Cardiovascular Health

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" - this aphorism sums up what is meant by prevention: taking precautions instead of waiting for health problems to arise.

Healthy people can maintain the condition with a healthy lifestyle. However, there are some factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These include:

  • elevated blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels
  • too much stress

These factors can be prevented in order to keep the cardiovascular system healthy.

Our dietary and lifestyle habits also play an important role in prevention. A healthy lifestyle not only keeps you healthy, but also has a positive effect on the cardiovascular risk factors of body weight, blood pressure, blood lipid levels and diabetes mellitus.

In the end, it pays off, because each individual can help shape his or her own prevention.

The four most important protection factors

Non smoking

Smoking has been shown to be one of the high risk factors for your cardiovascular system. By quitting, you not only reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, but you also reduce factors for respiratory disease or cancer.

Smoking is the most important preventable cause of cardiovascular disease (see figure at right).

The starting point for cardiovascular disease is hardening of the blood vessels (arteriosclerosis). Arteriosclerosis occurs when the cells of the innermost layer of the blood vessels (endothelium) are damaged and fat molecules (LDL, low density lipoprotein, "bad cholesterol") are deposited underneath. This damage summons immune cells (macrophages and T-lymphocytes), which then migrate into the middle layer of the blood vessels, where they transform into foam cells. In addition, muscle cells from the outermost blood vessel wall reach there and produce connective tissue fibres. These deposits of fat and connective tissue fibres eventually form large so-called plaques. These bulge out into the vessel, obstructing the blood flow to the heart muscle cells. This undersupply causes a painful feeling of pressure and tightness behind the breastbone (angina pectoris). If such a plaque ruptures as a result of inflammatory processes, there is a risk of heart attack and stroke.

Proper exercise

Regular physical activity prevents cardiovascular disease, increases fitness and mental health. Recent studies show, among other things, that even a little exercise compared to no exercise at all can make a difference. You don't have to integrate a regular jogging round into your life, but short walks, where you also walk briskly in between, or even cycling helps our body enormously. Rule of thumb for this: the body may quietly sweat, but you should still be able to talk well.

Integrated into everyday life, this may mean getting on the train one stop later or getting off earlier, stretching your legs during your lunch break, parking your car a little further away and walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and going for a walk with friends instead of meeting in a restaurant.

Effects of smoking

Healthy nutrition

Varied and balanced is the motto for a healthy diet. Whole-grain products, vegetables and fruit are demonstrably good for our heart. Eating less meat has a positive effect, as does regularly eat fish (which contains omega-3 fatty acids). In general, vegetable fats should be consumed before animal fats.

Salt may be on a heart-healthy menu, but not in excess. Rather season more often with herbs, chilli and pepper! Healthy food does not necessarily have to taste boring. Caution: Many convenience foods contain large amounts of salt, even if the food doesn't taste that salty. It's better to cook your own food as often as possible and not add too much salt.

Besides salt, however, too much sugar is also bad for our heart! Avoid sugary drinks, too much of chocolate & desserts. Instead, rather lightly sweetened tea, rather dark chocolate and here and there is a self-prepared smoothie.

More about "Our nutrition: the basis for a healthy life".

Stress management

Stress is known to affect the nerves, or more precisely, it affects our autonomic nervous system. When we are stressed, our heart and breathing speed up, our muscles also receive more blood flow, and we become more alert.

In our prehistoric times as hunter-gatherers, this was important in order to be able to fight and/or flee in case of danger. In times of office work, stress is rarely associated with muscle activity, and this has consequences for our body. Activation of the heart and circulation without muscle activity causes our blood pressure to rise over a longer period of time.

Triggers for stress can be found very easily in everyday life, whether it is performance or time pressure, noise pollution or the challenges of everyday family life. Constant exposure to stress can also lead to physical impairments (blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat, etc.).

