Cardiovascular Health

Last Updated: February 11, 2023

Cardiovascular health has to do with how well the heart and blood vessels carry blood throughout the body. Preventing disease is a major aspect of cardiovascular health, though performance and optimization are also frequently studied.

What does cardiovascular health encompass?

Cardiovascular health describes how well, or how poorly, the heart (“cardio-”) and blood vessels (“-vascular”) move blood throughout the body. Conditions like coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis are commonly associated with cardiovascular health. However, not all cardiovascular diseases have to do with clogged and hardened blood vessels. For example, Raynaud's disease, varicose veins,[1] and congenital heart diseases[2] are also categorized under cardiovascular health. Metrics like heart rate variability and resting heart rate are also linked to cardiovascular health to some degree, but their significance is still being explored.[3][4]

How could diet affect cardiovascular health?

Diet can have major potential effects on cardiovascular health, although the specifics depend on the aspect of health in question. For example, there’s strong evidence to suggest that a diet low in salt and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish[5] like the Mediterranean diet[6] is effective for the prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and diets high in nitrate-containing foods like beetroot juice, kale, and spinach may have the potential to improve cardiovascular aspects of athletic performance, although the magnitude of these effects for high-performing athletes is questionable.[7]

Which supplements are of most interest for cardiovascular health?

Fish oil has been particularly well studied in the context of cardiovascular health. Several vitamins like folic acid, vitamin D, and vitamin E have also been investigated, as have plant-based supplements like pycnogenol and high-nitrate beetroot juice. Red yeast rice can lower cholesterol, although any supplement with high levels of its active ingredient (lovastatin) cannot be sold legally in the United States. In contrast, some evidence suggests that calcium supplementation may negatively affect cardiovascular health.[8]

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