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Ep 12: Heart Health

Hosted by: MegaFood | Podcast



Ep 12: Heart Health

runtime: 18:54


Ep 12: Heart Health

Young, old, or anywhere in between- let's learn how to keep our hearts healthy and happy. Abigail and Killeen discuss ways to support the physical organ, and explore why we regard our heart as the motherboard of emotional response.


On the MegaFood Blog: Supplements to Support Your Heart

Hawthorn Berry Tea Recipe

The origin of the heart symbol

Why do we feel intense emotions in our chest?

The Brain-Heart Connection: Emotions, Feelings and Health

mBraining: Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff

Laugh and be thankful—it’s good for the heart

[00:00] [background music]

Announcer:  [00:00] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
[00:08] Welcome to episode 12 of That Supplement Show. The beat today is all about your heart. We're discussing both the physical organ and the emotion we associate with it. Young, old, or anywhere in between, let's learn how to keep our hearts healthy and happy.
[00:20] I think there's going to be some bonus heart‑related trivia, too. I'm pumped. Get it? That was a heart joke. Time to get into the rhythm of the show.

Abigail:  [00:29] Hey, what's up, Killeen?

Killeen:  [00:30] Oh, hey, Abigail. It's time for the podcast already, huh? You're going to have to forgive me. I just had one of those moments. You know when you remember something you'd forgotten to do, and your heart feels like it drops down about 20 stories of a building? It was one of those moments.

Abigail:  [00:44] I know that well, but is everything OK? I hope so. [laughs]

Killeen:  [00:48] Yeah. I'm fine now, actually. Thank you very much. It really is funny how this heart of ours beats so incessantly. It keeps you and I alive from the minute we're born, all the way up until this very moment right now.
[01:02] I forget that all the time. It takes either some serious physical activity, like my heart thumping while I'm running, or else a really strong emotion, like what I just experienced, to get my head thinking about my heart.

Abigail:  [01:14] As you bring up the two sides to the heart, both the physical heart, and the emotional one, I think we got our topic for today. What do you say we chat about heart health?

Killeen:  [01:23] I've got two different images conjured up in my brain when we're talking about these two sides. One's this big, pulsating organ. The other is this two‑dimensional emoji. It makes you wonder how the latter came to be. How are these two things associated?

Abigail:  [01:38] You looked it up, didn't you?

Killeen:  [01:40] Oh, bingo. Not surprising, there are a lot of theories. I'm not even going to cover all of them, but here are just a few. One is that our heart shape may come from artists' or scientists' attempts to draw the representations of ancient medical texts in the middle ages.
[01:58] Scholars at the time had been documented to describe the human heart as having three chambers, with a small dent in the middle. I guess that's not a total stretch from the icon of love, even though it's a little different from our heart itself.
[02:12] Another theory is that hearts resemble ivy leaves. Ivy, if you are an art historian, has long been a symbol of fidelity. That seems practical, right?

Abigail:  [02:22] Mm‑hmm.

Killeen:  [02:23] Probably the most interesting theory of all that I came across, which fits well into That Supplement Show, is that the shape came from the inspiration of this giant fennel plant called silphium, I believe, is how you pronounce it.
[02:37] Silphium's seed pods were used as an early form of birth control, they believe. They look like hearts. That whole love, sex, seed pod connection of ancient times just might have been responsible for the shape that we know and love today.

Abigail:  [02:54] That's an awesome trivia. Our listeners might not know this, but I have a background in language and literature. I'm always so fascinated about the origin of words. I have definitely been known to look up things like this before.
[03:06] It's a little maddening that we don't know the answer, though. It is fun to speculate, though, and I think a good mystery never hurt anybody. The things that we can get our hands on are the facts about how to actually care for our heart.

Killeen:  [03:18] Right, physically and emotionally.

Abigail:  [03:20] Yes. Let's start with physical.

Killeen:  [03:22] Sounds great. Now, as MegaFood's training and education specialist, it really is your job to know what nutrients, vitamins, and minerals do what. I'm sure you've got some great nuggets of info concerning which nutrients support the heart, and info about how the heart functions in general, for that matter.

Abigail:  [03:40] I think that's a good place to start. We know the basics of what the heart does, but it's important to level set a little bit before we have this conversation. As you mentioned earlier, I think we often take this for granted.
[03:52] This is a vital organ for us. We know that the heart pumps our blood throughout the body. We also know, to the point that you made earlier, about the multi‑chambers, we know that it has two chambers, one that pumps our oxygenated blood out into our body, and the other that sends that unoxygenated that returns, sends it off to the lungs to fill up with oxygen once again.