Psycho-cardiology, a field of medicine, studies the interactions between cardiovascular disease and psychological stress or mental illness. Today, five main psycho-social or psycho-emotional factors are known to cause heart disease: Depression, character traits, anxiety, social isolation, and chronic daily stress (family or work-related). In the current Corona pandemic, the last three factors in particular play an even more important role. The consequences of psycho-emotional stress, e.g., smoking, inactivity, or obesity, also increase the development of heart disease.

A major study by the DZHK found that depression for men even carries just as great a risk of cardiovascular disease as obesity or high cholesterol levels.

The bottom line: avoid stress wherever possible: don't always take everything literally, "take it easy for a change" and take a break - even from the digital onslaught via smartphones, tablets and co.

The most important micronutrients for your heart

Micronutrients can help to compensate for deficiencies in the diet. In addition, some of them support our heart muscle and therefore our cardiovascular system. The most important are: 

  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Selenium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin K2


Coenzyme Q10 - Power for the cellular power plants in the heart

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like nutrient which is produced by the body itself. As a fat-soluble endogenous compound, it occurs in the organism as ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Coenzyme Q10 is stored in the body in the cellular power plants (mitochondria), especially in the heart, liver, kidneys and muscles.

Effects of coenzyme Q10

Due to its antioxidant properties and vital role in energy production in cells, coenzyme Q10 is an important substance for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

This was also shown in a study from Sweden: The risk of dying from a heart event was halved by the administration of coenzyme Q10 and selenium.

In this technical article, you will learn more about this interesting study (available in German/French).


Omega-3 fatty acids - protection against cardiovascular diseases

The importance of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids for health has long been known. The two most important representatives are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids on heart and circulation

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antiarrhythmic (reduction of cardiac arrhythmias)
  • inhibition of platelet aggregation (anticoagulant)
  • reduction of blood pressure
  • positive influence on blood lipid values

In the meantime, various studies have proven that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in maintaining the function of the cardiovascular system. Positive effects are already achieved with an intake of 250 mg EPA and DHA per day (e.g. 1-2 portions of oily fish per week). For further health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for the cardiovascular system or in secondary prevention after a cardiac event, higher dosages (≥ 2 g per day) are often recommended.


Vitamin K2: for the proper distribution of calcium in the body

Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin found predominantly in animal sources. It is important for the proper function of certain proteins that bind calcium in blood vessels and bone. Thus, a good supply of vitamin K2 may be associated with a reduced risk of osteoporosis, but also with less vascular calcification. Vascular calcifications constrict the blood vessel and increase the risk of embolisms, thromboses and thus heart attacks and strokes.

The recommended daily intake for vitamin K is 75 μg, although the legislator does not distinguish between vitamin K1 and K2. From a scientific point of view, however, the distinction is justified, and it turns out that vitamin K2 fulfils many very specific tasks in the body.

Learn more about K2 here!

Health awareness as a sign of appreciation

Grandparents are a treasure for society.

It is therefore all the more important that they remain fit and healthy for themselves, but also for the family and especially for the grandchildren. Grandparents are still considered the closest caregivers of grandchildren. In the social structure of the family, too, they form an important link between the generations - today more than ever. They take on many tasks in the day-to-day support of the family apparatus - and do so out of pure goodness of heart, without receiving any financial compensation in return.

Comparisons: According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, grandparents in our neighbouring country perform 160 million hours of unpaid care work per year, which roughly corresponds to an economic output of more than 8 billion Swiss francs (7.28 billion euros).

Based on similar conditions, this would mean for Austria that senior citizens in this country spend the equivalent of 166 million hours on caring for grandchildren, which can be put at an economic output of 7.547 billion euros. Whether in the role of preserver of family tradition, educator with "softened" rules, additional stable caregiver or teacher, grandparents can contribute to the positive development of grandchildren. And also in terms of nutrition, you can still pass on a lot of interesting things to the children and grandchildren, away from the fast-food paths. This makes it all the more important for the 50+ generation to pay attention to intact cardiovascular health.

For your cardiovascular health