Nutrients Every Heart Needs
By Decker Weiss, NMD.
- How Do I Start?
- What Supplements Should I Take?
- Why Do We Need a "Heart Multivitamin"?
- What Can Garlic Supplements Do?
- What About Fish Oil Supplements?
- How Does CoQ10 Work?
High blood pressure. High cholesterol levels. Ever increasing stress. All are factors related to the development of heart disease - the leading cause of death for both men and women.1,2 In fact, 1 in 2 women in the United States dies of heart disease or stroke, while 1 in 30 dies of breast cancer. If current trends remain unchanged, not only will heart disease remain the primary killer in our country, the number of people it claims will steadily and dramatically increase in the next 20 years.3
Fortunately, heart disease is a problem you can do something about. Proven ways to prevent or mitigate the effects of heart disease include taking targeted nutritional supplements, making changes in the foods we eat, exercising most days of the week, drinking in moderation, eliminating tobacco use and adapting a positive attitude. Research shows that those of us who are often angry and depressed have more heart disease than people that live their lives with a more positive outlook.3
In this article we’ll talk about specific nutritional supplements that are heart healthy, whether your goal is to prevent heart disease or reduce the effects of heart disease if you currently have it.
I am trying hard to live a healthier life. But it all seems so overwhelming. How do I start?
It may help to know that you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Lots of people feel this way. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association are both urging people to prevent heart disease by identifying their individual health risk factors.3,4
A risk factor is an indicator of whether or not you may develop a certain health condition. In heart disease prevention, there are two kinds of risk factors. There are risk factors you can control – such as diet, exercise, and the supplements you take. There are also risk factors you can’t change or control –your age, race, and gender, as well as your family’s history of heart disease.3
Examples can be really helpful. Let’s follow three adults - Fred, Jane, and Earl - and determine their risk factors.
Fred is 32, single, has a job he loves, has an optimistic attitude about his life, and works out 5 days a week. Most days Fred’s diet is fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat. Occasionally Fred will eat a cheeseburger and fries when he watches the game with his buddies. Fred’s risk factors are his male gender and the occasional high fat content in his diet.
Jane is 55, a lawyer, married, and has a very stressful job. Jane eats lots of salads, fruits, and whole grains. However, her job requires her to work long hours which leaves little time to exercise. Jane is for the most part happy with her life, but her work stress had led to times of negativity. Her father had a heart attack when he was 56. Jane’s risk factors include her age (greater than 50), negativity from job stress, lack of regular exercise, and a family history of heart disease.
Earl is 65, married, and has just retired from a job he hated. He spends most of his day watching TV and eating potato chips and other high fat, salty snacks. Earl has told his friends and family since he worked so hard for so long, he is sure to drop dead soon after retiring. He has high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Earl’s father had a heart attack and died when he was 73. Earl’s risk is his male gender, age (greater than 50), sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, negative outlook on life, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and a family history of heart disease.
OK, it’s pretty easy to see that Fred needs to watch his diet, Jane needs to exercise more, and Earl needs lots of help. But, which supplements should they take?
The Whole Heart Nutrition chart (below) is an easy way to determine the supplements each risk level needs. As you can see, everyone wanting to prevent heart disease. Fred, Jane, Earl, you, and I - need to take a quality heart formula multivitamin, garlic, and a fish oil supplement providing Omega-3 fatty acids. CoQ10 is also a smart choice for complete heart health support.
Why do we all need to take a "heart multivitamin"?
