Your Four Best Supplements for Heart Health

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Maintaining a healthy heart is essential.  What are the best supplements for heart health?

If you hop around the Internet seeking the best supplements for heart health, you'll find plenty of 'experts' with suggestions about which supplements can best support a healthy heart. But which supposed heart-healthy supplements are actually supported by science? We dug deep and found the four supplements for heart health.

I recently asked a gym rat what, in his opinion, was his most important muscle? It was a trick question, of course, but he contemplated it for a moment, then said, "Pecs probably, or maybe biceps…actually, I think glutes." I asked him, "What about your heart?" He smiled and agreed, saying, "Yeah, that's the big one."

Yes, muscle-wise, the heart is the Big One. Without it, we're done. We must have a healthy, vital, optimally functioning heart. Okay then, what can we do to ensure maintaining a strong, healthy heart?

When it comes to heart health, prevention is the name of the game. It's kind of like getting AAA if you have an older model car. That breakdown is probable; highly probable. Your AAA card, along with regular maintenance, is preventive protection for the car. We also need preventive protection for our heart. We don't want to procrastinate and then have to call the tow truck (paramedic).

The 'Heart Association' says it's all about lifestyle [1] . They promote the following lifestyle choices to help keep the heart healthy:

1. Be Smoke-Free - Staying smoke-free is one of the most important rules for heart health. Smoking impairs the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. Smoking contributes to narrowing and clogging of the arteries, and we all know what that can lead to.

2. Monitor Your Blood Pressure - A vital measure of how the heart and circulatory system are functioning is the amount of pressure which is put on the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. A reading at or below 120/80mmHg is considered optimal. Readings up to 139/89mmHG are considered acceptable. Readings above this level should be treated because chronic high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

3. Monitor Blood Cholesterol - Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is circulated in the blood. We need cholesterol for our overall health maintenance. The body produces it naturally, but we also get cholesterol from our diet. There are two main types of cholesterol; high-density, or ‘HDL', and low-density, or ‘LDL'. LDL cholesterol is considered to be the most beneficial, because the fat content is thinner. The HDL cholesterol has a high fat density which can build up in the arteries over time and lead to high blood pressure and other complications.

4. Stay Active - In the same way that our skeletal muscles need exercise and activity to remain toned and healthy, our heart muscle needs activity too. Regular physical activity helps ensure a healthy heart.

Healthy hearts thrive on healthy, nutritious food.

5. Watch the Weight - Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent cardiovascular health problems. If you need to lose weight, you know you need to lose weight. Don't go on a diet. Start over. Change the way you eat. A list of heart-healthy foods includes:

- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole grains
- Seafoods and lean poultry
- Seeds, nuts, and beans
- Moderate amounts of milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Avocados, olives, vegetable oils
- Herbs and spices in place of salt
- Water, water, water

6. Be Happy - People who experience depression, or who are isolated without a strong social support system, are at a greater risk of heart disease [2] , [3] , [4] . We should look after our emotional well-being with the same vigilance as we tend to our physical well-being.

The Four Best Supplements for Heart  Health

A recent review study investigating possible supplements to support cardiovascular health, published in the Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal, concluded that, in spite of opinions to the contrary, there are really only four supplements that are strongly supported by scientific research as significantly benefiting heart health [5] .

Those four supplements are;
  1. Omega-3 fatty acids
  2. Coenzyme Q10
  3. Red rice yeast
  4. Nitric Oxide
To the surprise of many, their research regarding vitamin-mineral supplementation concluded that:

"We reviewed the available data on multivitamins/multiminerals, antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin E, niacin (B3), and beta-carotene. Despite extensive investigation, the evidence to date fails to support the use of exogenous supplements of vitamins and minerals for the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease" [6] .

(1) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The scientific evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids in providing significant support to cardiovascular health is so compelling that the pharmaceutical companies have developed a prescription version, called "O3AEE". The FDA has approved O3AEE for the treatment of high triglycerides.

Science has confirmed the importance of omega3 fatty acids in preventing heart-related illnesses.

Researchers discovered that O3AEE reduced the risk of heart attacks by 28%, and decreased the risk of dying from a heart attack by 50%. It also reduced the overall risk of coronary-related events by 17% [7] . Another study had similar findings, reporting:

"Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to significantly reduce the risk for sudden death caused by cardiac arrhythmias and all-cause mortality in patients with known coronary heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are also used to treat hyperlipidemia and hypertension." [8]

One research review study examined the body of scientific work which addresses the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to support cardiovascular health [9] . In its conclusion, the researcher reported:

"As is clear from the above facts, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (the pharmacologically active precursor of EPA and DHA), have a broad spectrum of anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective activities."

