09 Dec Your gut health directly influences your heart health
by Ashleigh Feltham, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist
Having a heart that is healthy and works well is fundamental to life. You may know about lifestyle factors like not smoking and exercise to promote a healthy heart, but have you ever considered the role that your gut health plays?
There is direct communication from your gut to your heart known as the gut-heart axis. When your gut is flourishing with healthy gut microbes your heart benefits.
Atherosclerosis is when the arteries which pump blood to your heart thin due to plaque forming with a build-up of cholesterol, calcium, waste material of cells and fatty components. Plaques can lead to a heart attack. Gut microbes influence how much lipid or fat is moving through your blood. If more pathogenic microbes are present, they produce disease-promoting signals such as trimethylamine N‑oxide (TMAO). TMAO can increase the amount of fat in your blood and promote atherosclerosis as well as heart diseases such as heart failure and coronary artery disease.
When more good bacteria are present these can help to reduce blood fat levels. They do this by creating a short-chain fatty acid signal such as butyrate. Butyrate has been shown to decrease the progression of atherosclerotic development. If there is an imbalance of unhealthy microbes these produce other types of messages to your body which can enhance heart disease development.
If you have a gut microbiome made up of a collection of different types of good bacteria the amount of inflammation present in your body is lower. Inflammation in a chronic or long-term state is linked to poor overall health including the health of your heart.
For your gut to be healthy it needs enough fibre each day. A high fibre diet is linked to healthy blood pressure levels. Having healthy blood pressure puts less stress on your heart and decreases your risk of certain heart diseases like congestive heart failure.
Take home message:
To look after the health of your heart you need to check on the health of your gut. Including a diverse range of plant-based foods, probiotic foods and enough fibre each day will help to support your heart to work at its best.
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