Hi Sandra, I've had a couple of friends that have recently been diagnosed with heart problems. It spurred me to go to the doctor for a check-up and I'm fine, but it still gives me some anxiety - I don't want to wait around for something bad to happen. Is there anything I can do proactively to keep my ticker healthy?William, Ashburton.

Hi William,

Thank you for your question. It is great that you are thinking of your long term health. Cardiovascular health is an important topic for everyone, especially as we age.

Studies show that by increasing your fibre intake can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Fibre can bind with extra cholesterol and help pass it from the body preventing further absorption. Exercise helps because as we know, our heart is a muscle and it needs to be worked to maintain good health. Work on reducing your alcohol and cigarette intake as this can place more pressure on your cardiovascular system.

Plant medicine can significantly help, in particular Hawthorn (Crataegus spp). In a meta-analysis of this plant it showed that Hawthorn treatment provided overall benefits for the whole cardiovascular system while also improving fatigue, and helping those that have difficulty with breathing. Hawthorn is mostly used for cardiovascular conditions as its benefits lie in its ability to help strengthen the heart muscle. It also helps with increasing the integrity of blood vessels, and improving coronary blood flow. These actions provide an increased benefit to the cardiovascular system as well as providing positive effects on the utilisation of oxygen.


High cholesterol is a major problem for many of us, especially for New Zealand men. High cholesterol can lead to depositions on the walls of the arteries, which can block them and this may cause heart attacks or strokes. High cholesterol can also be attributed to dietary factors, lack of exercise, smoking or by being overweight. Globe artichoke leaf (Cynara cardunculus) extract has be shown to help with reducing high cholesterol. This medicinal plant was attributed to reducing the LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol level and also helping to increase the HDL cholesterol (which provides heart protective benefits). You can easily take your daily dose of Globe artichoke leave as a medicinal tea each morning before breakfast. Because it is bitter, it has additional liver cleansing effects. Just as you clean your teeth every day, it is important to look after your inner health every day too.

Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and is very anti-inflammatory. This is beneficial as often cardiovascular conditions arise from high inflammation levels within the body. Cinnamon also helps to lower blood pressure as it can help with vasodilation, and can help with the reduction of cholesterol.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac) holds multiple active constituents that attribute positive benefits for the cardiovascular and muscular system. It acts as a muscle relaxant that eases general muscle tightness, calms palpitations that arise from stress and supports normal heart rhythm.

All these medicinal plants contain water soluble active constituents and are traditionally enjoyed as a hot drink.

Always remember that regular health checks can be a great way to monitor your cardiovascular health, so keep your lead medical provider informed of any new things you are starting or taking. Good luck and well done on thinking proactively.

June is Men's Health Month, an international awareness month that aims to raise the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment. Supported by the not-for-profit Men's Health Trust, the theme for men's health month 2016 is #MenStartTalking. Visit menshealthmonth.co.nz for more information.