Patients with some form of cardiovascular disease typically show lowered concentrations of omega-3 in blood and tissue samples. Research suggests that omega-3 helps to maintain healthy blood pressure(s) [10] , cholesterol levels [11] , and reduces heart inflammation [12] .

(2) Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a compound produced by the human body which is stored in the cell's mitochondria. Mitochondria are involved in the production of energy. They also help protect cells from disease-causing pathogens and are protective against oxidation [13] , [14] .

CoQ10 is a component of human cells which is vital the heart’s energy supply.

Our levels of CoQ10 decrease with age and older people often find themselves deficient of this important chemical. The causes for CoQ10 deficiency include: nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B6 deficiency, genetic defects, indirect consequence of other diseases, oxidative stress associated with aging, and as a side effect of statin treatment for cholesterol imbalance.

CoQ10 has been shown to be effective in the treatment of congestive heart failure [15] . People with ‘heart failure' experience a condition where the heart can't pump blood as efficiently as it needs to. Symptoms include: difficulty breathing, tiredness, weakness, fluid retention, irregular heartbeat, cough, increased urination, loss of appetite, nausea, problems with concentration, and chest pain.

These patients also tend to have a CoQ10 deficiency in their blood and heart muscle tissue. Brain disorders, cancer, and diabetes have also been linked to low CoQ10 levels [16] .

(3) Red Rice Yeast

Red Rice Yeast is a special type of fermented rice made under controlled conditions. It has been a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, known for its many health-supporting properties. It contains a key compound known as ‘monacolin K'. Monacolin K is the active component in prescription medications which are used for lowering cholesterol (statins). For this reason, it is considered by many health professionals to be a natural, low-cost alternative to these prescription medications [17] .

Controlling cholesterol, especially high-density (HDL), and overall cholesterol levels, is considered by many physicians to be the most important factor in a proactive plan to reduce the risk of cardiovascular-related diseases.

Red yeast rice is considered to be a safe and effective supplement for people who have moderately high levels of HDL and total cholesterol. When used daily, monacolin K can reduce HDL and total cholesterol by 15 to 21 percent [18] .

Red yeast rice may also help treat some of the risk factors associated with ‘Metabolic Syndrome', such as blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and excess body fat [19] . Metabolic Syndrome factors increase the risks associated with stroke and heart disease.

(4) Nitric Oxide

The previously mentioned Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal cites the work of four American pharmacologists who in 1992 won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery and characterization of nitric oxide (NO). These men -- Drs. Robert Furchgott, Lou Ignarro, and Ferid Murad -- found that the endothelial production of NO was critical for vascular homeostasis because it relaxes blood vessels, reduces their myointimal thickening, and suppresses the adherence of circulating blood elements to the vessel.

Whereas their work focused on NO synthase and its generation of NO from L-arginine (an amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins), it's now known that NO can also be generated from dietary nitrite and nitrate. There are several healthy foods you can eat to boost nitrate levels in your body, such as arugula, chervil, celery, spinach, collard greens, red beets, lettuce, leeks and watercress [20] .

The Big Four

So, those are the big four supplements for heart health - CoQ10, Omega3 Fatty Acids, Red Yeast Rice and Nitric Oxide. Fortunately, it's a simple matter to supplement our diet with all four, but you may want to consult with your doctor about which heart health supplement might be best for you.
Show references

  1. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.ATV.0000238352.25222.5e
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29066229
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29278623
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24282187
  5. https://journal.houstonmethodist.org/article-full-text/1087/dietary-supplements-facts-and-fallacies/
  6. https://journal.houstonmethodist.org/article-full-text/1089/supplemental-vitamins-and-minerals-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention-and-treatment/
  7. https://journal.houstonmethodist.org/article-full-text/1088/recent-clinical-trials-shed-new-light-on-the-cardiovascular-benefits-of-omega-3-fatty-acids/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25720716
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213446/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27692558
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29282085
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28531360
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25126052
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24389208
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25282031
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5368538/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20185013
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27038957
  19. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-yeast-rice
  20. https://journal.houstonmethodist.org/article-full-text/1092/inorganic-nitrate-supplementation-for-cardiovascular-health/
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