Cardiovascular Health For Bodybuilders


Jan 18, 2023
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Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and prescription drug use in North America and kills over 375,000 Americans each year. Heart disease is the term used to describe the medical condition where the heart is not working properly.

The early stage of heart disease is atherosclerosis, a stiffening and narrowing of blood vessels. A stroke is the term used to describe a sudden stop of blood flow to a part of the brain.

Factors That Increase Risk for Developing Cardiovascular Diseases
  • An unhealthy diet - high in saturated and trans fat, high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, high in salt, low in omega-3 fat intake, and low in fruits and vegetables (Micha & Mozaffarian, 2010).
  • Being Inactive.
  • An unhealthy bodyweight - BMI <18 or >25.
  • Smoking cigarettes.
  • Stress.
  • Sleeping less then 6 hours per night.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • There are also certain risk factors that you cannot control such as sex (men are at higher risk), age (risk increases with age) and heritage (First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples are at the highest risk).
  • Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque inside the arties which hardens and narrows the arteries and limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood.
  • You can test atherosclerosis and the arterial age of your arteries through a Meridian Digital Pulsewave Analysis (DPA) machine.
  • A small clip is placed on your fingertip and a comprehensive screening report is generated in less the 3 minutes.

Blood Work to Assess Cardiovascular Health​

Cholesterol Profiles
  • Cholesterol profiles are the most commonly used lipid risk predictors for developing cardiovascular disease.
  • HDL and LDL are not cholesterol molecules at all but rather, carriers of cholesterol in the blood stream.
  • HDL “good cholesterol” carries cholesterol to the liver for metabolism, LDL “bad cholesterol” carry cholesterol to the arterial walls.
  • Generally speaking, you want as much lipoprotein as possible carrying cholesterol away from the arterial wall, and as little as possible carrying cholesterol to the arterial wall (i.e. high HDL, low LDL).
  • High levels of total triglycerides (TG) speed up atherosclerosis.
Optimal LevelsAt Risk For Developing Cardiovascular Diseases
Total Cholesterol5.1 mmol/lAbove 6.2 mmol/l
LDL Cholesterol2.6 mmol/l or lessAbove 4.1 mmol/l
HDL Cholesterol1.6 mmol/l and aboveBelow 1.0 mmol/l (men) Below 1.3 mmol/l (women)
Triglycerides1.7 mmol/l or lessAbove 2.2mmol/l
HDL / total cholesterol ratio1– 3.5Below 1
LDL-PUnder 1000Above 1500
Inflammatory and Endothelial Function Biomarkers
  • Inflammation and endothelial function play a significant role in the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular health.
  • A high C-reactive protein (CRP) puts you at high risk for developing cardiovascular disease ("C-reactive protein test," 2016).
  • High levels of the cytokine Interleukin-6 (IL-6) are linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer (Simpson, Hammacher, Smith, Matthews, & Ward, 1997).
  • Serum levels of Soluble cell adhesion molecules (sCAMs) and soluble intercellular adhesion molecules (sICAM) correlate with the extent of atherosclerosis development (Peter, Weirich, Nordt, Ruef, & Bode, 1999).
Inflammatory and endothelial function TestsNormal Values
CRP< 2 mg/L
IL-6< 3.5 pg/mL
sVCAM-1338.0 - 1148.0 ng/ml
338.0 - 1148.0 ng/ml60.2 - 218.4 ng/ml
(Wenneras et al., 2014), (Andrys et al., 2000)

Kidney and Liver Function Analyses (ALT, AST, LDH, BUN, Creatinine)
  • The liver detoxifies your body, creates bile, makes proteins needed for blood clotting and regulates blood sugar.("How Does The Liver Work?," 2016). ALT and AST tests measure enzymes that your liver releases in response to damage or disease (Nabili, 2017).
  • The kidneys remove waste products from the body, regulate electrolyte and fluid levels, and regulate blood pressure ("How Your Kidneys Work," 2017). High LDH values can indicate tissue damage and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke (Martin, 2016). High level of creatinine suggests stress on the kidneys (Martin, 2016). A BUN test checks for the waste product urea nitrogen in your blood, a byproduct produced from the breakdown of protein (Martin, 2016).
Liver TestsNormal Values
ALT7-56 U/L
AST10-40 U/L
Kidney TestsNormal Values
LDH105-333 U/L
Creatinine, serumLess than 1.2 mg/dL (women) Less than 1.4 mg/dL (men)
BUN, serum7-20 mg/dL (men)

How to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors​

Lifestyle Changes
  • A diet high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats, sugar and salt.
  • Being physically active 60-90 minutes every day.
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • BMI 18-25.
  • Reducing stress.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption.
  • Choosing not to smoke.
  • Sleeping 6-8 hours a night.

Dietary supplements​

Omega 3 Supplements
  • Fish oil – Shown to reduces serum triglycerides, lower homocysteine levels, lower LDL cholesterol, and reduces C-Reactive Protein.
  • Krill oil – omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are generally present as triglycerides, which are not absorbed as well the phospholipid omega 3s found in krill oil. Krill oil also contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.
  • Seal oil – Contains the omega 3 essential fatty acid DPA which is not found in fish or krill oil. Population studies show that higher levels of DPA result in lower rates of coronary heart disease risks. In addition, DPA is ten times more effective than EPA/DHA in healing damaged blood vessels.
Soluble Fiber
  • Psyllium husk – highest natural food source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol in the small intestine and prevents it from being absorbed.
  • Vitamin C and E.
  • Cohort studies consistently show that the mortality ratio (ratio between the actual number of deaths in a population and the expected number of deaths) for death due to cardiovascular diseases are significantly lower in those who have the highest vitamin C and E content.
  • Co-enzyme Q10 (Ubiquinol).
  • Daily supplementation with 100 mg of CoQ10 lowered systolic blood pressure 11mmHg and diastolic blood pressure 7mmHg after 4 weeks of treatment in healthy adults (Ho, Bellusci, & Wright, 2009).
Amino Acids
  • L-Lysine, L-proline, L-glycine - Needed to synthesize collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up roughly 30% of total protein mass. Collagen lines the entire cardiovascular system (Jimenez-Navarro et al., 2005).
  • Magnesium - Clinical trials show an inverse relationship between dietary magnesium intake and blood pressure.
  • Potassium – High intakes are associated with lower rates of stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Folate - Low folate intake is associated with an increased risk of stroke.
  • Selenium - Selenium blood concentrations are inversely associated with coronary heart disease risk.
  • Vitamin D - Population studies show an inverse relationship between blood serum vitamin D concentrations and cardiovascular disease risk, as well as the prevalence of established cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, glucose intolerance, metabolic syndrome, and hypertriglyceridemia.
Recommended Dietary Supplement Dosages

SupplementRecommended DosageWhen to Take
Fish oilMen – 6g daily Women – 3g daily1-2g taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Krill oilMen – 3g daily Women – 3g daily1g taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Seal oilMen – 3g daily Women – 3g daily1g taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Psyllium huskMen and women – 10g dailyTaken with last meal of the day
Vitamin CMen and Women – 2000mgDoes not matter
Vitamin EMen and Women – 400iuVitamin E is fat soluble so it needs to be taken with food
Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol)Men and Women – 100mgUbiquinol is fat soluble so it needs to be taken with food
Vitamin DMen and Women – 400iuVitamin D is fat soluble so it needs to be taken with food


May 18, 2022
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