Smorgasbord Health Column – Major Organs and Systems of the body – The Heart – Part Two – Angina, Arrythmia and Valve disorders by Sally Cronin


I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

Last week I looked at the structure and function of the heart: Part One

The Heart – Part Two – Angina, Arrythmia and Valve disorders

One of the main causes of angina and heart disease is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteriesWhat is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflatedAngioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels.

Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you find useful.. Sally.

Smorgasbord Health Column – The Heart and some health issues – Angina and Atherosclerosis


I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

You will find other posts on the brain and nutrients in the Health Column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Last week I looked at the structure and function of the heart and this week a brief overview of the main causes of angina and heart disease which is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteriesWhat is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Anti-platelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflatedAngioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels. You can also read about elevated blood pressure as well.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/cholesterol-and-fats-the-myths-and-the-legends/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/high-blood-pressure-strategies-to-reduce-naturally/

Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1999 – 2018

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis. Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

Smorgasbord Health 2017 -Top to Toe -The Heart – Angina, Arrythmia and Valve disorders


Smorgasbord Health 2017

I appreciate that many of you who have been kindly following the blog for a long time will have seen this post before. However, if you are new to Smorgasbord, I hope you will find interesting.

In the series Top to Toe I will be covering the major organs in the body and their health.

One of the main causes of angina and heart disease is atherosclerosis and that is where we should start when looking to change our lifestyle and diet.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries as a result of plaque that has built up in the arterial walls narrowing the blood vessels and restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart and other organs such as the brain. Atherosclerosis accounts for almost 75% of deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Plaque build up in arteries

What is Angina?

Angina (angina pectoris) is a type of temporary chest pain. There are a number of types but the two, stable and unstable both indicate that there is likely to be coronary heart disease.

Stable angina attacks occur after vigorous exercise that requires additional blood to be sent to the heart. An attack might last from one or two minutes to fifteen minutes. Activities that also increase the risk of an attack are cigarette smoking, stress, abrupt changes in temperature or altitude, heavy meals that are not given time to digest and sudden exertion such as running for a bus or upstairs. These types of attack are also described as “predictable” as they tend to happen between early morning and noon. One reason for this may be the body’s inability to go from a state of complete rest to fully active immediately on getting up in the morning. Like an old car, it takes time to get all functions working efficiently especially if arteries are blocked and oxygen is in short supply.

Unstable angina is more dangerous as it is also unpredictable and will last longer than fifteen minutes. It can occur at rest and without any previous history of heart disease and should be treated as an emergency as it could indicate that the person is just about to suffer a full heart attack.

What are the symptoms of Angina?

People who suffer from angina describe the pain as crushing, burning behind the breastbone and as if there is a weight resting on the chest. The pain can radiate out from the chest and affect the neck, arms, jaw and the abdomen. Women are more likely to experience abdominal pain during an angina episode and it makes it more difficult to establish the problem. The person might also feel light headed and experience a faster than normal heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Some attacks are accompanied by nausea, sweating confusion and dizziness. These kinds of symptoms, particularly in the elderly add to the difficulty of diagnosing the problem.

Whether the episode lasts a minute or longer you should get it checked out. There is a strong possibility that if the attack occurs after eating a very heavy meal that you might be suffering from indigestion. But, if this is happening frequently the causes need to be identified and treated.

However, if the pain has moved from under your diaphragm and you are experiencing discomfort in any of the other areas that I have mentioned above, and the attack lasts for more than a few minutes you should definitely seek medical help.

What are the treatment options for Angina?

The medication most commonly prescribed is Nitrates such as nitro-glycerine that dilates the walls of the blood vessels allowing more blood and therefore oxygen to reach the heart. If there are repeated angina episodes then there could be the addition of beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers.

Beta-blockers slow the heartbeat and also reduce the strength of the muscle contractions taking some of the load off the organ.

Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the cells. This dilates the coronary arteries and increases the heart’s blood flow.

Antiplatelet and anticoagulant drugs inhibit the formation of blood clots by inhibiting the platelets that normal bind together. Aspirin is often prescribed in a relatively low dose, which a patient can take daily.

There are a number of surgical options for advanced stages of atherosclerosis and therefore increased angina attacks. These include angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass grafting.

Blocked artery 3 - Baloon inflated

Angioplasty is a procedure where a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted in the blocked coronary artery and inflated. The balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery, which increases the blood flow. This is usually combined with the inserting of a stent via the catheter. A stent is a small mesh tube that holds the damaged artery open allowing for increased blood flow.

A coronary bypass is a far more invasive procedure, which involves the grafting of the patient’s own veins and arteries, from other parts of the body, around the damaged blood vessels thus by-passing the blockage.