Since the human heart simply cannot function without adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, it seems logical that a multivitamin would be the foundation of good nutrition for your heart. Heart-health formulated multivitamins provide the exact nutrients needed to prevent heart disease. 11,12
That’s why we need to take a specially formulated heart-focused multivitamin. The cells and the tissues that make up the heart must have vitamins C, A, and E, as well as B1, B6 and B12 to function.13-17 Folic acid, the little B vitamin that is so crucial in preventing spina bifida (a birth defect), breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease is also needed to keep heart muscles strong.18 The B vitamins and folic acid are very important to heart health because they help lower homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a potential and emerging cardiac risk factor. 16-19
Magnesium is a mighty mineral and healthy hearts need it every day. 20 Alpha lipoic acid, a fatty acid, provides protection against high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 21 Lutein and lycopene are all-natural nutrients and keep our arteries free from the buildup of plaque, a condition linked to heart attacks and strokes. 22,23
Multivitamins formulated with these exact vitamins, minerals, and nutrients will work with medications often prescribed to treat heart disease and provide the nutrition our hearts need.
Don’t all multivitamins work with medications prescribed to treat heart disease?
Many multivitamin formulas contain herbs and other nutrients that can interfere with prescription medications, especially medications prescribed to treat heart disease. One multivitamin does not fit all.
What can garlic supplements do for Fred, Jane and Earl or other people with low to high risk factors?
Garlic supplements have a very long and very successful history of preventing premature death from heart attacks. Lately, however, there have been some conflicting news stories about supplemental garlic’s ability to lower high cholesterol and high blood pressure – the causes of heart disease and death. That’s because many different garlic supplements have been used in these studies - garlic oil, garlic powder, aged garlic extract, and supplements made from fresh garlic. They have all been studied clinically for their effects in heart disease.24
The best garlic supplements (and the ones that showed the best effects in garlic studies) contain alliin, which is then converted to allicin. Allicin is the compound that lowers harmfully high cholesterol levels and dangerous blood pressure readings. Allicin is also responsible for garlic’s characteristic odor. Because alliin is very stable when dry, properly prepared and enteric coated fresh garlic preparations preserve the allicin-producing action until the garlic mixes with the fluids of the intestinal tract. 25 Fresh garlic extract’s enteric coating also prevents garlic breath. In contrast, aged garlic contains absolutely no allicin or allicin potential. This fact is probably responsible for the poor results noted in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure from aged garlic preparations. 26
The most effective garlic supplements are made from fresh garlic, enterically coated, and provide a daily dose of at least 10 milligrams (mg) alliin or a total allicin potential of 4,000 micrograms (mcg). 25 Taking a oncedaily garlic supplement that delivers 4,000 mcg of allicin will lower Jane’s and Earl’s high blood pressure and Earl’s high cholesterol, naturally and effectively.
What about fish oil supplements?
You’re right on both counts. But, there are excellent fish oil supplements naturally loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, powerful nutrients that prevent heart disease, that are also certified free of harmful contaminants.
In the 1980s, researchers first began noticing the native Inuit (Eskimo) populations of Greenland and Alaska had hardly any heart disease despite a very high-fat diet. The deep-water fish that these peoples eat (and continue to eat to this day) are indeed quite fatty. But, this kind of fat, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, actually protects the heart instead of harming it. 27,28
Research has shown that the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements can:
• Reduce the risk of arrhythmias, lethal heartbeat rhythms that cause sudden death. 29
• Lower the levels of triglycerides, fats in the blood that can increase a person’s risk of dying from a heart attack, even if a person’s cholesterol levels are normal.30,31
• Slow atherosclerosis – the growth of harmful plaque on artery walls. Atherosclerosis develops over many years. If the plaque growth is slow and stable, chances are low that a heart attack will result. However, rapidly growing or unstable plaques can rupture. The body responds with inflammation, which causes blood clots to form. These blood clots block the artery and cause a heart attack. 31,32
• Keep blood pressure levels low.33 Many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. That’s because it has no symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure. While 25% of Americans have high blood pressure, nearly one-third of these people don’t know they have it. This is why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer." 3,4
You can get all of this heart disease preventive protection from just 600-1800 mg of fish oil. It’s pretty simple to see why Fred, Jane, Earl, and you and I need to take fish oil supplements every day.
However, it is absolutely critical that the fish oil supplement you take is free of contaminants and guaranteed fresh. Make sure that the manufacturer of the fish oil supplement you buy is able to provide documentation of purity in their product. Supplements should contain no detectable dioxin (a widely used toxic preservative), DDT (a toxic insecticide), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) or heavy metals such as mercury and lead.
