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Cardiometabolic Health: Connecting Heart Health to Metabolic Dysfunction

By

Clare Kelway DIHom BCHN®

What is cardiometabolic health?

A recent study has shown that more than 93% of the US population suffers from a cardiometabolic health issue, which suggests a devastating health crisis. Could this be the root cause of chronic diseases? 

This beginner’s guide will help you understand what cardiometabolic health is, why it’s essential, and how to improve your glucose and fat metabolism for greater vitality consistently.  

Cardiometabolic health is the term used to refer to the critical relationship between heart health and your body’s metabolic functions. Metabolic dysfunction is also known as metabolic syndrome. Cardio metabolism describes how the two link together, how they interact, and how changes in one can significantly affect the other.

Cardiometabolic dysfunction involves problems with blood sugar levels, such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Other issues may include problems with fatty acids, belly obesity, and elevated triglycerides.  It also affects issues with hypertension (high blood pressure) and inflammation.

If you visit your medical doctor, you are not likely to solve your metabolic syndrome challenges. The traditional medicine strategy is offering medications that can be helpful in the short term but often come with unwanted side effects. 

Doctors do not focus on the underlying lifestyle issues driving cardiometabolic dysfunction. Functional Medicine, as a root-cause approach to your health, is positioned perfectly to help people with their cardio metabolism. 

postmenopausal women and cardiovascular health risks

Cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs) are the number-one cause of death in the world. Post-menopause women catch up with men in the number who die from heart disease. Quite frightening statistics, I am sure you would agree. 

Some cardiometabolic issues we use  Functional Medicine solutions for at Metabolix Health include:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Insulin resistance
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Hormone imbalances, especially steroidal health problems
  • Fatty Liver
  • Brain Fog and memory issues
  • Sleep issues and sleep apnea
  • Thyroid imbalances
  • Blood pressure regulation

The common factor in all of these situations is inflammation, usually chronic and systemic.  Insulin hormone issues and metabolic dysfunction are related to inflammation, and metabolic dysfunction relates to fat metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, and protein synthesis. 

Learn about metabolic syndrome and how it impacts cardiometabolic health

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, including abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, cholesterol abnormalities, hypertension, and insulin resistance that increase your risk for coronary artery disease and other cardiometabolic health problems. These factors contribute to a person’s larger risk of poor heart health, stroke, and diabetes. Smart lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Let’s learn about the metabolic pathways in your cells as part of your metabolism.

Mitochondrial dysfunction

We have come to know the mitochondria as the powerhouses of your cells. Our mission is about improving your cellular energy production and individual cell function. ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is the energy currency of every cell in your body. Cardiometabolic dysfunction has dysfunctional energy metabolism at its core or metabolic dysfunction in functional medicine speak!

Mitochondrial dysfunction is a cause of inflammation, a common factor in all chronic diseases.

mitochondria and cardiometabolic health

Whenever mitochondria produce energy (in the form of ATP), they also create a byproduct called ROS (reactive oxygen species, a type of free radical).

Some ROS is normal, but quality and quantity naturally decline as we age. Furthermore, heavy metals catalyze the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and induce inflammatory mediators, damaging endothelial vascular cells. (link to study – association between c-reactive protein, heavy metals, and 10-year risk of cardiovascular diseases).  

Mitochondria produce less ATP and more ROS, contributing to damage and inflammation that can snowball throughout the body. Aside from the natural aging process, other things send mitochondrial function in the wrong direction, like smoking, stress, lack of sleep, environmental pollution like mold and smog, and eating a diet rich in refined sugar that causes insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. 

Glycolysis

Glycolysis is the metabolic pathway by which we convert glucose into lactate and pyruvate to form energy.

If levels of lactic and pyruvic acids elevate in metabolic testing, a person has mitochondrial dysfunction. They burn through sugar and have an inferior ability to metabolize fat for fuel.

High values for these markers indicate that environmental toxins, particularly mold, affect your mitochondria. Increased lactic acid is common with mold issues.

Beta oxidation

Fatty acids are the preferred energy for the heart. Beta oxidation occurs in the mitochondria via the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain, and L-carnitine is an essential molecule for this process. 

Intermittent fasting, calorie restriction, and zone 2 exercise are ways to build more vital mitochondria. Eliminate the things causing mitochondria to decline, such as air, water, and food toxins. Use air filters, buy organic food, and focus on a Mediterranean diet.  

Taking care of your mitochondria will allow you to increase your energy, lose weight, and age well. 

Two molecules boost metabolism to enable mitochondria to run better. They are alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine.

