Pharmaca Blog

  • Lower Stress, Healthier Heart

    By now you’ve heard it all—boost your heart health with omega-3s and CoQ10, keep your cholesterol low, watch your blood pressure. Even if you’re vigilant about taking the right supplements and watching what you eat, there’s another major factor in your heart health: stress.

    “When we’re under stress our heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up and we secrete cortisol,” says Erin Stokes, naturopathic doctor at our South Boulder store. “All of that can be hard on your cardiovascular system.”

    Indeed, a 2010 study at the University of Western Ontario showed that increased cortisol levels, a good marker of chronic stress, were directly correlated to a higher incidence of heart attacks. So how to keep cortisol in check?

    “Meditation, getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition are all essential,” says Erin. “But you may also want to consider working on replenishing your adrenal glands.”

    When we experience the fight-or-flight response, which often happens as we drive busy roads or come up against tight deadlines at work, the adrenals secrete cortisol. Over time they become depleted, and the result is not only a feeling of exhaustion, it’s also stress on the cardiovascular system. “In this day and age almost all of us have some level of adrenal fatigue,” says Erin.

    To lower the physiological effects of stress, she first recommends some long-term adrenal support in the form of Ashwaganda, and especially likes Gaia Herbs organic formulation that offers quick delivery to your system. Another formula is Vital Adapt from Natura, which she likes because it supports the adrenals, the thyroid, and the nervous system all at once. For moderate levels of stress, these formulations can help relieve symptoms of adrenal fatigue in just a few weeks. For people experiencing more intense chronic stress, it could take months.

    That’s why it’s also good to look for short-term help. “Sometimes when people are working on adrenal health they need support in the moment,” says Erin. That’s when she recommends supplements that can help reduce situational anxiety. For example, for people experiencing panic attacks, Erin usually recommends GABA. For more low-grade anxiety, L-Theanine is a better fit. She also really likes the Emotional Ally formulation from WishGarden Herbs. Ultimately, it’s best to speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about your symptoms so they can help you find the right support.

    Of course, it doesn’t hurt to slow down once in awhile, too. A 1991 study from Thailand found that men who practiced Dhammakaya Buddhist meditation had much lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure and higher stress reaction time than those who did not meditate. Seems like all of our hearts could use a little om.

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about heart-health-boosting supplements, stress-relieving herbs and all the other ways to support your heart.

  • Statins 101

    Cholesterol is a wax-like, fatty substance needed by the body for the production of bile acids, provitamin D3, male and female sex hormones, adrenal hormones and membranes that surround cells. It’s also essential for brain and nerve functions.

    But not all cholesterol is good. The body’s total cholesterol is made up of both HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol. A total cholesterol count that is higher than 240 mg/dL or an LDL level greater than 130 mg/dL represents a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

    If you fall into one of those categories, your doctor might prescribe statins like Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol or Crestor to lower your cholesterol. Statins help reduce LDL levels and can also help increase HDL levels, thereby reducing overall risk. About 60 percent of women and 75 percent of men over age 65 were prescribed these medications in 2002 according to the most recent data available from the National Center for Health Statistics.

    Statins can cause unpleasant side effects like muscle and joint pain, nausea and potential liver damage. However, the advantages outweigh the risks in most cases. Additional benefits include reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure, plus new research is exploring the ability of statins to prevent arthritis, cancer and reduce the possibility of dementia.

    Other available prescription treatments for high cholesterol include bile acid binding resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors and niacin. Speak with your doctor about the best option based on your individual risk profile. Our pharmacy staff will provide a full consultation when you fill any prescription with us.

  • Healthy Heart Supplements: Pharmaca's Favorites

    Properly caring for your heart can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of death in the U.S. While the American Heart Association’s year end update shows an approximately 30% decline in mortality rates due to heart disease since 1999, the data does not look as rosy when it comes to controlling risk factors.

    Living a healthy lifestyle, such as eating well, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking, is the most important way to protect your heart. However, supplementing a well-balanced diet with vital nutrients can have additional benefits. Nancy Brillault, a certified herbalist at the Carlsbad Pharmaca, shares her top five heart health supplements.

    Both EPA and DHA are types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil that help keep blood triglyceride levels in check and help lower elevated blood pressure. If you aren’t eating several servings of fatty fish each week, your diet may be lacking important omega-3s. Nancy recommends taking 1000–2500 mg for maintenance and 3000–5000 mg for a therapeutic dose. Her favorite brand is Nordic Naturals because it is produced with sustainable fishing methods, and exceeds the stringent European pharmacopoeia standard (EPS).

    CoQ10 is produced naturally in the human body, but low levels have been demonstrated in patients with heart conditions. Preliminary research suggests that supplementation with CoQ10 may be beneficial in the treatment of angina and elevated blood pressure. Nancy is a huge fan of New Chapter’s formula because it is fermented to be more bioavailable in the body. She also recommends pairing a CoQ10 supplement with d-ribose, since they work together to provide cellular energy.

    L-carnitine is used by the body to release energy stored in fat. It has potential therapeutic uses for heart health, like easing the symptoms of angina, reducing damage when taken soon after a heart attack, and lowering blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels. Ask one of our practitioners about Jarrow’s professional grade L-carnitine formula.

    Magnesium is an essential mineral that is often depleted in those who take diuretics or laxatives, use alcohol, or have heart problems. Taking 200–300 mg of this mineral supplement twice a day helps reduce exercise-induced chest pain. Scientific studies have also shown benefits of magnesium supplementation for those with cardiac arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. Ionic Fizz by Pure Essence is Nancy’s favorite source since it works very quickly for an immediate effect.

    Hawthorn extract is an age-old heart tonic that has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. Nancy recommends the formula created by Gaia Herbs whose products are organically grown on a farm in North Carolina.

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