Killeen:  [04:11] I do wonder where they got that third chamber in those ancient times. Anyhow, it truly validates the saying, "Oxygen is life," doesn't it? The primary thing we can do for our heart is healthy diet, exercise.
[04:24] I have a feeling that most of our listeners are pretty well‑versed in this. For the purposes of our limited time here today, however, for a second, let's just assume we're eating the best we can, finding time for physical activity, or at least knowing that that's what we should do.
[04:39] I'd love for you at this moment to address some of the other mechanisms associated with the heart. Our blood, for example, our blood pressure.

Abigail:  [04:47] Artery health, homocysteine levels, too. There's a lot that we can talk about. Let's focus on supplements that can support the systems involved with maintaining a healthy heart.

Killeen:  [04:57] What's the first thing that comes to mind for you?

Abigail:  [04:59] I'm an herbalist, so of course, I'm hardwired to think about plants first. The first plant that comes to mind when I think of heart health is hawthorn. One of my favorite herbalists is David Hoffman.
[05:10] You know our regularly occurring guest, Dr. Erin Stokes, she actually studied with him while in naturopathic medical school. He says, "Hawthorn berries provide us with one of the best tonic remedies for the heart and circulatory systems."
[05:24] You heard that word tonic in there. We call it a tonic herb, because it helps to strengthen and really tone the heart. It's something that we can take on an ongoing basis as a tea, or even a tincture, just to promote heart health.
[05:36] Then a fun fact, if going out and harvesting these berries, or even going to your local herb shop seems a little too daunting, we also include hawthorn berry in our men over 40 and women over 40 one‑daily formulas to provide a little bit of that additional heart support.
[05:50] Our multi ‑‑ that is, the convenient one‑daily tablet ‑‑ also is conveniently including hawthorn. I love it.

Abigail:  [05:58] Just a little bit to help support it in there.

Killeen:  [06:00] [laughs] Let's actually put a recipe to a hawthorn berry tea in the show notes for today, because we love to include recipes. It's fun.

Abigail:  [06:09] I think that's great, and I think our listeners will love how easy it is.

Killeen:  [06:13] Beyond hawthorn, you mentioned earlier a word. I'm trying to recall it. I was hoping we could revisit that. You've talked about these levels before.

Abigail:  [06:23] If it's homocysteine, then you read my mind.

Killeen:  [06:26] That's it, yes.

Abigail:  [06:26] Awesome. It is this big, gnarly word. It's something I think we're learning as consumers and stewards of our own health, we're starting to learn more and more about it. It's an amino acid that we get mostly from eating meat.
[06:40] It can build up in the blood. When we have elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood, it's actually considered a major risk factor for heart disease.
[06:48] According to Dr. Andrew Weil, who many of our listeners may be familiar with, "Homocysteine is an amino acid and breakdown product of protein metabolism that, when present in high concentrations, has been linked to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Elevated homocysteine levels are thought to contribute to plaque formation by damaging arterial walls as well."

Killeen:  [07:07] That doesn't sound so good.

Abigail:  [07:08] It doesn't sound so good, but there is good news. That is that the adequate intake of vitamins B12, folate, and B6, they all work together to bring these levels down.
[07:21] If you're taking a product like MegaFood's methyl B12, or balanced B‑complex, it combines these nutrients already to not only provide energy support, due to the B vitamins, especially B12, but will address those homocysteine levels as well.

Killeen:  [07:34] Gosh, is there anything B vitamins can't do?

Abigail:  [07:36] Aren't they amazing? That was one of our first‑ever episodes, wasn't it?

Killeen:  [07:40] Yeah, I think it was episode two. It brings me right back. [laughs]

Abigail:  [07:44] The last nutrient that I wanted to touch on is magnesium. Man, I love this mineral. When we think of relaxing things, we tend to think of herbs, I think, not necessarily minerals.
[07:59] That doesn’'t sound like something that will relax you, but magnesium actually helps to relax the arteries, provide relief to muscles, muscle tension, and things of that nature. It's actually really fantastic to help support a healthy heart, and also a host of other reasons.
[08:14] We could go on and on, and definitely do a whole episode about magnesium. In the realm of heart health, it's certainly something to consider, making sure we're getting enough in our diet, and supplementing if we're not.

Killeen:  [08:23] Magnesium bridges this conversation here, too. Not to get into it too much, but we're talking about physical and emotional aspects of the heart. I feel like emotionally, if magnesium calms us down, then it's helping our emotional heart, too, right?

Abigail:  [08:39] I hadn't considered that, but I like it.

Killeen:  [08:42] I love learning these tidbits of nutrient knowledge from you. Thank you so much. You know earlier I was saying that I often forget about my heart, and all the work that it's doing? I am approaching 40, but I still feel young to be worried about my heart.
[08:57] At the same time, saying that out loud sounds naive. I guess I am naive. Do I need to be worried about my heart's health at this stage of life, or can I just count on it to do its job, as long as I don't ask too much of it?