What can we do to prevent Atherosclerosis and Angina?

One of the most important preventative measures that you can take is to learn about your own body and also the medical history of your immediate family. It is more likely that if your parents, grandparents suffered from heart disease or diabetes then you may also be at a higher risk of the same problems. Diabetes sufferers are more likely to suffer from heart problems and monitoring this through regular blood tests is important if there has been a family history of the disease. Having this knowledge gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your own lifetime.

First and foremost you must give up smoking cigarettes, as this is a major contributor to heart disease.

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, inhibits oxygen uptake during exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.

In the last three years I have written several blogs regarding both the unhealthy type of LDL cholesterol which has smaller platelets and when oxidised (likely with a poor diet of refined sugars and industrially produced foods) it clumps in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing the blood vessels. You can also read about elevated blood pressure as well.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-directory/

Other common heart conditions.

Apart from Angina, there are a number of other conditions that affect the heart. The good news is that most are either preventable or can be supported with a few changes to your lifestyle.

Arrhythmia and problems with your heartbeat

  • Arrhythmia is an erratic and abnormal heart rate. This is most commonly caused by blocked coronary arteries.
  • Sinus tachycardia is a regular heartbeat but too fast, usually over 100 beats per minute. It can also be caused by over exertion or stress.
  • Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity and the result is a heartbeat between 300 to 500 beats per minute.
  • Ventricular tachycardia is caused by damaged heart muscle resulting in an ineffective heartbeat of between 120–220 beats per minute without the power to push the blood through the system.

Heart murmurs

We normally cannot hear the blood actually flowing through the heart but sometimes there may be some unusual noises that are called murmurs. These indicate that the smooth flow of blood has become unstable due to structural damage inside the heart. This is commonly caused by damage to the valves between the atria and the ventricles which causes either narrowing or leaking.

Heart valve disorders

As with any part of the body, the heart valves are subject to wear and tear. Our heart function is totally dependent on the pumping action and therefore on the health of the valves. There are two types of abnormality, stenosis which is a narrowing of the valve, allowing less blood through and an incompetent valve which allows blood to leak back down into the ventricles through an improperly closed valve.

Some valves can be corrected surgically but it is quite common these days to have the valves replaced completely restoring normal heart function. The replacement valves are made from metal and plastic, which may require medication to prevent clotting, or animal or human tissue which is not as long lasting but does not cause clots.

Next time some foods to include in your diet to help maintain a healthy heart. It may also help you lose weight and if you have read yesterday’s post you will know that the heart beats over 3 billion times in a lifetime and as with any pump it wears out.

Just losing a stone in excess weight can reduce the number of times your heart has to beat every day significantly – saving a million heartbeats a year will extend the life of your heart and therefore your life.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2017

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis. Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

Blood Pressure – Part Two – Nitrate and Potassium foods in your diet.


fruit and veg banner

As we get older we tend to start taking foods out of our diet rather than adding them in.  Food is not just to satisfy our hunger pangs or our cravings. The right foods containing the correct balance of healthy nutrients that have nourished them in their growth cycle are absolutely essential to maintain our own health. The miles of blood vessels in our body need to be maintained, kept flexible and capable of pumping blood to major organs 24 hours a day for our lifespan.. you have to meet your body half way on this and provide it with what it needs to do the job right!

In the last post we have looked at losing weight, reducing salt and exercise to help maintain a healthy BP and today I look at some foods that can also, eaten in moderation, help maintain that balance. They belong primarily to two groups – nitrate rich and those containing potassium.

Nitrate rich foods

Plants absorb naturally occurring nitrate in soil through their roots and it is essential to their healthy growth and development. However it has to go through some chemical adaptation to enable the plant to use efficiently and it goes through various stages to end up as amino acids and chlorophyll. We as humans can reuse those amino acids in the plants that we eat and therefore obtain these second hand benefits ourselves. There are other chemical and bacterial processes that are in play but fundamentally the end result is an easy and efficient way for us to obtain a critically important component in our essential nutrient bundle.

Nitrates are called vasodilators which mean that they dilate or widen the blood vessels in the body. This allows for a healthy blood flow which in turn provides oxygen rich blood to the heart muscle. It is effective for both arteries and veins and regulates blood flow to the heart reducing the work load on the muscle. You will find that many prescribed medications for conditions such as Angina are nitrate based.

This is why as we get into middle age it is so important to include a high quantity of high quality, raw and low processed vegetables and fruit in our diet. Five portions are simply not enough and is the minimum. Ideally I suggest that you have at least Six portions of vegetables a day and Two of fruit.

