Might a healthy heart depend on a healthy gut?

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Turns out the way to keep all our hearts healthier may depend on our gut health. The microbes in our guts help with digestion, make nutrients, and release substances that have wide-ranging health effects – good and bad. So, encouraging and taking care of the ‘friendly’ bacteria and avoiding foods that encourage bad bacteria is proving to be more important to our health than we previously realised.

Now Harvard Health Publishing has highlighted the importance of the interplay between the microbes in our guts and other systems in the body in relation to cardiovascular health.

What we eat plays a major role in the composition of our gut and the substances created known as metabolites. Gut microbe metabolites have been associated with serious cardiovascular problems and are also known to influence other factors closely tied to cardiovascular risk, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammation.

In a report on the role of microbiota in blood pressure regulation, published in the September 2017 issue of Hypertension, other preliminary findings examined include:

blood pressure benefits

how high dietary sodium levels change the composition of gut microbe populations

how toxins released from microbes may influence kidney function, a key player in blood pressure regulation

how microbes that live in the mouth interact with nitrates from vegetables to form nitrites and nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels

Growing evidence suggests that dietary habits that are helpful for preventing heart disease (such as limiting red meat and salt, and eating lots of fibre-rich vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains) also have favourable effects on the gut microbiome.

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