Abigail:  [09:10] I had the same question, Killeen. I actually played a bit of phone tag with our resident naturopath and frequent guest on That Supplement Show, Dr. Erin Stokes, who I'm sure everyone's a bit familiar with by now.
[09:20] She was nice enough to share some of her thoughts with me in a voicemail. I'd love to play that now, if you think our listeners would enjoy it.

Killeen:  [09:26] You are so on top of it. Yeah, let's play it. What did she say?

Abigail:  [09:30] All right, here it is.

Dr. Erin Stokes:  [09:31] Hello, Killeen and Abby. I know you've been trying to get in touch with me lately. I've been so busy with my schedule, so I figured that I would leave you a voice memo to talk a little bit more about heart health.
[09:43] Such an important topic, and really relevant, I think, for all of us at any age to be thinking about. Most of us know that cardiovascular disease is the number one case of death in the United States. That's including all causes, such as heart attacks, strokes, or heart failure.
[10:01] For many of us, we don't really think about that when we're younger, but there is one area that I'd like to talk about. That's stress. Stress can happen at any age. Habits around stress are important for life. Developing those healthy habits now, no matter what age you are, can really be important for optimal heart health.
[10:25] Stress. In an acute stressful situation, we all know that our heart starts to beat faster, our blood pressure rises. The problem is, is that for many people, this is a way of life that they're experiencing all the time. They might be taking short, shallow breaths. Their blood pressure is elevated, because they're stressed out. Their heart rate is going crazy.
[10:49] This is something that we got to get a handle on. Chronic stress is definitely an issue here. A lot of times, we talk about things like high stress leading to high blood pressure, but there's also important indirect effects of stress.
[11:05] For example, that when we're feeling stressed out, that often leads to unhealthy habits, such as eating foods that aren't that great for the cardiovascular system. We're talking about lots of hydrogenated oils, maybe indulging in French fries, some of those classic comfort foods.
[11:25] When you're feeling stressed out, you're a lot less likely to make healthy choices. Speaking about healthy choices, we really need to talk about the healthy choices we can make in what we eat for our heart.
[11:40] Those include classic omega‑3 fatty acid‑rich foods, such as wild salmon, sardines, walnuts, nuts in general, especially raw walnuts, almonds. Don't forget, chia seeds are an omega‑3 powerhouse. Steel‑cut oats, rolled oats, high antioxidant‑rich foods.
[12:02] We're talking blueberries, cherries, apples, lots of vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower. Being a naturopathic doctor, I had to chime in there. When we manage our stress better, we do make better choices.
[12:19] What else can we do with our stress? You both know I'm a big advocate of meditation. There is data and research around meditation improving our overall well‑being, and there are specifics with aspects that connect to heart health, such as reducing blood pressure, helping with insomnia, helping with anxiety.
[12:42] These are things that can help us cope and manage stress on a daily basis. Sometimes, people forget to talk about stress with heart health, and that was really the message that I wanted to leave for you both today.
[12:56] Thank you for doing a podcast on this. I really appreciate everything you're doing. Feel free to call me again anytime, especially if you want any more info around what I talked about today. Take care. Bye.

Abigail:  [13:08] Great info from Erin, as always. Now that we've touched on the physical heart, where do we turn the conversation in regards to the emotional heart? I feel like we're opening a big can of worms here.

Killeen:  [13:18] Yeah, and this goes deeper than just magnesium. Let's pause for a quick second just to have a word from our sponsor, and then we'll get right back into this conversation.

[13:28] [background music]

Announcer:  [13:29] Today's episode was brought to you by MegaFood's magnesium. Magnesium helps support the health of the heart and nervous, as well as muscle relaxation. What makes this formulation special is that it also contains organic spinach, a synergistic source of minerals and life‑enhancing chlorophyll. Maybe that's why Popeye was always so full of pep.
[13:45] Like all of MegaFood's products, it's easy to digest. In fact, it can even be taken on an empty stomach. Learn more about, and search for magnesium. Now that we've got a new way to keep calm, let's carry on.

Killeen:  [13:56] The connection itself is a debatable one. Why do we associate our emotions with our heart? I did a little digging, of course, and I've added some really fun links into the show notes, if you listeners want to explore the thought further.
[14:10] Fascinating stuff, and I will admit, I got so lost in what I was reading. Again, a whole new episode here we could go into. As much as I desperately want to talk about the brain‑heart connection, I'm going to leave it there for right now, and we'll stick with the plan.

Abigail:  [14:26] It sounds like your heart's telling you one thing, your brain another

Killeen:  [14:29] You're not helping me here.

