It’s easy to take for granted all the hard work that the human heart does in a day, but this muscular pumping device is working every second around the clock to ensure our bodies are able to successfully accomplish both voluntary (such as exercise) and involuntary (breathing, for example) tasks.
The cardiovascular system includes the heart and a closed system of vessels, including arteries, veins, and capillaries. Together they comprise the vast network that enables the body to circulate blood flow and oxygen, providing cells with nutrients and helping to move waste out towards excretory organs. The cardiovascular system also plays a role in protecting the body against disease and infection. Because it is responsible for so many vital processes, it’s important to keep its health in good standing.
Inflammation – the #1 Risk to Cardiovascular Health
The number one risk factor to cardiovascular health may be surprising. Like so many serious diseases today, it is rooted in inflammation. “It’s rampant inflammation that causes heart attacks, not high cholesterol. In fact more than half of heart attacks occur in people who have had normal cholesterol levels,” explains Ronesh Sinha, M.D.1 While you might be advised to take medication to manage cholesterol levels, unless you’re also eating a diet that supports a healthy inflammatory response, the risk for cardiovascular diseases may still be quite high.
“They talk about LDL cholesterol being the ‘bad’ cholesterol but it’s not the LDL cholesterol, it’s oxidized LDL cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol oxidizes, it has the habit of sticking to the arteries, and the immune system sees that as a bad thing and goes after it, and that causes inflammation,” says Ken Swartz, research scientist and founder of C60 Purple Power. Other factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease, many of which also cause an unhealthy inflammatory response include smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of dental hygiene, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, advanced age, and genetic predisposition.2
Chronic inflammation adversely affects the cardiovascular system. Not only does it increase the likelihood that the body will attack its own arteries and blood vessels, but it can also cause structural changes in the heart.3 The muscle can become enlarged or develop scar tissue, impeding its ability to pump blood efficiently and leading to further deterioration. When the heart isn’t pumping efficiently, the mitochondria in the cells have to work even harder, producing more free radicals in the process and creating a cascade effect of more inflammation.
The Root of Inflammation
You’ll often read that inflammation occurs as a response to things like eating certain foods, smoking, or experiencing high levels of stress. While these are all true, the underlying cause behind most sources of inflammation is the presence of an excess of reactive oxidative species (ROS) or free radicals. 4
Unfortunately, industrialized societies subject their inhabitants to a cascade of things that cause ROS, so it’s worth learning about the many sources of oxidative stress. For example, when the body is inundated with chemicals, whether they’re delivered in drinking water, body care products, or processed foods, the chemical breakdown produces ROS, which the body must then work to neutralize in order to minimize cell damage. Even chronic stress produces its own unfavorable oxidative process (i.e. an increase in ROS) which the body must work to mitigate.
When a person is not consuming or producing enough antioxidants, it becomes difficult to fight the oxidative burden on the body, resulting in unwanted effects such as fatigue, premature aging, inflammation, and illness.
Diet and Antioxidants
Oxidative stress is a major contributing factor to inflammation in the body as a whole, which can adversely affect the cardiovascular system. Because the body’s ability to produce its own antioxidants declines with age, it’s imperative to make lifestyle and nutritional choices that reduce exposure to toxins and other things that create ROS in the body.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, packed with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can be very beneficial as well. Research shows time and again that the “Mediterranean diet” consistently supports longevity and a healthy cardiovascular system.5 This model of eating relies heavily on vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, and natural anti-inflammatory fats such as avocados and olive oil. A Japanese-style diet is also largely anti-inflammatory due to the emphasis on vegetables, fish, and fermented foods.
Interestingly, in a study of subjects who switched to a Mediterranean diet as compared to those who continued eating as they normally would, cholesterol levels did not decrease in either group, but those eating Mediterranean-inspired foods experienced fewer heart attacks.6 The fact that their diet supplied them with a higher level of antioxidants (and likely fewer processed foods that cause oxidative stress) meant that their hearts were able to stay in better health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information herein, and C60 Purple Power products, are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent disease. Please consult a healthcare professional before starting any new diet or exercise regimen.