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Vital substances and medicinal plants for the cardiovascular system with scientifically well-documented effects

Garlic (Allium sativum L.) belongs to the family of bulbous plants. It is one of the oldest herbs and medicinal plants. Botanically speaking, garlic is closely related to wild garlic (Allium ursinum L.). The garlic bulb consists of a main clove which is surrounded by several subordinate cloves (cloves). Its main ingredients are aliin and similar sulphurous compounds, saponines, vitamins and selenium. The use of garlic for the prevention of age-related changes in the blood vessels (arteriosclerosis) as well as to provide support for hypertension and increased blood fat levels is scientifically proven. It is also known for its antibacterial properties.

The mistletoe (Viscum L.) grows like a shrub in the shape of a large sphere on branches of tall trees. It is highly visible during winter, when the trees lose their leaves. This medicinal plant belongs to the family of Santalaceae, and is popular in herbal medicine to provide support for hypertension.

Hawthorn (Crataegus) belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae). It grows throughout Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean region, preferring locations with moderate climate changes. Hawthorn plant extracts as a basic ingredient of medicinal products possess a number of valuable ingredients, especially flavonoids (flavones, flavonols, procyanidin oligimers) and tannins. Hawthorn is able to increase the heart's the contraction force and dilate the blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries, thereby improving the oxygen supply to the heart muscle. In herbal medicine, hawthorn is therefore used to treat mild heart conditions and “ageing hearts”.

Salmon oil is high in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and a daily intake of at least 250 mg EPA and DHA contributes to a normal heart function. The health benefits of a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been observed in Eskimos, who have more favourable blood lipid levels and a healthier cardiovascular system than populations with a lower fish consumption. In addition to salmon, some fatty fish such as herring or mackerel also serve as good sources of omega-3 fatty acids – as does krill oil, which is enjoying ever increasing popularity. But not everybody likes fish, and the annoying bones can easily put an end to the pleasure of eating. A good alternative to supplementing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids are therefore fish and krill oil, which come in convenient capsules that are quick to consume.

vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. Free radicals, which are absorbed from the environment or created in metabolic processes, can damage our cells. Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Vegetable oils from olives, grape seeds, thistle or wheat germs are good sources of vitamin E and should be used more often when preparing salads. Did you know that vitamin C contributes to the regeneration of vitamin E levels that are depleted due to the defence against radicals? In addition, vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation for the function of the blood vessels.

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Interesting facts about your heart

The heart is the engine that powers the circulatory system. It incessantly pumps blood through our blood vessels and supplies the cells with oxygen and nutrients. At the same time, it removes metabolites or waste products that have formed. The human heart has a regular rhythm of around 60-80 beats per minute. It pumps around 5 to 6 litres of blood through our arteries and veins every minute. The heart is a hollow muscle with a weight of around 300 grams. It is divided into four chambers: into the right and left atria, and the two heart chambers (ventricles). The heart valves ensure that the blood only flows in one direction. The heart itself needs a large amount of oxygen and vital substances. That is why it is supplied with blood through the coronary arteries. Approximately 10% of the total amount of blood that is carried is needed for this purpose.

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Interesting facts about the veins

The blood vessel system consists of arteries and veins. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart into all parts of the body. The blood is carried back to the heart via the veins. The pressure inside the arteries is high due to the pumping action of the heart. In the veins, this pressure is much lower, and in itself is too low to force the blood back again – against gravity. Muscle movements and breathing also help the blood to flow back.

The veins are equipped with valves, so-called venous valves, which only permit the flow of blood in the direction of the heart and therefore normally prevent the blood from flowing back and “sinking in”. The superficial venous system directly under the skin only transports about 10% of the blood. The deep venous system, located in the muscles is functionally more important.

Tips for every day...

  • Sufficient exercise strengthens the leg muscles and supports the venous function.
  • Cold gushes and warm and cold showers refresh the legs and stimulate blood circulation.
  • Targeted vein gymnastics such as moving your legs in a circle or bouncing on the tips of your toes should be integrated into your daily routine as often as possible.
  • Do not expose yourself to excessive temperatures, e.g. in summer. (Heat causes the blood vessels to expand, allowing the blood to “sink into” the veins of the legs even faster.)
  • Do not shy away from putting up your legs and keep them slightly higher during the night to take the burden off stressed legs.
  • Comfortable socks are key! Stay away from cuffs that give you pressure marks. And do not forget the well-established rule: Don't sit and stand, stroll and stretch!