There are many nitrate vegetables and fruits in the fresh produce aisle in the supermarket or in our own gardens but these are the ones that I include in my diet regularly.

beetroot

Beetroot – 250ml daily contains 0.2g of dietary nitrate and in studies has been shown to result in an average ten point decrease in blood pressure levels. Beetroot juice is not for the faint hearted, I don’t find the taste too bad but please do not be alarmed by the side effects. You will find that after about 24 hours you will pee and poo pink – and sometimes red!

I make a smoothie with beetroot, celery and banana two or three times a week.. Takes a little getting used to but certainly a nitrate and potassium punch. One 8oz serving is enough but you need to make on the day rather than store as the banana turns it a rather disgusting colour after an hour or so. You can add any of the following to either a savoury smoothie or a slightly sweeter one..

I find beetroot more palatable than eating the alternative of two bowls of dark green lettuce a day to obtain the same amount of dietary nitrate however if you include some of these nitrate rich foods regularly the accumulative effect will contribute to a healthier BP.

I eat an onion a day (cooked and consume the odd breath mint) and also garlic regularly and find that the combined effect is beneficial. Here are others to include:- Broccoli, cabbage and kale, celery, rocket lettuce, string beans, pumpkins, avocados, bananas, strawberries, tomatoes and grapes.

Potassium rich foods.

bananas

Bananas – I would have great fun with my clients, and after all a good laugh is better than most medicines, when they would pronounce that they did not eat bananas because they were fattening! In my heyday I could demolish a tub of Haagen Daz Ice cream at 2000 calories and not blink and having seen my client’s food diaries they had similar tastes so making a banana the bad guy is hilarious.

For me the banana is one of nature’s gifts in a small but delicious package. Already wrapped it is easy to take with you anywhere, and comes from a family with 300 varieties and is the fourth most important staple food due to its high nutritional content. It can be eaten at any age and easily digested and has protein, B vitamins and the banana contains potassium.

I covered the need for sodium in our diet when writing about salt, but we also need potassium because it reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect environment in and around each of our cells. It is the main Cation (positively charged electrolyte) and it allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body as well as helping regulate the levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. Potassium is required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism, is connected to normal heart rhythms and without the correct balance of sodium and potassium our muscles would not work correctly and this includes our heart muscle.

With elevated blood pressure or when diets contain too much salt, potassium rich foods such as bananas help counteract the affect by dilating the blood vessels, enhancing the excretion of water and excess sodium from the body and suppressing the hormones that cause elevations in BP. You will also see from the section on nitrates that the banana also contains these too.

The banana itself has some great health benefits and appears to improve stress levels, heartburn, ulcers, PMS and at around 150 calories for a large banana is a great snack. You will find more information in the Food Pharmacy.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/food-pharmacy-the-banana-from-hangovers-to-warts-and-all-a-neatly-wrapped-remedy-on-the-go/

Other potassium rich foods to include in your diet on a regular basis are potatoes, green vegetables of all kinds especially spinach. Also mushrooms, tomatoes, oranges, prunes, apricots, fish such as halibut and tuna – yogurts etc.

Do not overcook your green vegetables and steaming retains most of the nutrients or eat raw and add to smoothies.. If you do cook in a pot blanch for under five minutes and freeze and then reheat for a few minutes in the microwave.. This way the greens stay a lovely colour and also do not lose their nutrients such as their nitrate component into the water that just gets thrown away. You can keep the water to add to homemade chicken stock for a rich gravy so that you waste nothing.

As well as fresh fruit and vegetables there is another key element of our diets that can help to maintain the health of our blood vessels and also the blood flow. That is wholegrains.

wholegrains

Once we are past the growing phase of our bodies (upward not outward!) we do not need as many carbohydrates but we need enough to offer us the correct fuel mix for our activity levels. There is a great deal of press about giving them up to lose weight, or impress our gut bacteria etc…etc.

However in my opinion this is a dangerous strategy as our bodies require the elements from the right carbohydrates to provide essential vitamins and minerals and to give us the energy to get through each day.

Fibre is a component that removes waste from the body which includes toxins. It also is a little like a vacuum cleaner in as much as it removes unwanted clumps of debris that are collecting in various places in the body.. This allows for smooth passage of fluids such as blood increasing blood flow.

Here is an article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday on one of my favourite carbohydrates that I include every other day, Oats. Also a link to a cholesterol article on carbohydrates and their importance in maintaining a health cholesterol and BP balance.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11325968/Porridge-could-be-key-to-a-long-and-healthy-life-says-Harvard-University.html

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/the-cholesterol-myth-carbohydrates-not-all-are-demons/

Here is the first part of the Blood Pressure posts.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/blood-pressure-hidden-salt-in-your-diet/

Please ask any questions that you would like clarified.. If you do so in the comments then that might help others. If you would like to ask me something regarding nutrition privately then email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Photographs – Pinterest