Before you buy any fish oil supplement, ask the clerk if you can open the bottle or jar and smell the contents. A fishy smelling fish oil supplement means it is rancid. Rancid fish oil is not going to help your heart at all and may actually hurt it.
CoQ10 Heart Supplement
CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone, is the premier heart supplement. CoQ10 is part of our energy producing system. It works directly in the mitochondria of each cell. Mitochondria are highly specialized structures within each cell and are often referred to as powerhouses. These tiny energy producers generate 95% of the energy the body requires. The number of mitochondria in a cell depends on its function and energy needs. The heart has very important functions and requires a vast amount of energy. Thus, the heart has a lot of mitochondria or little powerhouses.34
CoQ10 is incredibly crucial to the health of our hearts. Especially to hearts that are pumping blood with too much cholesterol.35 But, in a dangerous paradox, CoQ10 levels can become dangerously depleted when physicians treat high cholesterol in their patients with certain medications. The so-called "statin" drugs (Mevacor®/lovastatin and Crestor®/rosuvastatin are two examples) are powerful medications prescribed to lower harmful cholesterol levels. However, one very harmful side effect they share is that they deprive cells of CoQ10. 36,37 While some physicians are aware of this serious side effect and tell their patients to take at least 400 mg of CoQ10 each day, most are not. The result? Any good the statin drugs may be doing is actually negated by their depletion of CoQ10.
How does CoQ10 actually work? Has it been studied in heart disease?
Yes, it has. CoQ10 has been extensively studied in heart disease. This natural nutrient is present in every nucleated cell in our body (the only cells that don’t contain CoQ10 are red blood cells). Heart cells, however, are absolutely loaded with CoQ10. Its job is fairly simply – CoQ10 is vital to the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the compound our body uses for 95% of its energy needs.38
In 1998, 144 patients who had been admitted to the hospital after a heart attack, participated in a CoQ10 study. Half of the patients received 120 mg of CoQ10 a day in addition to the usual treatments given to heart attack patients. The other half, the control group, received the usual treatments and a placebo, but no CoQ10.
The results showed that the group taking CoQ10 had less irregular heartbeats, experienced less angina (a type of heart pain), and had much better function in the left ventricle (the most essential chamber of the heart), compared to the placebo group. Total deaths due to sudden heart failure or another heart attack were also reduced in the CoQ10 group. 39
What if I have already been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure? Will CoQ10 still help me?
CoQ10 has been proven in study after study to help slow down the destruction that occurs in congestive heart failure (CHF), a serious heart disease, and improve the heart muscles damaged by heart attacks. 40,43 In fact, heart attacks often occur when the body’s CoQ10 levels are low. 35,38
In a CHF study, patients received 100 mg of CoQ10 or a placebo twice daily for 12 weeks. Before and after the treatment period, the researchers introduced a catheter into the right ventricle of the patients’ hearts to determine the degree of muscle damage CHF had caused. In the group who took CoQ10, the pumping ability of the heart improved significantly. The placebo group’s hearts did not. The researchers conducting the study recommended that people with CHF add CoQ10 to the other medications they need to take to stay alive and well.44
Are some types of CoQ10 better than others?
Indeed they are. CoQ10 products are not created equally. The key to this natural medicine is the quality of the manufacturing. Take a CoQ10 supplement that’s been used in research conducted by prestigious universities (it will tell you this right on the label). Researchers want the best CoQ10 for their studies. You want the best CoQ10 for yourself and your loved ones.
The best CoQ10 has to meet the following criteria: 1. Must be easily absorbed during the digestion process so that it can get into the bloodstream. 1. Must reach the mitochondria in the cell. 2. Must be proven effective in studies. 3. Must be safe and free of impurities.
It sounds as if CoQ10 is only for people with moderate or high risk factors. Can others benefit from this supplement?
