Cardiologist Mark Houston’s Prescription for Heart Health
Earlier this year, our marketing manager attended a conference in San Diego where she heard a lecture by Mark Houston, cardiologist and author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Hypertension.
During the eye-opening lecture, Houston pointed to two major causes of cardiovascular disease – high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels – and two unexpected nutrients that can stop these risk factors in their tracks.
Nocturnal Dips in Blood Pressure Linked to Cardiovascular Health
Blood pressure fluctuates over a 24-hour period, and is highest during the day and lowest at night, which scientists call a nocturnal dip. While some people dip 20-30% at night (the extreme dipper range), others don’t dip at all.
According to Dr. Houston, a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor is the only way to get a correct reading. In healthy individuals, blood pressure levels dip at night (usually by about 10-20%) to give your cardiovascular system a break and help you recover from the day. If your blood pressure doesn’t dip during the night, it’s likely that your cardiovascular system is stressed out and overworked.
Melatonin Can Regulate Blood Pressure at Night & Turn You into a “Dipper”
So how do you become a dipper? Your favorite sleep ally – melatonin! If you thought this happy hormone was only for rocking you to bed, think again: Melatonin is involved in biochemical reactions that help regulate blood pressure levels at night, too.
Specifically, melatonin plays a protective role in the arteries by relaxing the endothelium, the lining of your blood vessels. Relaxed vessels, which allow for more elasticity and better blood flow, are healthy vessels. It also acts as a potent antioxidant, scavenging damage-causing free radicals in the bloodstream.
One study of melatonin’s effects on nighttime blood pressure found that after eight weeks, more than 30% of non-dippers with type 2 diabetes treated with melatonin were restored to the normal circadian rhythm of blood pressure (i.e. they became dippers). At both doses of 3 mg and 5 mg, melatonin significantly reduced noctural systolic, dystolic, and mean arterial blood pressure.
A cheap, natural alternative to high side-effect remedies, melatonin offers its services in the most humble of ways – when everyone is fast asleep and can’t really take notice. Pretty cool, eh!
Fast Facts: Melatonin was found to increase cancer regression rates and 1-year survival rates by 50% when subjects supplemented with 10-20mg daily.
Pomegranate Activates Enzymes that Destroy Oxidized HDL
The second secret nutrient for thwarting cardiovascular risk factors? Pomegranate! This beautiful red fruit has been in the nutritional spotlight as of late for boosting brain function and reducing inflammation, and now there’s another benefit to add to its growing resume.
Pomegranate accomplishes its cardiovascular-calming effects through multiple actions, one of the most important being its ability to increase blood levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. It does so by stimulating paraoxonase activity, a group of enzymes that exert powerful antioxidant effects.
Paraoxonases are actually a component of the HDL cholesterol molecule itself. When you boost paraoxonase levels in the blood, you amp up antioxidant activity and increase HDL levels in the blood.
These mighty enzymes have also been found to stunt the growth of inflammatory cells that accumulate harmful oxidized LDL molecules and eventually create arterial blockages.
Fast Facts: One study found that supplementing the diet with the main active compound found in pomegranate, punicalagin, reduced triglyceride production by a whopping 40%!
Drinking Olive Oil Straight from the Bottle?
Dr. Houston also shared with the audience that he’s a big fan of taking a few swigs of extra virgin olive oil straight out of the bottle each day (and no, he wasn’t kidding). He recommends consuming 50 grams of extra virgin olive oil per day – that’s about 3.5 tablespoons and 450 calories!
But Dr. Houston promises these extra calories won’t make you fat because they’re comprised of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. His message is a good one: EVOO is very heart healthy and a staple of the Mediterranean diet. But straight out of the bottle, you wonder?! We’ve tried it and it’s quite pleasant, and a big help if you have just swallowed a few too many vitamins that seem to be “sticking” in your gullet!
15 of Dr. Houston’s Top Supplements for Optimal Heart Health:
Dr. Houston ended his lecture with a long list of his favorite supplements for preventing heart disease. We shaved down the list to include our top 15 favorites. If you follow this regimen diligently, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy heart and a long, vibrant life.
- Vitamin C, 250-500mg twice daily
- Vitamin D, get levels up to at least 60ng/mL
- Vitamin K2, 200mc/day
- Resveratrol, 250mg/day
- Green Tea Extract, 500mg twice daily
- Quercetin, 500-1000mg/day
- Turmeric Curcumin, 500-1000mg/day twice daily
- Magnesium, 1000mg/day
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids, 2-5 grams/day
- Pomegranate, 1 cup seeds or 6 oz. juice/day
- N-acetyl Cysteine, 500mg/day
- Probiotics, 50 billion CFU/day
- Garlic, 600mg/day
- CoQ-10, 100mg/day
- MSM, 500mg twice daily