One of the precursors to atherosclerosis and heart disease is endothelial dysfunction. Because endothelial dysfunction can appear years before more serious heart disease symptoms, it is wise to try and repair this problem before it turns into something more serious. It is estimated that endothelial dysfunction affects approximately 50% of those over the age of 40.
The endothelium is the cells that line the inner surface of all blood vessels including arteries and veins. Any time the endothelium fails to function as it should, this can be considered endothelial dysfunction. When the endothelium is functioning properly, it is responsible for mediation of coagulation, platelet adhesion, immune function, and control of volume and electrolyte content of the intravascular and extra vascular spaces.
Several things can cause endothelial dysfunction, including cigarette smoking and diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. When the endothelium does not function properly, veins and arteries have difficulty dilating properly. These problems are thought to be the precursor to atherosclerosis, which is a leading cause of heart disease. However, it is possible to reverse endothelial dysfunction by paying attention to your lifestyle. Reversing endothelial dysfunction before it becomes more serious is important to protecting your cardiovascular health.
There are several changes you can make to help reverse endothelial dysfunction. Here are some suggestions to help get your body headed on the right track.
First, watch your diet. It is believed that trans fats in particular can lead to endothelial dysfunction. So, it’s important to remove trans fats from your diet entirely. Read product labels looking for the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. If you see these words in the ingredients, stay away.
Reduce your level of other saturated fats, too. This means reducing the amount of red meat and egg yolks you consume; making the bulk of your protein come from fish, poultry and low fat dairy products.
Another important factor in reducing endothelial dysfunction is controlling your weight. Eat right and get regular exercise to ensure that your weight falls within a normal range.
If you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, you should treat these in order to protect endothelial function. Exercise and proper diet can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. However, if diet and exercise don’t prove to be enough, your doctor may prescribe medication to help get these numbers under control.
Another important way you can improve your endothelial function is by making sure your diet is rich in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are responsible for combating free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are created as we process our food each day. If we don’t consume anti-oxidants, these free radicals can damage our DNA and cells, including the cells that make up the endothelium.
So, in addition to making sure that your diet is low in saturated and trans fats, make sure it’s rich in anti-oxidant powerhouses. All fresh fruits and vegetables contain anti-oxidants, but some are more potent than others. Artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes and red beans are the best vegetables to eat and the best fruits include blueberries and pomegranates.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, anti-oxidants can be found in dark chocolate, coffee and green tea. Green tea is a particularly effective because it contains EGCG, one of the most potent anti-oxidants, belonging to the flavonol-3 class of flavonoids.
In recent years, much research has been performed on how our bodies use these flavonoids to combat free radicals and protect us from disease. This research has concluded that there are factors that determine how efficiently our bodies use the anti-oxidants we consume.
The first of these factors is our metabolism. In some situations, anti-oxidants may not be metabolized as efficiently as others. Factors that affect metabolism of anti-oxidants include our body’s overall ability to process the foods we eat, including the efficiency of our digestive systems.
For example, a diet that is loaded with processed foods can cause the digestive system to slow down and may result in important nutrients being swept from the body before being absorbed properly. However, if you’re eating a heart healthy diet, you’ll avoid processed foods and most of this problem should be eliminated.
In addition, damaged cells appear to have more difficulty metabolizing anti-oxidants, particularly flavonoids. For this reason, if you have a significant amount of endothelial dysfunction, your body may not process the beneficial flavonoids as efficiently as we’d like.
According to a study reported by the UK Tea Council, your body’s ability to metabolize the flavonoids in green tea affects the amount of benefit you’ll gain in terms of restoring endothelial function. If your body is ineffective at metabolizing the flavonoids, you’ll gain less benefit per cup of tea.
Of course, it’s impossible for each of us to know how effectively we metabolize anti-oxidants. But, we shouldn’t lose hope. Even if our bodies don’t efficiently use the flavonoids we’re consuming, we can make up for the deficiency simply by increasing quantity. Most doctors recommend that we drink at least three cups of green tea each day, anyway.
As with many health concerns, all the information we’re given can pile up and be confusing in the long run. But, a few things are very simple. The first is that protecting our endothelial function protects us from heart disease in the long run. The second is that, along with a healthy diet and exercise, anti-oxidant rich foods like green tea can help us accomplish this.
So what if it takes a few cups each day? It just means more tea for us to enjoy!
Jon M. Stout is the Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. Golden Moon Tea carefully selects the finest rare and orthodox teas, which are processed slowly and handcrafted with extreme care. At their website, you can learn more about their current tea offerings, including their exceptional green tea , white tea, black tea, oolong tea (also known as wu-long and wu long tea ) and chai. Visit goldenmoontea.com for all details concerning the Golden Moon Tea Company's fine line of teas.