Cardiovascular health and omega-3

Prevention of cardiovascular disease risk factors

Cardiovascular diseases mainly affect the heart and brain and are caused by alterations in the vessels which should carry blood and, consequently, oxygen, to these organs.

The major modifiable cardiovascular risk factors are:

  • Alterations of lipids: increased cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and decreased HDL cholesterol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes

It has been shown that there is an underlying mechanism that affects all of these cardiovascular risk factors that is called the “proinflammatory state”. This condition is due to an excess of toxic waste in the cells, known as oxygen free radicals, which arise normally during metabolism. Our body has mechanisms to eliminate these toxins. However, because of our Western diet, it is overwhelmed by an excess of these oxidants that cause mild but chronic inflammation in our tissues and will trigger the onset of cardiovascular risk factors (increased cholesterol, triglycerides, cholesterol LDL, decreased HDL cholesterol, etc.), leading to cardiovascular disease and other metabolic disorders.


Cholesterol, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases: ischemic heart disease (angina pectoris or myocardial infarction) and cerebrovascular disease (stroke). Nevertheless, we need to remember there are some nuances when it comes to assessing hypercholesterolemia, so it is important to know that:

  • The cholesterol that is deposited on the artery walls and clogs them is carried by LDL (low density lipoprotein or LDL-cholesterol), whereas HDL (high density lipoprotein or HDL-cholesterol) carries cholesterol from the arteries to the liver for elimination and therefore, protects against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
  • LDL becomes oxidized so it can penetrate arterial walls and deposit the cholesterol, thus initiating the development of atherosclerotic plaques.
  • Oxidized LDL within the artery walls induces an inflammatory response that favors the progression of lesions and causes complications.

What nutrients help to reduce the increase in cholesterol?

Among the most active nutrients to help with preventing an increase in cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduce oxidation of LDL, inflammatory response and the effects of ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, there are:

  • Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA, which reduce inflammation in the arterial walls, lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, and raise HDL-cholesterol;
  • Antioxidant nutrients, such as beta-carotene and polyphenols; Of these, resveratrol is one of the most effective.
  • Plant sterols, which inhibit cholesterol absorption in the intestine
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