Reduce your risk of atherosclerosis with two simple nutrients
(Naturalhealth365) Atherosclerosis, which occurs when blockages in the arteries restrict the normal flow of blood, can set the stage for a long list of life-threatening conditions – including heart disease, dementia, kidney failure, liver failure, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sadly, the American Heart Association plus many other conventional organizations like to characterize the exact cause as ‘unknown’ – leaving people with a feeling of hopelessness.
However, recent research shows that two natural nutrients, vitamin K and vitamin D, can work together to arrest the progression of atherosclerosis – thereby helping to forestall these conditions and prevent catastrophic events such as heart attack and stroke.
Bottom line: there really is so much we can do to help avoid unwanted consequences.
Warning about atherosclerosis: Stiff and blocked arteries are a grave threat to our health, but it is reversible
Atherosclerosis is caused by a buildup of fats and excess cholesterol – or plaque – in and on artery walls.
This accumulation of plaque can prevent sufficient amounts of nutrients and oxygen from reaching organs and tissues. In addition, a sudden rupture in arterial plaque (which causes most heart attacks) can trigger a potentially life-threatening blood clot.
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Along with the formation of harmful deposits of plaque, atherosclerosis also involves arterial stiffness and loss of flexibility. (In fact, atherosclerosis is sometimes referred to as “hardening of the arteries.”)
This undesirable brittleness can cause problems with blood flow and raise blood pressure, which in turn contributes to even more arterial stiffness – creating a vicious cycle of arterial damage.
While arterial stiffness is a result of aging, factors such as high blood sugar, inflammation and calcification (the excess accumulation of calcium in the arteries) certainly contribute to the problem.
Vitamins D and K play a crucial role in arterial health
Increasingly, researchers are exploring the unique partnership between vitamins D and K, and discovering exactly how these nutrients to work together to manage calcium levels and maintain arterial health.
Simply put, vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium from the diet and helps to deposit calcium in the bones. Vitamin K, for its part, makes certain proteins in the arterial walls (matrix Gla-proteins) more resistant to calcium binding – meaning that it keeps calcium out of the arteries, where it could otherwise accumulate as harmful calcification.
Having insufficient levels of vitamin D, vitamin K – or both – can jeopardize the appropriate placement of calcium throughout the body and contribute to disease.
Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D promote the development of heart disease, and are associated with elevated blood pressure and higher amounts of C-reactive protein, a biological marker of inflammation.
Similarly, people with insufficient amounts of vitamin K have been shown to have more arterial stiffness.
Supplementation can drastically improve coronary and arterial health
Two recent studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation helps to alleviate heart disease – especially in older adults, diabetics and people with low levels of the nutrient.
In one study, middle-aged, diabetic participants received either a placebo or 1,000 IU a day of vitamin D for a year. Researchers found that the vitamin D group experienced significant decreases in measures of arterial stiffness, while the placebo group enjoyed no such benefit.
Other studies have shown that giving vitamin D-deficient subjects 3,000 IU a day caused significant drops in blood pressure.
Supplementation with vitamin K paid health dividends as well, with one long-term placebo-controlled clinical trial showing that MK-7 (menaquinone-7, a specific form of vitamin K2) reduced arterial stiffness by up to 50 percent in postmenopausal women.
Finally, in a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin K slowed the development of coronary artery calcification in older adults.
How much vitamin D and vitamin K should I take?
To promote cardiovascular and arterial health, integrative doctors may recommend vitamin D in dosages ranging from 1,000 to 8,000 IU a day.
Most experts advise taking the nutrient in the form of cholecalciferol — or vitamin D3 – which is the same form the body produces in response to sunshine. Cholecalciferol is believed to be 87 percent more effective in raising blood levels of vitamin D than the alternate form, vitamin D2. For best absorption, it should be taken with meals.
Like vitamin D, Vitamin K exists in two main forms.
Phylloquinone, or vitamin K1, is found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, while menaquinone, or vitamin K2, exists in meat, eggs, fermented dairy products and fermented soy. Interestingly, the body also converts a small amount of vitamin K1 into K2 through beneficial gut bacteria in the intestinal tract.
Although the National Institutes of Health advises 90 mcg a day of vitamin K for women and 120 mcg of vitamin K a day for men, many integrative healthcare providers maintain that this is not enough for arterial benefits.
For arterial health, natural health experts may recommend 1,500 mcg of vitamin K1, along with 1.000 mcg of vitamin K2. For maximum benefit, many advise 100 additional mcg of a form of vitamin K2 known as ”all-trans menaquinone-7,” reputed to be 100 percent biodegradable.
As always, consult with a doctor – that understands the value of nutrition – before supplementing with vitamins D and K – particularly if you have a history of heart disease or clotting issues.
Yet again, research is revealing the ability of non-toxic, inexpensive, natural nutrients to safeguard health – and protect against a truly formidable disease. When it comes to maintaining the health of arteries, the importance of sufficient amounts of vitamin K and vitamin D can’t be overstated.
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