Krill Oil May Save You From Heart Disease
9 minute read
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 47 percent of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease, also called heart and blood vessel disease or cardiovascular disease. Let’s take a look at the different health issues that fall under heart disease, risk factors for heart disease, and how krill oil can be an effective tool to decrease the risk factors that may contribute to heart disease.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease encompasses a group of problems, many of which are associated with atherosclerosis or plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries. As the plaque builds, the arteries narrow, making it difficult for blood to flow through the arteries. In addition, plaque is seen as a foreign body, which triggers the inflammatory response, further narrowing the arteries.
Heart Attack or Stroke
A clot in the artery can cause a heart attack or a stroke. If the blood to one part of the heart is blocked, a heart attack will result. If that flow is cut off completely, the heart muscle will begin to die in that particular area.
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Strokes occur in the brain and can be characterized as either ischemic strokes, which occur in the brain, typically from a clot, or a hemorrhagic stroke, which happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In an ischemic stroke, this stoppage of blood flow leads to the death of brain cells. Depending on the area of the brain impacted, certain activities will be affected. Hemorrhagic strokes are typically caused by high blood pressure.
Congestive Heart Failure
Heart failure or congestive heart failure is when the heart isn’t pumping blood effectively so the body isn’t getting enough blood or oxygen.
The heart’s job is to pump blood through the body. When the heart beats, it’s pumping blood through blood vessels. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart; veins take blood that has less oxygen back to the heart; and capillaries connect the two.
Arrhythmia occurs when the heart has an abnormal rhythm, either too slow or too fast. Bradycardia is when the heart beats fewer than 60 beats per minute; tachycardia is when the heart beats over 100 beats per minute at rest. Either means the heart may not be able to beat effectively to pump enough blood.
Heart Valve Problems
When the heart’s valves don’t open sufficiently to allow blood flow, stenosis occurs. If the valves don’t close properly, regurgitation occurs. If the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse back into the upper chamber of the heart, it’s called prolapse.
Arrhythmia and heart valve problems are congenital but other heart issues may be prevented by changing risk factors.
Risk Factors of Heart Disease
♦ High blood cholesterol
♦ Unhealthy diet: Particularly saturated and trans fats
♦ Physical inactivity
♦ Excess Alcohol
♦ Lack of exercise
Tobacco and e-Cigarettes
Tobacco from cigarettes or other sources damages the heart and blood vessels, which increases risk for atherosclerosis and heart attack. Nicotine raises blood pressure while carbon dioxide restricts the amount of oxygen the blood carries.
While e -cigarettes of vaping have been marketed as a useful tool to stop smoking, recent research shows that e-cigarettes pose heart attack risks. Researchers who looked at the results of the National Health Interview Survey found that those who used e-cigarettes had a 42 percent greater risk for heart attack than those who did not.
People who smoked cigarettes and vaped or dual users were at even greater risk. Vaping increases risk for heart attack as much as diabetes.
While the resveratrol in red wine may provide some heart-protective properties, too much alcohol can raise blood pressure, as well as triglycerides, which can harden the arteries. More than one alcoholic drink per day for women or more than two drinks per day for men is considered a risk factor.
Obesity and inactivity are associated with higher LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as lower HDL cholesterol. Obesity is also a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and diabetes, as well as hypertension.
What You Can Do to Minimize Risk
Eliminating risk factors such as smoking, an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise can be helpful in minimizing heart disease risk.
Exercise: For overall heart health, do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity five days a week or at least 25 minutes of high intensity aerobic activity 3 days per week.
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Diet: A heart-healthy diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, seeds, and omega-3 fats, such as in the Mediterranean diet. A study at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health followed dietary data from over 200,000 nurses and health professionals, of which over 8,600 had developed heart disease. What researchers found was that the subjects who had followed whole food mostly plant-based diets were less likely to develop heart disease.
While exercise and diet may reduce risk for heart disease, supplementing the diet with krill oil is an effective addition. Krill oil, which is extracted from tiny crustaceans, is rich in both omega-3 fatty acids and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A substantial body of research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids, through diet and/or supplement may affect numerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including:
♦ Lowering risk for abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia
♦ Decreased levels of triglycerides
♦ Reduced arterial plaque
♦ Reduction in blood pressure
♦ Prevents inflammation in blood vessels and blood clots
One of the significant problems with the contemporary Western diet is an imbalance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. While we need both for optimal health, an increase in the use of vegetable oils and processed foods has tilted the balance in favor of omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation. In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation.
Uncontrolled and chronic inflammatory responses can exacerbate the effects of arterial plaque, as well as contribute to other risk factors such as metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes.
The fatty acids in krill oil are bound to phospholipids so they are more readily absorbed by the body because the omega-3s can be absorbed into the cell membrane without being broken down.
Krill Oil and Cholesterol
In a double-blind study, some subjects with high cholesterol and triglycerides were administered 1 to 3 grams of krill oil daily. After three months, the subjects given krill oil had lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, increased HDL or good cholesterol and the krill oil was significantly more effective than placebo or fish oil.
The diet of krill is phytoplankton, which gives them their red or pink hue, as well as the antioxidant astaxanthin. The antioxidant is shown by research to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, both risk factors for atherosclerosis. Astaxanthin is also more powerful than other carotenoids at protecting the cells from free radical damage, which also reduces risk for heart disease.
The Bottom Line
Almost half of all Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease, according to the CDC, tops the list of the leading cause of death. While lifestyle changes can decrease risk factors such as cholesterol levels, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and type-2 diabetes, omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin in krill oil can provide numerous additional benefits in the protection against heart disease.