Reader’s Question: I have a very stressful job and borderline high blood pressure. I’ve tried exercise and yoga for the stress and these seem to help, but while I’m at work my stress stays high. I’m concerned because I know stress is hard on the heart. Are there any supplements I can use to help get a handle on my stress when I’m not exercising?
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright: Stress comes in many different forms. But regardless of the kind of stress you are under you are right to be concerned. Research shows that all types of stress — mental stress (anxiety, anger, work stress), physical stress, community-wide stress (winter, blizzards, sports events), and other stresses (lack of sleep, infection) — are linked to a higher risk of heart attacks.
My colleague, herbalist Kerry Bone, has some advice for taking the edge off stress naturally and then going one step further to prevent stress-related heart attacks.
Kerry Bone: The elephant in the room of cardiovascular risk is vulnerable or unstable arterial plaque which sets up high short-term risk of rupture and artery blockage. This is usually what triggers a heart attack or stroke.
Reducing stress will make a big difference in preventing plaque rupture. Herbs that are able to improve the stress response (called adaptogens) such as Rhodiola, ashwaganda and Eleutherococcus will be beneficial.
To address the unstable plaque problem, you can start with gotu kola which has been shown to stabilize low-density plaques. Low omega-3 fatty acids is another risk factor, so eating plenty of fish and supplementing with oils rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) is essential. If you are vegetarian, then algal and fungal sources of EPA and DHA are available, but make sure you take adequate amounts: at least 1000 mg/day of EPA plus DHA.
And finally, most people think Ginkgo biloba is just for memory, but in a clinical trial, Ginkgo significantly reduced nanoplaque formation and nanoplaque size.
Reducing stress and unstable plaque might give you the double protection you need to extend your lifespan while also improving quality of life.
To your better health,
Nutrition & Healing