[14:31] [laughter]

Killeen:  [14:32] Because you laugh, remember a few episodes back, when we spoke with Kripa about gratitude?

Abigail:  [14:37] Yes. That was such a great episode.

Killeen:  [14:39] Kripa's our friend that, she just offers infinite wisdom.

Abigail:  [14:43] And exudes joy, too, right?

Killeen:  [14:45] Oh, she does. She's so great. Episode 10b was actually one of my very favorites. Definitely go back and listen, if you haven't yet. Anyhow, I felt so great and so happy after that recording. I know we all did.
[14:57] A big reason that had to do with that was laughter. I don't even remember what was so funny. All I know is that while we were recording, we started laughing, and we could not stop.

Abigail:  [15:07] Could not stop.

[15:09] [record scratch]

Announcer:  [15:09] Hey, there. Sorry to but in, but I have a clip of that, if you want me to play it.

Abigail:  [15:12] I just love our announcer.

Killeen:  [15:14] He's the best, yes. Please play it.

[15:17] [record wind]

Abigail:  [15:17] Ring, ring.

Kripa:  [15:18] Hello?

Killeen:  [15:19] Hi, Liz Kripa?

Kripa:  [15:26] Yes. [laughs]

[15:26] [laughter]

Abigail:  [15:26] Oh, my god.

[15:29] [laughter]

Abigail:  [15:29] Oh, my gosh. My cheeks hurt.

[15:35] [laughter]

Kripa:  [15:35] I was going to say, "Hi, is this Killeen."

Killeen:  [15:39] OK, let's try that one more time.

[15:44] [record wind]

Killeen:  [15:48] Oh, good stuff.

Abigail:  [16:08] In some of the reading that I was doing in preparation for our chat today, I found an article that was published on the Harvard Medical School website. We know it's got some weight to it. We it, they talk about laughter, and the science around that.
[16:20] Here's what I found. At the University of Texas Austin, researchers asked 17 healthy adults to watch a humorous 30‑minute video of their choosing, or a documentary, with before and after tests of blood flow.
[16:33] The biggest differences between the two groups were in measures of artery function and their flexibility. These improved immediately in the volunteers who watched a comedy, and stayed that way for almost 24 hours.
[16:45] In those who watched a documentary, artery function decreased a bit. The moral of the story to me is, let's get laughing.

Killeen:  [16:53] This is one those instances where laughter just might help us in both heart departments.

Abigail:  [16:57] Absolutely.

Killeen:  [16:58] That's fantastic, isn't it?

Abigail:  [16:59] Mm‑hmm.

Killeen:  [16:59] Funny, as a side note, I was reading something on Harvard Medical School's website as well, because apparently, they like these kind of studies. They were talking about how your emotional health could prevent heart disease.
[17:15] There's another connection where we're talking about the emotional heart being healthy, and that can help our physical heart be healthy. If Harvard believes it, I think it's hard to argue.

Abigail:  [17:24] I agree.

Killeen:  [17:25] On this show, we've talked about all kinds of different things. Meditation, gratitude, having a health relationship with food. We've talked about developing good sleep habits. We've talked about different alternative energy sources.
[17:39] Just about every episode has had something that I believe contributes to a happy heart, and therefore, a healthy one. I hate to sound cliche, but I'm going to add something. Having a heart‑to‑heart with someone close.
[17:51] I mean, come on. Does anything feel better than a deep and connected conversation with someone that you love?

Abigail:  [17:57] Now, this actually made me think of you, Killeen. Since we began working, which was long before That Supplement Show, I think we've always had really amazing conversations. Not just about work, but about our families, challenges, and happy moments, and a lot about food, too, I think.

[18:12] [laughter]

Abigail:  [18:13] It's about finding your tribe, I think, the people that get you, and share similar values. I just love that we get to take it to the stage, so to speak, with this podcast.

Killeen:  [18:22] You are so sweet. I feel the same, obviously. Of course, time always flies when you're having fun, and this show is absolutely no exception for me. Thanks for all the heartfelt talk today, Abigail.

Abigail:  [18:33] Oh, you're welcome. Have a happy day, Killeen.

Killeen:  [18:36] You, too.
[18:36] [background music]

Announcer:  [18:37] This podcast is brought to you by MegaFood. Keeping it real, making vitamin and mineral supplements in New Hampshire since 1973. Committed to making products that use real food from family‑owned farms to make a real difference, they've produced some of the most effective and far out supplements available today.
[18:52] Fresh from farm to tablet, there's no psych about it. MegaFood is as real as it gets. Do yourself a solid, and catch them on the flip side at If you have a moment, leave a review on iTunes, and let us know what you think. We'd love to hear from you.
[19:05] The statements in this podcast have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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