Many people, including those like Fred with low risk factors or no risk of heart disease take CoQ10 every day. CoQ10 supplements may reduce your risk of cancer, prevent gum disease, and help certain nerve cells work more effectively.38
Whole Heart Nutrition
|Supplement||Low Risk||Moderate Risk||High Risk|
|Garlic supplement||1 tablet each day||1 tablet each day||1 tablet each day|
4,000 mcg allicin
|Fish oil supplement||600 mg each day||1200 mg each day||1800 mg each day|
with omega-3 fatty acids
|CoQ10||60 mg||100-200 mg each day||200-400 mg each day|
Each additional risk factor requires additional supplements or increased doses for protection from heart disease.
Heart Factors We Can Change
Smokers have twice the risk of heart attack than nonsmokers.4
High blood cholesterol
As blood cholesterol rises, so does the risk of heart disease. 3,4
High blood pressure
High blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer. 4
Exercise most days of the week helps prevent heart disease. The more vigorous the activity, the greater your benefits. 3,4
Obesity and overweight
People who have excess body fat are more likely to develop heart
disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. 3,4
Individual coping styles
Research has shown there is a link between heart disease risk and stress, happiness, negativity, and socioeconomic status. 3,6-10
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. However, the risk of heart disease in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol (an average of one drink for women or two drinks for men per day) is lower than in nondrinkers. 3,4
Heart Factors We Can't Change
Increasing age - About four out of five people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. 3,4
Male gender - Men have more heart attacks than women. Even after menopause, when women’s death rate from heart disease increases, men continue to have more heart attacks until both groups reach their 80s. 3,4
Heredity (including Race) - While heart disease has often been noted to occur in families, recent research has shown this link may be the result of environment more than heredity. In other words, your dad’s high blood pressure and your high blood pressure may be related more to your mutual love of salty foods than your genetics.5,6 African Americans tend to have very high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart attacks than other races. 3,4
Understanding your personal risk factors, making better lifestyle choices, taking a multivitamin formulated for your heart, an enteric-coated fresh garlic supplement, fish oil supplement with Omega-3 fatty acids, and CoQ10 – the heart’s super-nutrient - can help keep your heart healthy and strong.
Helen Keller, the famous lecturer and author, who was both blind and deaf wrote, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the human heart."
Healthy hearts have the most opportunities to "feel" the best and are the most beautiful thing our world has to offer.
1. National Center for Health Statistics Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Latest Mortality Trends – 2001. Accessed October 1, 2003. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/releases/03facts/mortalitytrends.htm.
2. Hall MJ, DeFrances CJ. 2001 National Hospital Discharge Survey. Advance Data.2003;332:1-20.
3. Centers for Disease Control. Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke: Addressing the Nation’s Leading Killers At A Glance 2003. Accessed on October 20, 2003. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/aag/aag_cvd.htm.
4. American Heart Association. Risk Factors and Coronary Artery Disease. Accessed on October 30, 2003. Available at: http://www.americanheartorg/ presenter.
5. Cui J, Hopper JL, Harrap SB. Genes and family environment explain correlations between blood pressure and body mass index. Hypertension. 2002;40:7-12.
6. Chen W, Srinivasan SR, Bao W, Berenson GS. The magnitude of familial associations of cardiovascular risk factor variables between parents and offspring are influenced by age: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Ann Epidemiology. 2001;11:522-8.
7. Todaro JF, Shen BJ, Niaura R, Spiro A, Ward KD. Effect of negative emotions on frequency of coronary heart disease (The Normative Aging Study). American Journal of Cardiology. 2003;92:901-6.
8. Jones T, Rapport L, Hanks R, Lichtenberg P, Telmet K. Cognitive and psychosocial predictors of subjective well-being in urban older adults. Clinical Neuropsychol. 2003;17:3-18.
9. Coelho R, Ramos E, Prata J, Maciel MJ, Barros H. Acute myocardial infarction: psychosocial and cardiovascular risk factors in men. Journal of Cardiovasc Risk. 1999;6:157-62.