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Cardiovascular diseases

Germany's no. 1 cause of death:
Cardiovascular diseases are the most frequent cause of death in Germany. Around 50% of all deaths can be attributed to it. In most cases, the cause is arteriosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”), which develops insidiously over decades.

Arteriosclerosis begins as early as in childhood and progresses increasingly with age. Small internal injuries of the arterial walls lead to inflammatory reactions, proliferations of the connective tissue and the deposition of metabolic products such as cholesterol. All this leads to the thickening and hardening of the vessel walls over time. This constricts the blood vessels and the flow of blood is interrupted. At the same time, vascular elasticity decreases and the blood pressure rises.

In turn, the increasing blood pressure causes new damage and promotes the progression of the disease. The speed and severity at which arteriosclerosis develops depends primarily on personal lifestyle. A number of factors can increase the risk of contracting the disease. These include obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and smoking, as well as daily stress and physical inactivity.

The consequences of arteriosclerosis will depend on where it occurs. Particularly frequent changes occur in the coronary vessels (coronary arteries). The coronary arteries serve to supply the heart itself with blood and thus with oxygen and nutrients. Narrowing them will lead to coronary heart disease (CHD). Because the heart is poorly supplied with blood, it will lose some of its power.

As a consequence, angina pectoris (tightness in the chest), cardiac arrhythmias (disturbances of the heart's rhythm) and heart failure, as well as acute, life-threatening complications such as heart attacks and sudden cardiac death can occur. In addition, changes to the cerebral blood vessels lead to a reduced blood supply to the brain and increasing restrictions to mental performance. In extreme cases this can cause a stroke. However, other organs, such as the large arteries in the legs, or the kidneys, may also be affected by arteriosclerosis.

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Tips for a healthy cardiovascular system that will make your heart skip a beat...

A positive lifestyle consisting of a healthy diet, adequate activities which are good for your heart, or a targeted intake of dietary supplements are the basis for a healthy cardiovascular system. This includes giving up smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption to an acceptable level.

Exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system:
Regular physical activity in the form of mild endurance training can reduce many risk factors. Among others, it reduces the blood pressure and bad LDL cholesterol, whilst increasing HDL cholesterol, which protects the heart.

The right body weight:
Too high a body weight is a burden for the cardiovascular system. A combination of daily exercise and a balanced diet helps you keep your weight in check – or to reach your ideal weight.

A varied and balanced diet:
Plenty of fruit and vegetables – preferably a varied mix, plus sufficient wholegrain products and pulses as well as vegetable oils, low-fat dairy products and fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (herring, mackerel, salmon), similar to a Mediterranean diet, belong on every menu. These provide our body with plenty of fibre, high-quality fatty acids and protective substances with an antioxidant effect, which can have a positive impact on the cardiovascular system.

In line with the motto “One man's meat is another man's poison”, the daily consumption of meat products and meat should be reduced to a minimum. Meat products and meat contain large amounts of saturated fatty acids which can have a negative influence on our blood fat levels. In addition, they provide high levels of energy and promote excessive weight gain. However, it is not necessary to ban meat products, meat and delicious butter from your diet altogether as they provide essential vitamins. It is simply the quantity that counts.

Extra tip:
Walnuts contribute to greater vascular elasticity. To achieve this effect, a daily intake of 30 g of this healthy snack is recommended. Apples contain pectins which contribute to the preservation of normal blood cholesterol levels. The positive effect sets in with a daily pectin intake of 6 g. This would equal the consumption of approx. 3-4 apples a day.

Giving up smoking:
It has been known for a long time that smoking greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The number of cigarettes smoked daily and the length of time a person has smoked both play an important role. Giving up smoking reduces the risk of vascular diseases by 50 to 70% after just 1 to 5 years!

Specific dietary supplements:
We do not always manage to eat an ideal diet. Dietary supplements which specifically support the heart function, cell protection and the blood vessels can be useful in this case.

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