The Cardio Triangle

Strengthen your heart with fish oil, autumn veggies and exercise

"Perfusion" is the circulation of blood and oxygen to all cells in different tissues and organs in the body. A lack of perfusion is life-threatening, thus emergency-medicine specialists will take heroic measures to restore perfusion through chest compressions, the use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and other techniques.

Perfusion is represented by a triangle because there are three major components to the circulatory system: the heart, blood vessels and the blood itself.

On the one hand, knowing how to perform emergency measures, such as cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), is vital — something we all should learn. Being on the receiving end, however, is surely best avoided.

Studies show that ongoing intake of fish oil, a major source of heart-healthy, omega-3 fatty acids, may serve more of a valuable preventative role than having defibrillators in every American home. An ounce of prevention may, in fact, be worth a million AEDs because omega-3 fatty-acid deficiency is now known to be among the leading causes of death.

When teaching about cardiovascular risk reduction, I explain that each side of the triangle — each major component of the cardiovascular system — can be strengthened through diet and lifestyle modification. Fish oil's benefits include reducing inflammation in the arteries and maintaining healthy blood flow.

Magnesium is integral to cardiovascular health, reducing tension in the arteries. Moderate magnesium deficiency is pervasive among older Americans and can contribute to increased cardiovascular risk, energy deficits, migraines and leg cramps.

To further strengthen the arteries, consume an array of orange, autumn foods, such as squash, pumpkin and yams. Eat the last of the season's deeply pigmented blackberries and blueberries, which also reduce inflammation in blood vessels.

Stress reduction and cardiovascular exercise maintain heart output and help lower blood pressure, preventing damage to our arteries. Yoga, meditation, relaxation, floating in a mountain lake — all are stress-quelling strokes for different folks.

Try a different angle — take sides to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Michael Altman is a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness and the Centre for Natural Healing. He teaches at Southern Oregon University and College of the Siskiyous. E-mail him at

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