Aged Garlic – Bad for Your Breath, Great for Your Heart!

There has been a lot of research in the past that has lent credibility to the healthy affects of garlic on your cardiovascular system.  A new study out of Australia has further strengthened these theories by finding a link between aged garlic extract and the reduction of blood pressure in those with uncontrollable hypertension.

The study tested low (240 mg/day), medium (480 mg/day) and high (960 mg/day) doses of the extract in 79 patients with uncontrollable hypertension.  Those in the study were allowed to continue use of their typical hypertension medication.

After 12 weeks of testing, the researchers found that those taking the medium dosage seemed to benefit the most from the supplement, with an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 11.8 mmHg when compared to those taking a placebo.  To better put that number into perspective, a 10 mmHG reduction in systolic blood pressure is associated with a 16 – 40% reduced-risk of cardiovascular disease.

So if you suffer from or are at risk of hypertension, ask your doctor about aged garlic supplements and tell them about this study.  It won’t replace your hypertension medication, but it will certainly boost the results!

Soccer can score a hat trick in treating hypertension

Soccer (AKA football) is the world’s sport for a reason.  It is fun to play, electrifying for fans to watch, and a recent study out of Denmark now indicates it is one of the best things you can do to treat hypertension.  The findings indicate that regularly playing soccer helps to improve fitness, normalize blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.

The study, conducted by three universities in Denmark, followed 33 men between the ages of 33 and 54 with mild to moderate hypertension.  The 33 men were divided into two groups.  One group participated in two one-hour soccer training sessions per week.  The other group simply received typical general practice care for hypertension, including advice on healthy diet and the importance of physical activity.  The study then monitored the effects on maximal oxygen uptake, blood pressure, exercise capacity and body fat of all participants after three months, and then again after six months.

For the soccer group, maximal exercise capacity and maximal oxygen uptake were increased by 10%, body fat mass decreased by an average of two kilos and resting heart rate decreased by 8 bpm.  There were no significant changes in these indicators with the non-soccer playing group.  The soccer group also saw an average drop in blood pressure of 10 mmHg, while the non-soccer group only saw a drop of 5 mmHg. After the six months had passed, 75% of the soccer participants were actually able to return their blood pressure to a very healthy range.

So if you have been diagnosed with or are at risk of hypertension, perhaps it is time to hit the pitch and kick the ball around.  You’ll be doing your heart a favor, and will have way more fun than you might think.

Ladies, Aspirin is Good for your Heart, and a New Study Shows for your Brain Too

Doctors have long promoted the use of low-dose aspirin to those at risk of cardiovascular disease to help minimize that risk.  A new study out of Sweden has found that it may actually have benefits to maintaining mental health in elderly women at high risk of cardiovascular disease as well.

The study followed 681 women with a mean age of 75 in 2000.  A total of 95% of those women were at a high risk of cardiovascular disease, and only 19% were previously taking a low-dose aspirin.

The researchers conducted a cognition test known as a Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) with the women to develop a baseline, and then prescribed half of the group a low-dose aspirin regimen.  Tests were then completed after five years of half the group being on the aspirin regimen and the other half not, and the results were very encouraging.  They showed that the women on the aspirin regimen showed a very minimal decline in their MMSE score (average of -0.05) when compared to those that didn’t take the aspiring (average of -0.95).

The exact reason that aspirin has this effect on the brain is still uncertain, though they believe it to be linked to either increased blood flow to the brain, or an increased production of neuroprotective molecules known as docasanoids.

The researchers still have some fine-tuning to do with the study, but initial results are very encouraging for reducing one’s risk of the always-feared mental decline associated with age.  We look forward to seeing future results from the study, and encourage anyone that feels they are at risk of cardiovascular disease to consult their doctors before beginning a low-dose aspirin regimen.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Cardiologist Away

We’ve all heard the old saying before.  But a recent study out of Columbus, Ohio has found that eating at least one apple per day is better for your heart health than originally thought.  It has found that consuming apples regularly has a marked effect on reducing the amount of a substance linked to the hardening of arteries known as oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein, or LDL.  LDL is widely known as the “bad cholesterol” that is linked to heart disease, and when it becomes oxidized, it is more likely to promote inflammation and cause tissue damage.

The study followed healthy adults between the ages of 40 and 60 who didn’t have a history of eating apples regularly and didn’t take any supplements containing plant-based concentrates.  Of the subjects, 17 took capsules containing 194 milligrams of polyphenols (the amount found in an average apple) per day, 16 ate one of either a large Red or Golden Delicious apple per day, and 18 were given one placebo per day for four weeks.

The results surprised even the researchers.  While the supplements did show a noticeable decrease in oxidized LDL percentages in the blood stream, the consumption of simple apples still had a greater effect, reducing overall oxidized LDL by an average of 40%.  Results also pointed to a marked effect on certain enzymes in saliva, pointing to a possible benefit to dental health as well.

These sort of results are typically unheard of in medical science, especially when it comes to consuming natural foods like apples.  It is certainly a great advancement in the science of heart health, and lends even further credence to that good old saying.  So stock up on apples now, before the pharmacies get wind!

Good Nutrition Linked to Cutting Stroke Risk

Everyone knows that a good diet is important to keeping good heart health.  But did you know it can have an impact on your risk of stroke as well?  A recent study found that increasing your dietary intake of soy products, fruits and vegetables has the potential to seriously reduce your risk of both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.

Though the group that conducted the study did indicate that more data was needed to definitively link certain dietary practices to their impact on stroke risk, initial findings did indicate that those who consumed 3 – 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day demonstrated a statistically lower instance of stroke than those that did not.  The group noted that they estimate 80% of all strokes are completely preventable simply by addressing certain lifestyle factors, such as poor diet.  In the study, consumption of fruits, vegetables and soy products demonstrated protective effects against stroke, though variable findings were also observed in the consumption of fish and whole grains.

The group plans to expand their research base to produce more definitive findings, but their initial results are extremely promising to helping to reduce the risk of stroke.  So if you have a history of stroke in your family, it might be time to help yourself to some more fruits and veggies.  You may just be saving your own life in the process!

Our Cholesterol Problem

Most American adults are aware of their cholesterol score. After every checkup, you walk away with three numbers: good, bad, and total. If you score is deemed normal, you most likely leave the doctor’s office with some peace of mind about your cardiovascular health.

cholesterol-levels-chartBut too few Americans are aware of the severe limitations of this basic cholesterol score. A recent article published by expounded upon the problems with basic cholesterol.

Our nation’s reliance on the cholesterol score as a measure of heart health has grown dangerous. As stated repeatedly in the CNN article, your cholesterol score in isolation is nearly worthless. In fact, the cholesterol of those who have heart attacks is nearly identical to the cholesterol of those who don’t.

This is because cholesterol is not the cause of heart attack. Plaque is. And plaque development is extraordinarily different in every individual.

The Boone Heart Institute Medical Team has moved well beyond the cholesterol score, using imaging techniques alongside advanced blood testing to determine the patient’s plaque status and genetic vulnerability to heart disease.

Heart-RibbonIt is tremendously encouraging to see mainstream news sources like CNN—and important voices in the health care media like Dr. Agatston and Dr. Gupta—relaying the importance of looking beyond basic cholesterol to the root of heart disease.

Medicine is all about progress. As science and technology advance, new methods replace the old. The most important change agent in this process is you: the patient. Don’t be satisfied with a simple cholesterol score. Make sure your doctor is giving you the complete picture.