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Lowering Cholesterol Isn’t the Only Way to Protect the Heart

food for the heart

What is the number one risk factor for heart disease? When it comes to heart disease, many people focus on high cholesterol as the primary risk factor. However, while it’s important to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it’s not the only factor to consider. In fact, the number one risk factor for heart disease is actually hypertension, or high blood pressure.

This raises questions. What causes hypertension? What can cause a sudden increase in cholesterol, and how does it relate to overall heart health? To understand these causes, we need to think about the role of our blood vessels in the development of heart disease.

The Role of Healthy Blood Vessels

If we have healthy blood vessels, with a smooth inner lining, the cholesterol has nothing to stick to. Plaques only form where the inner lining of a blood vessel, or endothelium, has been damaged, making the surface jagged or sticky, and the plaque comes to cover it as the body’s natural bandaid.

Plaques in themselves aren’t bad, but they are representative that there is damaged tissue in that area. The issue with plaque is when it becomes vulnerable and ruptures, which often is what ends up causing the heart attack or stroke.

So, what is the number one cause of damage to the lining of the blood vessel walls which leads to plaque formation? High blood pressure.

The Importance of Microcirculation

Having healthy blood pressure, healthy blood vessels and good microcirculation are key to preventing heart disease. Microcirculation is especially important for women, as men tend to have heart attacks due to coronary artery disease, which forms plaque that is vulnerable to rupture in the large coronary arteries, and this plaque is easy to detect in normal tests performed to assess cardiovascular risk.

However, women tend to have heart attacks due to ruptured plaques in the microvascular circulation system – called coronary microvascular dysfunction – and this plaque isn’t detectable on normal tests and scans for heart disease.

If you’re a woman and you’re worried about heart disease, ask your doctor to do an Echo Stress test, which uses ultrasound, and is the only means of diagnosing coronary microvascular dysfunction, the usual cause of heart attacks and strokes in women.

Natural Strategies for Protecting Heart Health

In addition to reliable testing, the best ways to protect yourself from heart disease is by natural blood pressure, blood vessels and microcirculation support.

Supporting Healthy Blood Pressure

There are several natural ways to support healthy blood pressure and address the underlying causes of hypertension. These methods include incorporating specific nutrients, herbs, and lifestyle practices that have been shown to help regulate blood pressure. Some of the most effective strategies for supporting healthy blood pressure include:

  • Magnesium
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids and fish oil
  • Coleus (Coleus forskohlii root), which also helps with weight loss
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus root), which also supports a healthy stress response
  • Herbs for stress and HPA axis support like ashwagandha and eleuthero
  • Daily practice of stress management
  • Exercise and movement

We also want to investigate and address the underlying cause of high blood pressure, ie. due to stress or kidney dysfunction. Unfortunately, blood pressure medications do not address underlying causes, they simply bring numbers down.

Supporting Healthy Blood Vessels

Maintaining healthy blood vessels is crucial for overall cardiovascular health. This can be achieved by supporting microcirculation, which ensures that nutrients are efficiently delivered to the blood vessels and capillaries. Additionally, promoting the integrity of blood vessel walls is essential for preventing damage and plaque formation. The following natural supplements and herbs can help support healthy blood vessels:

  • Grape seed extract
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)
  • Vitamin C and Buckwheat

Stabilizing Plaque

In addition to its role in supporting microcirculation, Gotu kola has been shown to be particularly effective in stabilizing existing plaque that is vulnerable to rupture. This is a crucial aspect of preventing heart attacks and strokes, as the rupture of vulnerable plaque is often the triggering event.

  • Gotu kola works by strengthening the connective tissue in the arterial walls, making them more resilient and less prone to damage. It also helps to reduce inflammation, which can contribute to the development and destabilization of plaque. By incorporating Gotu kola into your heart health regimen, you can take a proactive step towards protecting your cardiovascular system and reducing your risk of life-threatening events.

Additional Support

If you are concerned about what can cause a sudden increase in cholesterol or are looking to further support your cardiovascular health, there are two notable supplements to consider.

  • Cholestsure by DaVinci Labs contains Policosanols and other ingredients that naturally support the maintenance of HDL and LDL cholesterol levels within normal ranges.
  • Cholesterol Support Omega Blend by Nordic Naturals is an option that supports healthy cholesterol, fat metabolism, and heart health with a combination of omega-3s, CoQ10, and red yeast rice.

The Limitations of Statin Drugs

The risk of heart disease can be quickly and easily lowered through diet, exercise, lifestyle and herbs, though most doctors tend to focus primarily on lowering cholesterol. This is usually done with statin drugs, which unfortunately weaken the heart and cause other side effects, such as:

  • CoEnzyme Q10 deficiency
  • Muscle aches
  • Low sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone

Also, approximately 50% of heart attacks occur in people with healthy cholesterol levels, so it is important to pay attention to all the risk factors. In addition to high blood pressure and subsequent blood vessel damage, there are other risk factors to take into consideration.

Other Risk Factors for Heart Disease

While high blood pressure and cholesterol are well-known risk factors for heart disease, there are several other factors that can contribute to the development of cardiovascular problems. These risk factors span a wide range of health conditions, lifestyle habits, and dietary choices. It’s essential to be aware of these additional risk factors, as they can significantly impact your overall heart health and risk of developing heart disease. Some of the most notable risk factors include:

  • High cholesterol, especially when associated with the following other risk factors
  • Metabolic Syndrome (a cluster of coinciding conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat especially around the waist and high cholesterol)
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Unmanaged stress and emotions
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet (especially diets high in sodium and low in potassium)
  • Excessive sugar consumption
  • Nutrient and mineral deficiencies
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor sleep, especially due to obstructive sleep apnea
  • Gut dysbiosis and poor gut health
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Gum disease


Protecting your heart health involves a multifaceted approach that goes beyond simply lowering cholesterol levels. While it’s important to be aware of what can cause a sudden increase in cholesterol, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and certain medical conditions, it’s equally crucial to address other risk factors like hypertension, blood vessel damage, and microcirculation issues.

If you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease due to a family history of heart-related illnesses, be especially vigilant to seek out heart-healthy nutritional support.

By incorporating natural strategies to support healthy blood pressure, maintain blood vessel integrity, and stabilize vulnerable plaque, you can take a proactive role in safeguarding your cardiovascular health. Additionally, being mindful of lifestyle factors such as stress management, sleep quality, and gut health can further contribute to a strong and resilient heart.

Remember, the path to optimal heart health is a holistic one that involves nurturing your body, mind, and spirit through a combination of healthy habits, targeted supplements, and regular check-ups with your healthcare provider.



  • American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/
  • Herbal Support for a Healthy Heart by Dr Berris Burgoyne. Wholistic Matters Podcast. https://wholisticmatters.com/herbs-for-heart-health/
  • Lowering Cholesterol Doesn’t Always Count by Dr Christiane Northrup. Heart Health. https://www.drnorthrup.com/cholesterol-doesnt-always-count/
  • Onor IO, Hill LM, Famodimu MM, Coleman MR, Huynh CH, Beyl RA, Payne CJ, Johnston EK, Okogbaa JI, Gillard CJ, Sarpong DF, Borghol A, Okpechi SC, Norbert I, Sanne SE, Guillory SG. Association of Serum Magnesium with Blood Pressure in Patients with Hypertensive Crises: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Study. Nutrients. 2021 Nov 24;13(12):4213. doi: 10.3390/nu13124213. PMID: 34959763; PMCID: PMC8709166.