"More than 60 double-blind studies have demonstrated that either fish oil supplements or flaxseed oil are very effective in lowering blood pressure."
Most cardiovascular diseases are the result of atherosclerosis. For example, ‘heart disease’ usually refers to a restriction or blockage of the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. If the blood flow through these arteries is severely blocked because of the build-up of cholesterol-containing plaque, a heart attack may occur, resulting in severe damage or death to the heart muscle.
Atherosclerosis and its complications are the major causes of death in the United States and have reached epidemic proportions throughout the Western world.
The Role of Cholesterol & Triglycerides in Atherosclerosis
The first step in the prevention and treatment of heart disease and stroke is the reduction of blood cholesterol levels. The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that elevated cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
However, cholesterol is not all bad; it serves many vital functions in the body including the manufacture of sex hormones and bile acids. Without cholesterol, many body processes would not function properly. It’s the type of cholesterol that determines whether it is harmful or helpful. Cholesterol is transported in the blood by molecules known as lipoproteins.
• Cholesterol bound to low density lipoprotein (LDL) is often referred to as the bad cholesterol,
• While cholesterol bound to high density lipoprotein (HDL) is referred to as the good cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, while HDL cholesterol actually protects against heart disease. Why?
• LDL transports cholesterol to the tissues.
• HDL, on the other hand, transports cholesterol to the liver for metabolism and excretion from the body.(1, 2)
Therefore, the LDL-to-HDL ratio (also referred to as the cardiac risk factor ratio) largely determines whether cholesterol is being deposited into tissues or broken down and excreted. The risk for heart disease can be reduced dramatically by lowering LDL cholesterol while simultaneously raising HDL cholesterol.
In addition to keeping an eye on your cholesterol level(3), it is also important to keep the level of triglycerides in the proper range. Here are the recommended levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides:
• Total cholesterol – less than 200 mg/dl
• LDL cholesterol – less than 100 mg/dl
• HDL cholesterol – greater than 60 mg/dl
• LDL to HDL ratio – less than 4.5
• Triglycerides – less than 150 mg/dl
The Role of Blood Pressure in Heart Attack and Stroke
Each time the heart beats it sends blood coursing through the arteries.
• The peak reading of the pressure exerted by this contraction is the systolic pressure.
• Between beats the heart relaxes and blood pressure drops. The very lowest reading is referred to as the diastolic pressure.
• A normal blood pressure reading for an adult is: 120 (systolic)/80 (diastolic)
• High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the major risk factors for a heart attack or stroke, making it very important to keep blood pressure within normal range. High blood pressure is diagnosed by a reading of greater than 140/90.
Unfortunately, more than 60 million Americans have high blood pressure,(4,5) most likely due to dietary factors.
Increased Plant Food Consumption Helps
Besides attaining ideal body weight, perhaps the most important dietary recommendation is to increase the consumption of plant foods in the diet.
A primarily vegetarian diet typically contains more potassium, complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C than a meat-based diet, while providing less saturated fat and refined carbohydrates – all of which have a favorable influence on blood pressure.
Increasing Omega-3’s Helps
Increasing the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower blood pressure. More than 60 double-blind studies have demonstrated that either fish oil supplements or flaxseed oil are very effective in lowering blood pressure.
For example, along with reducing the intake of saturated fat, one tablespoon per day of flaxseed oil should drop both the systolic and diastolic readings by up to 9 mm Hg.
One study found that for every absolute 1% increase in body alpha-linolenic acid content (the Omega-3 found in flax oil), there was a decrease of 5 mm Hg in the systolic, diastolic, and mean blood pressure.
The beneficial effects of Omega-3 oils in protecting the heart and vessels are quite obvious, and flaxseed oil offers a beneficial method for increasing the intake of Omega-3 oils in the diet.
1. An explanatory video – “Lipoprotein Physiology” – illustrating HDL molecules & how they gather up & dispose of LDL, with the help of the liver & gall bladder.
2. An animation depicting “Lipoproteins that Circulate in the Blood Collecting Fat”
3. MayoClinic.com Q&A on do-it-yourself cholesterol testing:
“Are home cholesterol test kits accurate?”
4. “A Primer on Blood Pressure – High, Low, Dysregulated,” by Dr. Sarah Myhill, MD
* Mr. Jade Beutler's extensive writings on essential fatty acids include the book Understanding Fats & Oils: Your Guide to Healing with Essential Fatty Acids. This article is reproduced with permission from The Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living, ©2009 Barleans Organic Oils, LLC
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.