As winter approaches and we think of ways to keep warm, hot chilli’s and exercise come to mind. The Cardiovascular system is often something we don’t even think about, until something goes wrong. Yet this is New Zealand’s biggest killer. And it is stealthy and silent. We simply can’t feel whether or not our cardiovascular system is working well. There are very few symptoms therefore cardiac events can happen out of the blue. This is why we need to get to know our cardiovascular risk factors. Once we know what these are we can get them monitored and checked. We can learn how to look after ourselves with some simple lifestyle and diet adjustments that aren’t too daunting. Quite simply, we need to act now before they happen, and they can happen to anyone. To help you with this we have a Cardiovascular Clinic to help determine your individual risk factors and needs as well as teas, tonics and supplements that can help with your cardiovascular health. Read on if you want to know more.

So what is the Cardiovascular system? Lets cover the obvious. The cardiovascular system contains the heart, blood vessels, lungs, blood, oxygen & carbon dioxide ~ it’s a whole waste disposal system in itself! It is the system that takes nutrients, energy and important fats, salts and proteins all around the body and turns ‘gas’ into energy via the electron transport chain. We expel the waste {carbon dioxide} back into the air for plants to use. The electron transport chain is found in the mitochondria {cellular battery} inside our cells. If you know how a rotary engine works then you will understand the electron transport chain, except instead of using petrol it uses electrons from oxygen and carbohydrates. Cool eh! This electron transport chain uses a complex set of rotary engines to supply us with energy every minute of the day ~ what a breath of fresh air! It uses the carbon from our food, and combines it with oxygen from breathing and va’la ~ Energy. Without energy we die pretty quickly.

So how does this process of transformation work? It relies on nutrients of course 😉 Many of them are in our daily bread ~ B vitamins ~ and the rest come from a quality diet high in colourful vegetables, fruits & fats on a daily basis.

But isn’t it genetic whether or not we have a heart attack? Why do we need to look after our cardiovascular system and our mitochondria?

First lets look at the common dysfunctions in the cardiovascular system – heart attack and stroke {essentially a heart attack in the brain}, but also angina, high blood pressure, high levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides and obesity or abdominal fat all add to cardiovascular risk. Sleep apnoea, erectile dysfunction, asthma and chronic lung disorders also affect or are caused by the cardiovascular system so we need to look out for these conditions too.

so what are a few ways we can look after our CV system ourselves?

Breathe ~ and breathe deeply. It is relaxing and provides oxygen. Sounds too simple? It is! Exercise is also a good way to get more oxygen to our tissues.

Eat well ~ If we eat complex carbohydrates {i.e. vegetables and fruit}, the right kinds of fats {i.e. not cooked or fried, but raw} and protein {animal and vegetable proteins} we are looking after our cells. Eat all of the colours of the rainbow everyday ~ Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet {these colours are the beneficial plant chemicals called flavonoids}. Wholegrains also provide B vitamins for the energy cycle.

CoEnzyme Q10 ~ This is a key enzyme that is used in the electron transport chain. We need to make it, and lots of it. Those who have heart conditions are likely to need more of it and as we age we tend to make less of it. Those on cholesterol lowering drugs are also at risk of not making enough, which can lead to side effects from statins, so come and talk to us if this is you.

Eat less ~ When we eat too much it puts extra pressure on not only our digestive system but on our cells ability to clear the waste products. If we eat poor quality, processed foods we rob ourselves of much needed nutrients and therefore require extra antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals ~ in other words we should only only overeat foods that are healthy! Stress less – Stress is toxic to our cardiovascular system. Learn to calm down by getting into nature, exercising, reading, laughing, changing your mind and deep breathing.

Diabetes ~ Don’t get it. Its quite easy to prevent type 2 diabetes {sugar diabetes} with a proper diet and daily exercise. Diabetes becomes a risk as soon as you are overweight. It wreaks havoc on cellular energy systems which means we need to look after ourselves 2 x as much. Often the foods that lead to diabetes are ingrained in our habits and therefore the struggle to eat better is 2 x greater. Essentially, if we have diabetes we need double the exercise and double the healthy foods.

Exercise ~ The crucial step {excuse the pun}. This is simple, effective and free. Getting fit and staying fit can save our lives so we need to make it a priority.

Herbal tonics ~ Heart and Lung support is essential for those with impaired mitochondrial function and cardiovascular risk factors. Supporting these organs with gentle stimulation from herbal organ tonics, enables better overall cardiovascular health. With herbal medicines we can assist you with weight loss, energy and stress hormones & support the cardiovascular system gently and effectively.

Eat Cayenne pepper daily ~ Cayenne pepper quickly dilates the blood vessels, and folk rumour has it that it can help during a heart attack if you take a handful of the dried pepper in water. It can help relax the blood vessels until you get emergency treatment. Cayenne pepper is best used daily in vegetable juice.

Family history ~ If you have a family history of stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, angina or anyurism then your cardiovascular risk is higher than most. Don’t delay doing something about it.

Let’s do it New Zealand ~ Currently more than 50% of us are overweight and I urge everyone to make a personal choice that determines to keep themselves out of those statistics. Which side of the fence are you on? §

#CardiovascularHealth #WeightLoss101 #ApothecaryNow #HotBlooded #CayennePepper #Exercise #EatLess #StressLess #LiveLong #SpreadTheWord

Simone Reddington is the founder of the Apothecary, a Medical Herbalist and thinker. She holds a degree in Psychology and is a professional member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists.