Heart health is vitally important, yet often overlooked. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. A few well-chosen supplements can improve heart health dramatically. Active attention to heart health can help us live longer and save billions in health care costs. Healthy diet and lifestyle combined with the right supplements can help mitigate heart health risks, and save you money over the long term.
Links to supplements in this article:
A recent review published in the Journal of American Cardiology looked at supplements that had the greatest positive effect on heart health. A total of 884 randomized, controlled studies were included in the review. Three clear winners were omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, and folic acid.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s were most effective at reducing deaths from heart disease, occurrence of heart attacks, and other coronary events. This is no surprise since omega-3s bolster the health of every cell membrane. This membrane is the gateway for nutrients to enter the cell. Omega-3s also increase HDL, decrease triglycerides, and lower C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation.
Excellent food sources of omega-3s are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, cod, anchovies, and sardines. Flaxseed oil is a good vegetarian source. Most American diets are deficient in these important nutrients.
CoQ10 was found to decrease death from heart disease, AND death from all causes! CoQ10 is an antioxidant. It enhances energy production inside every cell. Thus, it can benefit any tissue in the body that has a high need for energy, such as the heart or brain.
CoQ10 was also found to significantly reduce systolic blood pressure in a review in Advances in Nutrition. Ironically, CoQ10 can be depleted by several heart medications. These include including statins, beta blockers, and some diuretics.
Folic acid was found to decrease the risk of stroke. Folate, its natural form, is essential to DNA repair, and lowering of homocysteine. High homocysteine is correlated with heart disease risk and can be reduced by a combination of folate, Vitamins B6, and Vitamin B12.
Dark, leafy greens, beans, whole grains, and eggs are good sources of dietary folate. Those with heart disease may require more folate than the recommended daily intake.
There are also certain genetic factors that can inhibit one’s ability to convert folate to the methylated form. Individuals with these genetic variations need to supplement with the methylated form of folate. Absent testing for genetic variations, we recommend a B complex with methylated forms of folate and B12.
Other Helpful Nutrients
Other nutrients that showed benefit were magnesium, quercetin, zinc, l-arginine, l-citrullline, flavanols, curcumin, catechins, alpha lipoic acid, melatonin, and genestein. About 50% of Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diets, so this is another good place to start. Since magnesium relaxes the arterial walls, it is my first go-to when blood pressure begins to trend upward.
I would also add fiber to this list. Boring, but important! Americans, on average, eat about 50% of the recommended fiber per day. Fiber can lower measures of inflammation, triglycerides and small particle LDL, the most damaging kind. It also binds heavy metals and toxins that can contribute to heart disease.
So, whether you take medication or not, supporting your heart with the right supplements can make a real difference! Talk with our nutritionist about what you can do to ensure better heart health for the long term.