Nutrition Notes

Lifestyle Choices for Cardiovascular Wellness: The Latest Clinical Research

Modifiable factors such as nutritional status, lifestyle, and toxin exposure can influence cardiovascular health and risk management. Newer research explores the role of certain lifestyle choices in cardiovascular health.

Blood sugar balance

Evidence suggests that blood sugar homeostasis and cardiovascular health are linked. Blood sugar imbalances and certain cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) share some common etiologies. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are two major contributing factors to the development of blood sugar imbalances, prediabetes, and certain CVDs. The risk of developing certain CVDs increases at the prediabetes stage, which affects more than 98 million American adults according to the CDC. Research indicates that after progression to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), the risk of CVD doubles.

Many micronutrients help support both cardiovascular health and blood sugar balance. For instance, berberine has been clinically studied for its supportive role in blood sugar homeostasis, lipid metabolism, endothelial support, gut health, and inflammatory status. In addition, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and plays a crucial role in energy metabolism and mitochondrial function. Although more research is needed to fully understand its potential benefits and risks, ALA has been shown to support healthy insulin function in those with T2DM, promote a healthy inflammatory response, help protect cells against the effects of oxidative stress, and support nitric oxide homeostasis.

Smoking and vaping

Smoking is considered to be the number one cause of CVDs, and smoking cessation is associated with improved prognosis. E-cigarette use (vaping) is popular with never-smokers and is the most commonly used tobacco product in youth. In adults, current e-cigarette use was reported in a 2020 survey to be almost 4%, with the highest prevalence among individuals ages 18 to 24 (9.4%).Vaping has been shown to be detrimental to the structure and function of cardiovascular tissues. It causes oxidative stress, damage to the cardiac endothelium, and many other harmful downstream effects still being elucidated as vaping and its users age.

Toxin exposure

Exposure to environmental toxins including heavy metals, bisphenol A (BPA), and other polycarbonates may negatively influence cardiovascular function. For example, adult BPA exposure has been linked to a more frequent diagnosis of certain CVDs. BPAs are also associated with abnormal blood sugar metabolism; elevated total urinary BPA has been significantly associated with T2DM. BPA is found in certain plastics and epoxy resins and is most commonly used in the production of various consumer products, including plastic bottles, food containers, receipts, and the lining of metal cans.

Evidence indicates that heavy metal exposure has been associated with the incidence of hypertension. A population-based cohort study involving over 4,000 individuals found significantly higher systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure and increased prevalence of hypertension in individuals with blood lead in the fourth quartile. In another study, the risk of hypertension in individuals with the highest levels of chromium exposure was 1.85 times higher than those with the lowest chromium exposure. Certain compounds such as chlorella and activated charcoal may support healthy liver function and detoxification pathways. Activated charcoal is commonly used for its potential ability to adsorb toxins and chemicals in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby reducing their absorption into the body. Chlorella is a type of green algae rich in various nutrients that have been shown to help bind and facilitate the removal of heavy metals.


Research indicates that acute and chronic stress plays a major role in certain CVD etiologies. Research indicates that autonomic imbalances and sympathetic overactivation may play a role in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Research suggests that poor heart rate variability (HRV) may be an indicator of sympathetic overactivation. The monitoring of HRV may help support healthy stress management and normal cardiac function. In addition, the Mediterranean diet has been studied for its potential to help support the body’s response to psychological stress and modulation of autonomic imbalances. Stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or similar mindfulness practices may help promote certain aspects of cardiovascular health. Furthermore, certain botanicals such as ashwagandha and rhodiola rosea may help support the body’s response to psychological stress.

In conclusion, maintaining cardiovascular wellness is a multifaceted endeavor that requires attention to various lifestyle factors. Nutritional status, encompassing a balanced diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, along with physical activity, stands as a foundational pillar in supporting heart health. Additionally, maintaining stable glucose, managing stress levels, minimizing toxin exposure, and avoiding habits like smoking and vaping are crucial components in safeguarding cardiovascular wellness. By addressing these factors comprehensively, individuals can enhance their cardiovascular health and promote overall well-being.

By Dr. Cory Ambrose, ND, MAT