Examine cardiometabolic health problems arising from genetics, hormone changes, poor diets, and unhealthy lifestyle choices

Inflammation

Inflammation as a risk factor for cardiovascular health and heart attacks

Stop thinking about cholesterol being the criminal, and start thinking about your systemic inflammation levels.

Get your C-reactive protein and fibrinogen levels checked. C-reactive protein should be below 1 mg/l; if it is above 10 mg/l, you need to check in with your medical doctor to review what could be happening since this is severe inflammation. 

Fibrinogen is a clot-regulating protein and a biological marker for the stickiness and viscosity of your blood. An elevated level is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Post-menopausal women are at a high risk of heart attacks, so checking these blood markers with your doctor is very important.

Potassium is essential for thinning the blood, so ensuring you are getting enough potassium in your diet is vital.

potassium as a nutrient for cardiometabolic health

When your inflammatory pathways increase, cholesterol molecules are oxidized, triglycerides form, and blood vessel walls are damaged.  Inflammation is a recipe for disaster for your cardiometabolic health.

Cholesterol

Lowering cholesterol is not the goal, and this is the old heart myth perpetuated by Ancel Keys starting in the 1940s, and still followed by many mainstream doctors today despite many scientific studies debunking this theory.  The goal should be getting to the root cause of glucose metabolism, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance. A more accurate way of assessing dyslipidemia is an advanced lipid profile that includes lipid particle sizes and density.

Cholesterol is made in the liver, so high cholesterol and triglycerides are a liver issue, not a cholesterol issue. Cholesterol makes your steroid hormones, so don’t try reducing cholesterol with statins.  Give your body the building blocks of minerals, omega 3’s, vitamins, antioxidants, and an anti-inflammation food program, and your lipids will fall into place. Glucose is the perpetrator here, along with insulin, and cholesterol and C-RP are the victims. 

Triglyceride oxidation is the oxidation of one of its constituents, fatty acids. It begins in fat cells with the breakdown of triglycerides into fatty acids and diacylglycerol. The liver is the central organ for fatty acid metabolism, and fatty acids are eliminated by oxidation. Gastric lipase breaks down triglycerides into diglycerides and fatty acids in the stomach

Exercise stimulates the breakdown of triglyceride molecules into fatty acids. The body can convert triglycerides into glucose, and triglycerides can be stored in adipose tissue (fat cells).

Gut health

negative gram bacteria and cardiometabolic health issues

There is a proven connection between your gut and cardiometabolic disease risk. Certain negative gram bacteria can leak through the lining of your gut wall (leaky gut), enter the bloodstream, and cause inflammation. These are known as endotoxins, and your liver does a great job of eliminating or detoxing them from your system. But what happens when your liver is already sluggish?  You get a build-up of toxins from internal and external sources that cause systemic inflammation. This systemic inflammation can cause damage to the endothelial cells lining the arteries and blood vessels. Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate, propionate, and acetate can improve gut health and insulin resistance, high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease risk. Bile acids are crucial in glucose metabolism, cholesterol, and fat metabolism. 

Insulin

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet and avoid those sugary treats as much as possible. Avoid carbonated drinks and fruit juices.  

Excess sugar in the diet is a recipe for inflammatory disaster.  Sugar pushes insulin levels high, irritates blood vessel linings, and contributes to high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.  

Sleep apnea

sleep apnea and metabolic syndrome

Sleep apnea is a form of sleep deprivation. You wake up several times during the night lacking breath and oxygen, of which you may not be aware.  Sleep apnea drives weight gain and blood sugar imbalances which is a vicious cycle because these are 2 of the underlying causes of sleep apnea.  It also raises your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease or cardio metabolism issues. 80% of sleep apnea cases don’t receive a medical diagnosis, meaning people don’t realize they are suffering from this. Sleep apnea is more common in post-menopausal women when reproductive hormone levels drop, which may contribute to increased cardiovascular risk in post-menopausal women. 

Arthritis

People with rheumatic conditions are more likely to have traditional heart disease risk factors, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. But the most important shared risk factor by far is chronic inflammation. Inflammation is also linked to gout and heart disease, and keeping uric acid levels normal helps to prevent gout and arthritis. 

Implement strategies to promote positive lifestyle behavior changes related to improved cardiometabolic health outcomes

Enhancing your body’s detox pathways and reducing your toxic burden may help with inflammation, metabolic health, and immunity. Lifestyle factors like healthy, nutrient-dense whole foods, physical activity, stress management, and getting enough sleep all play crucial roles in maintaining and improving cardiometabolic health.

Hydration

lifestyle changes for cardiometabolic health

I cannot emphasize enough how important hydration is to your body. Most people think they are staying hydrated when they are dehydrated; dehydration causes sludgy blood, and hydration keeps your blood flowing.

