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Natural Remedies for Heart Disease Prevention

By

Updated June 05, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, can take a number of different forms. The most common type is coronary artery disease, which is marked by narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Often referred to as "cardiovascular disease," heart disease also includes arrhythmias (irregularity in the rhythm or force of the heartbeat), congenital heart defects, and other conditions and infections that negatively affect heart health.

Heart Disease Symptoms

Although symptoms vary depending on the type of heart disease, there are a number of key warning signs to watch out for. These symptoms include:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • heart palpitations
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath

Learn more about heart disease symptoms.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Many factors may raise your risk of developing heart disease. They include:

How to Prevent Heart Disease

Working to improve the above risk factors is crucial for protecting against heart disease. If you smoke, for instance, consider trying a natural approach to smoking cessation. If you're frequently stressed out, try taking up a mind-body practice (such as meditation or yoga) that could help lower your stress levels.

In addition to making heart-healthy lifestyle changes, you may be able to increase your defense against heart disease with the natural substances below. It's important to note that none of the following natural substances have been proven to prevent heart disease. If you're at a high risk for heart disease, consult your physician about which approaches might work best for preserving your heart health.

1) Flaxseed

A number of studies have demonstrated that flaxseed may signficantly lower total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. Postmenopausal women and individuals with higher cholesterol levels may be more likely to benefit from flaxseed's cholesterol-fighting effects.

2) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Studies show that boosting your levels of omega-3 fatty acids (by eating fish or taking fish oil supplements) may help keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in check, slow the progression of atherosclerosis, and lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death among people with cardiovascular disease.

3) Garlic

Preliminary research indicates that garlic may hinder the development of atherosclerosis. However, studies on garlic's cholesterol- and blood-pressure-lowering effects have yielded mixed results.

4) Vitamin D

In a 2009 study of 3,408 older adults, scientists discovered that participants with inadequate vitamin D levels were three times more likely to die from heart disease compared to participants with optimal D levels. Previous research shows that vitamin D may help protect against a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and inflammation.

5) Hawthorn

Findings from pilot research and animal studies suggest that the herbal remedy hawthorn extract may help lower blood pressure, reduce levels of blood fats, and aid in the prevention of atherosclerosis.

6) Resveratrol

To date, there's a lack of human-based research on the cardiovascular benefits of resveratrol (an antioxidant naturally found in the skin of grapes and available in supplement form). However, a 2008 study of mice found that regular intake of resveratrol helped shield the animals from age-related declines in heart health.

Sources:

Barger JL, Kayo T, Vann JM, Arias EB, Wang J, Hacker TA, Wang Y, Raederstorff D, Morrow JD, Leeuwenburgh C, Allison DB, Saupe KW, Cartee GD, Weindruch R, Prolla TA. "A low dose of dietary resveratrol partially mimics caloric restriction and retards aging parameters in mice." PLoS ONE 2008 4;3(6):e2264.

Ginde AA, Scragg R, Schwartz RS, Camargo CA Jr. "Prospective study of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d level, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all-cause mortality in older U.S. Adults." J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 57(9):1595-603.

Lee JH, O'Keefe JH, Bell D, Hensrud DD, Holick MF. "Vitamin D deficiency an important, common, and easily treatable cardiovascular risk factor?" J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 9;52(24):1949-56.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil." NCCAM Publication No. D313. Created May 2006.
Updated April 2008.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Omega-3 Supplements: An Introduction." NCCAM Publication No. D436
 July 2009.

Pan A, Yu D, Demark-Wahnefried W, Franco OH, Lin X. "Meta-analysis of the effects of flaxseed interventions on blood lipids." Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 90(2):288-97.

Reinhart KM, Talati R, White CM, Coleman CI. "The impact of garlic on lipid parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Nutr Res Rev. 2009 22(1):39-48.

Ried K, Frank OR, Stocks NP, Fakler P, Sullivan T. "Effect of garlic on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis." BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2008 16;8:13.

Stevinson C, Pittler MH, Ernst E. "Garlic for treating hypercholesterolemia. A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials." Ann Intern Med. 2000 19;133(6):420-9.

Walker AF, Marakis G, Morris AP, Robinson PA. "Promising hypotensive effect of hawthorn extract: a randomized double-blind pilot study of mild, essential hypertension." Phytother Res. 2002 16(1):48-54.

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