In a presidential advisory published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that only 19.6% of U.S. adults had “high” CV health; 62.5% had “moderate” and 17.9% had “low” CV health. Women had higher scores than men.

Do you know where you stand?

Heart and blood vessel health is the key to getting essential nutrients and hormones to our cells and organs as well as getting rid of waste. You only have 6 minutes to preserve brain function if your heart stops. If an artery clogs, the result is oftentimes a heart attack or stroke and a clogged artery in any organ can disrupt its function.

How do you know if your cardiovascular health is good?

heart on a blue backgroung with a stethoscopeThe Essential 8

The American Heart Association created an algorithm and scoring system using 7 factors and recently updated it to include an 8th surprising factor and other modifications.

When evaluating yourself, keep in mind that traditional medicine and lab tests has a wide range of normal, however normal is not optimal. In functional medicine, we interpret ranges to look for deviations from optimal so we can catch things early. The earlier you make a change for the better the easier it is.

 The Essential 8

  1. Diet – Mediterranean Diet is a very heart healthy diet, and the DASH diet is great to treat or avoid hypertension. The Mediterranean Diet is mostly plant based with some chicken, fish, heart healthy oils found in nuts and seeds and contains grains. A functional medicine approach would be to tailor your diet to your unique conditions, sensitivities, and genetics. Gluten sensitivity is a big issue, and a lot of grains can cause weight gain and insulin resistance which raises blood sugar. Avoiding foods that you may be sensitive to and lowering processed foods, sugar and grains is healthy and beneficial for most and would be a helpful way to modify these diets.
  2. Avoid Nicotine Exposure – It is no longer good enough to stop smoking. Nicotine causes arteries to constrict thereby reducing blood flow, therefore avoiding smoking, secondhand smoke or vaping is advised to maintain heart and blood vessel health.
  3. Normalize Cholesterol – Optimal values for lipids are as follows: total cholesterol < 200, HDL > 50 in women and >40 in men, LDL < 99, triglycerides <100. However, recently, both the International Atherosclerosis Society and National Lipid Association have flagged non-HDL cholesterol as the major form of cholesterol that causes hardening and narrowing of the arteries as well as increased mortality from cardiovascular disease. Ideal non-HDL cholesterol is less than 100 and high would be over 200.
  4. Blood Pressure – If your blood pressure is high, your heart must work harder to pump. It thickens and requires more blood flow. Arteries as we age, become stiff and hard and don’t dilate to allow more blood flow when the heart demands it. This decreased blood flow can adversely affect the heart, brain, kidney, and other organs. Maintaining optimal blood pressure at around 110/70 is ideal.
  5. Weight – the American Heart Association recommends a body mass index of <25 as ideal. Body composition however is a much more accurate measure of overall health.
  6. Physical Activity – To maintain cardiovascular health it is recommended that you get > 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, >75 minutes of vigorous intensity or >150 minutes of moderate plus vigorous intensity exercise per week.
  7. Blood Sugar – Fasting blood sugar of <100 is the AHA recommendation, however ideal is 75-85 and the latest recommendations are to measure Hemoglobin A1C. Less than 5.6 is ideal.

The 8th Essential was surprising and was found to be associated with suboptimal CV health, poor mental health, and social determinants of health.

The 8th Essential is Sleep!

Ideal sleep time is 7-9 hours, shorter or longer than ideal is associated with coronary heart disease. If you sleep too much or too little it could impact the other seven essentials. Lack of sleep has people making poor choices. They grab processed food, salty or sugary snacks, that increase weight, blood sugar and blood pressure and have less motivation for exercise. To sleep better try the Sleep Coach app, discover your sleep quality and duration with the Oura ring and take the Care4U Course “6 Strategies for a Sound Sleep” that includes how to evaluate your sleep and determine if you have any underlying causes, and learn about the strategies and supplements that help you get more and a better quality of sleep.

Heart and blood vessel health can affect every organ in your body. If you want a more detailed assessment of your heart and overall health, apply for a free no obligation clarity call to see if we are a good fit.