Tranquil Woman Support. Good advice on following a healthy diet and getting adequate levels of exercise is also helpful.
Webb says retailers should get to know customers’ lifestyle factors. “This is key to planning changes that will make a real long-term differ-ence.” He suggests retailers also consider running instore cholesterol tests: “A great way to motivate people is when they know their number.” For Viridian’s Brown you can’t beat the simplicity of grouping heart health products together, to help raise customer awareness: “Even using terms such as heart health is not pushing things too far on what’s allowed, and it’s going to speak to people. If you have it in store – you have to tell people about it.”
Health file listings
Fitness Pharma Cholesterol Balance is a combination of Omega 3 + ALA from Linseed oil with Vitamin E. It contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels (the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 2g ALA) and the normal function of the heart (the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 250mg EPA and DHA).
Vegan Omega 3.6.9 Building blocks for good health Omega 3, 6 and 9 are the ‘good’ fats which your body needs to perform vital functions. These essential fatty acids cannot be made within the body and modern lifestyle makes it difficult to obtain them adequately from our diet. HealthAid’s Vegan Omega 3.6.9 provides the ideal solution; helps maintain good cardiovascular health and supports normal growth and development by giving you the perfect balance of Omega 3, 6 and 9 to ensure your body’s optimum wellbeing. Vegan Omega 3.6.9 retails at £8.99 for 60 capsules. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for further information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk
Organic Red Yeast Rice
Maintaining a naturally healthy cholesterol level has never been easier. Hadley Wood Healthcare’s Organic Red Yeast Rice has been formulated to deliver the full 10mg of monocolin-K, as recommended by EFSA. One of the most important cholesterol lowering ingredients in red yeast rice is compound known as monacolin-K which has been shown to contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Hadley Wood’s Organic Red Yeast Rice contains an impressive 0.6% monacolin-K and delivers the recommended 10mg per 4 capsules. The Soil Association has organically approved our Red Yeast ingredient and our finished product is fully approved by the Vegetarian Society.
Norwegian Gold fish oils are ultra concentrated one-a-day Omega-3’s from sustainably sourced anchovies and sardines. The 100% fish gelatine capsules have a unique enteric coating that is scientifically proven to ensure 3 x higher absorption of Omega-3 fatty acids than non-coated capsules. This ensures the highest possible assimilation of Omega-3 fatty acids on the market – and no fishy aftertaste! Added lipase enzyme further enhances absorption. Norwegian Gold fish oils have unprecedented levels of purity, potency and stability and have the highest possible 5 star IFOS rating (3rd party testing and certification). Friend of the Sea certified and Dolphin Safe.
CoQ10 assists in maintaining the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, helps assure circulatory health, and supports optimal functioning of the heart muscle. CoQ10 may also help support the health of vessel walls. Terranova CoQ10 contains Stabilised Rice Bran, a source of CoQ10 and over 1000 antioxidants; Acai Berry, with vitamin E and flavonoids to complement CoQ10’s cardiovascular support properties; Sea Buckthorn Berry & Leaf, 40% of the dry weight of the berries is comprised of fatty acids, which facilitate absorption of CoQ10; and Artichoke Leaf, which has been shown to have a positive influence on bile flow and acids which facilitate the absorption of coenzyme Q10. For more information visit terranovahealth.com
Fermented Red Yeast Rice (Monascus Purpureus) has been used for centuries throughout Asia for use in cooking and medicines. Natures Aid® Red Yeast Rice capsules provide a daily dose of 1800mg of Red Yeast Rice extract and contains 10mg of Monacolin K which helps to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. The capsules are manufactured using the finest Non-GM European Organic approved rice to ensure ultimate purity and efficacy. Natures Aid® Red Yeast Rice won Best New Health and Nutrition product, voted for by retailers at the 2014 Natural & Organic Product Awards. Natures Aid® Red Yeast Rice 90 vegetarian capsules RRP £17.95.