Cardiovascular Health For Bodybuilders

Cardiovascular Health For Bodybuilders

Heart Disease and Stroke: An Overview

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.

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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 Levels At Risk For Developing Cardiovascular Diseases
Total Cholesterol 5.1 mmol/l Above 6.2 mmol/l
LDL Cholesterol 2.6 mmol/l or less Above 4.1 mmol/l
HDL Cholesterol 1.6 mmol/l and above Below 1.0 mmol/l (men) Below 1.3 mmol/l (women)
Triglycerides 1.7 mmol/l or less Above 2.2mmol/l
HDL / total cholesterol ratio 1– 3.5 Below 1
LDL-P Under 1000 Above 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 Tests Normal Values
CRP < 2 mg/L
IL-6 < 3.5 pg/mL
sVCAM-1 338.0 - 1148.0 ng/ml
338.0 - 1148.0 ng/ml 60.2 - 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 Tests Normal Values
ALT 7-56 U/L
AST 10-40 U/L
Kidney Tests Normal Values
LDH 105-333 U/L
Creatinine, serum Less than 1.2 mg/dL (women) Less than 1.4 mg/dL (men)
BUN, serum 7-20 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


Supplement Recommended Dosage When to Take
Fish oil Men – 6g daily Women – 3g daily 1-2g taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Krill oil Men – 3g daily Women – 3g daily 1g taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Seal oil Men – 3g daily Women – 3g daily 1g taken with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Psyllium husk Men and women – 10g daily Taken with last meal of the day
Vitamin C Men and Women – 2000mg Does not matter
Vitamin E Men and Women – 400iu Vitamin E is fat soluble so it needs to be taken with food
Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol) Men and Women – 100mg Ubiquinol is fat soluble so it needs to be taken with food
Vitamin D Men and Women – 400iu Vitamin D is fat soluble so it needs to be taken with food
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John Best - January 11, 2019

Important article here. My cholesterol came back a little high on my last blood test. Also never heard of seal oil before and may check out Psyllium husk.

Jose Mendoza - January 11, 2019

Just had my first ever blood work done and I’m a little on the high triglycerides side. It’s a wake up call to work on my diet and cardio

Scott Moore - January 11, 2019

I think this is sometime very important, but not a lot of people know about.

Trevor Kouritzin - January 11, 2019

Thanks for the support!

Trevor Kouritzin - January 11, 2019

Glad you liked the article!

Damon Harrison - January 11, 2019

One of the best articles I’ve read so far. Great read.

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