Dental Health

Gum disease, cavities, and periodontal disease are risk factors for cardiometabolic health and insulin resistance issues. We carry anti-microbial cleaning materials. Dentists discovered over 50 years ago that cavities and gum disease are chronic bacterial conditions. 

Check your stress levels

The last time I checked, stress caused many health concerns, including cardiometabolic health issues.  A certain amount of stress is necessary for all production in life – we need pressure, but we must learn how to manage it positively. Balance is the best way – finding time for self-care, which is never selfish.  Taking time away for a reset is a great way to keep stress levels under control. It allows us to review what is working and what is not working in life. We often don’t stop long enough to examine what that way might be. Anger and stress stoke inflammation in the arteries and blood. 

Movement

Regular movement is vital for cardiometabolic health. You want to increase the lactic acid burn and maximize muscle contractions and release of muscle enzymes. The goal is to improve overall body biochemistry, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and vitality. Aim for 4 hours per week of low-impact movement. 

Earthing/grounding and sunshine

grounding/earthing for cardiometabolic health

If you live in a warm climate, sit outside with bare feet on the ground. Grounding increases the surface charge on red blood cells and thereby reduces blood viscosity and clumping. In the body, the free electrons in the earth have an anti-inflammatory effect because they reduce the free-radical activity that causes inflammation and chronic pain.  Ever walked barefoot on the beach and felt amazing? Connecting with the earth will increase the body’s exposure to these free electrons and reduce overall inflammation. You can get an earthing sheet to sleep on and ground yourself improving sleep quality. 

Identify effective nutrient supplementation for improving cardiometabolic health outcomes

L-carnitine

L-Carnitine facilitates the transport of long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondrial matrix, triggering cardioprotective effects through reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, and necrosis of cardiac myocytes. It is known as the energy shuffle nutrient. Acetyl L-carnitine improves depression, sexual dysfunction, and fatigue as we age. Deficiencies can occur due to genetics, carnitine-deficient diets (vegetarians), and nutrient cofactor deficiencies such as B6, folate, iron, niacin (B3), and vitamin C. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and its role in cardiovascular health is immense. Vitamin C neutralizes various reactive oxygen species and recycles important cellular antioxidants. Vitamin C is also a cofactor in numerous enzymatic reactions involved in making collagen, L-carnitine, and several neurotransmitters and in regulating gene expression. Vitamin C may improve nitric oxide production of the endothelium, which, in turn, increases vasodilation, reducing blood pressure.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a naturally occurring fat-soluble antioxidant that has been proposed as a primary and secondary protection treatment. Vitamin E is classified as an antioxidant because it can scavenge lipid radicals and terminate oxidative chain reactions. It can terminate radical chain reactions by interacting with the lipid peroxyl radical, preventing it from generating a new radical and perpetuating the chain reaction by oxidizing other lipids. After oxidation, vitamin E can be recycled back to its native unoxidized form by various soluble antioxidants such as vitamin C and ubiquinol. This process prevents the accumulation of vitamin E radicals and their subsequent peroxidation of lipids and is considered by some to be critical for the antioxidant activity of vitamin E.  

L-arginine

L-arginine to improve epithelial tissue and increase nitric oxide production

L-arginine significantly improves endothelial-dependent vasodilation. As we age, peripheral conduit and resistance arteries lose the ability to dilate effectively owing to endothelial dysfunction. Vascular senescence contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with aging. L-arginine plays a role in numerous physiological processes including nitrogen detoxification, immunocompetence, growth hormone (GH) secretion, and insulin secretion. Recently, a considerable amount of attention has been placed on the ability of this amino acid to affect vascular endothelial function. L-citrulline is another amino acid that can increase NO(nitric oxide) production, and they are often combined in the same supplement. 

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential compound of the human body. There is growing evidence that COQ10 is linked to cardiometabolic disorders. Coq10 is known as the spark of life, and supplementing can be helpful for a variety of chronic and acute conditions. 

Magnesium

Magnesium for cardiometabolic health

The role of magnesium in cardiovascular health is well known.  Magnesium is helpful for arrhythmias, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and endothelial dysfunction. It is also helpful for sleep and reducing anxiety due to its mechanism of action on nerve cells, muscles, and blood vessels. The recommended intake of magnesium is 1000 mg per day of magnesium glycinate if you are experiencing metabolic dysfunction. 

Conclusion

Many factors influence heart health and cardiovascular disease risks. Functional medicine is the best approach to improving cardiometabolic health and at Metabolix Health we integrate lifestyle transformation with clinical nutrition, personalized food programs, and functional testing. As a virtual telehealth functional medicine clinic, we provide health consultations for people across the US, UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

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