10. Tacon AM, McComb J, Caldera Y, Randolph P. Mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, and heart disease: a pilot study. Fam Community Health. 2003;26:25-33.
11. Platt R. Current concepts in optimum nutrition for cardiovascular disease. Prev Cardiology. 2000;3:83-87.
12. Fugh-Berman A. Herb and dietary supplements in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Prev Cardiology.2000;1:24-32.
13. Osganian SK, Stampfer MJ, Rimm E, et al. Vitamin C and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Journal of American College Cardiology. 2003;42:246-52.
14. Fleming T., ed. Vitamin A. In: PDR® for Nutritional Supplements. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2001: 462-469.
15. Dutta A, Dutta SK. Vitamin E and its role in the prevention of atherosclerosis and carcinogenesis: a review. Journal of American College Nutrition. 2003;22:258-68.
16. Lindeman RD, Romero LJ, Yau CL, Koehler KM, Baumgartner RN, Garry PJ. Serum homocysteine concentrations and their relation to serum folate and vitamin B12 concentrations and coronary artery disease prevalence in an urban, bi-ethnic community. Ethn Disease. 2003;13:178-85.
17. Merchant AT, Hu FB, Spiegelman D, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Ascherio A. The use of B vitamin supplements and peripheral arterial disease risk in men are inversely related. Journal of Nutrition. 2003;133:2863-7.
18. Ellis A. Inertia on folic acid has caused thousands of unnecessary deaths. BMJ. 2003;326:1054.
19. Schnyder G, Rouvinez G. Total plasma homocysteine and restenosis after percutaneous coronary angioplasty: current evidence. Ann Medicine. 2003;35(3):156-63.
20. Abbott RD, Ando F, Masaki KH, et al. Dietary magnesium intake and the future risk of coronary heart disease (the Honolulu Heart Program). American Journal of Cardiology. 2003;92:665-9.
21. Fleming T., ed. Alpha lipoic acid. In: PDR® for Nutritional Supplements. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2001: 17-21.
22. Mares-Perlman JA, Millen AE, Ficek TL, Hankinson SE. The body of evidence to support a protective role for lutein and zeaxanthin in delaying chronic disease. Overview. Journal of Nutrition. 2002;132:518S-524S.
23. Rissanen TH, Voutilainen S, Nyyssonen K, Salonen R, Kaplan GA, Salonen JT. Serum lycopene concentrations and carotid atherosclerosis: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;77:133-8.
24. Ellmore GS, Milano E, Feldberg RS. Navigating the clove: mapping bioactive compounds in garlic (Allium sativum). Presentation at the American Herbal Products Association International Garlic Symposium. July 31, 2001.
25. Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Garlic. In: Tyler’s Herbs of Choice. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press;1999:132-137.
26. Lawson LD, Wang ZJ, Papadimitrou D. Allicin release under simulated gastrointestinal condition for garlic powder tablets employed in clinical trials on serum cholesterol. Planta Medicine. 2001;67:13-18.
27. Kromhout D, Bosschieter EB, de Lezenne Coulander C., et al. The inverse relation between fish consumption and 20-year mortality from coronary heart disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 1985 May 9;312(19):1205-9.
28. Kromann N, Green A. Epidemiological studies in the Upernavik district, Greenland. Incidence of some chronic diseases 1950-1974. Acta Med Scand.1980;208(5):401-6.
29. Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssonen K, Lakka TA, Salonen JT. Fish oil-derived fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and decosapentaenoic acid, and the risk of acute coronary events: the Kuopio ischaemic heart disease risk factor study. Circulation. 2000;102:2677-2679.
30. Torres IC, Mira L, Ornelas CP, Melim A. Study of the effects of dietary fish intake on serum lipids and lipoproteins in two populations with different dietary habits. British Journal of Nutrition. 2000;83:371-379.
31. Stark KD, Park EJ, Maines VA, Holub BJ. Effect of a fish-oil concentrate on serum lipids in postmenopausal women receiving and not receiving hormone replacement therapy in a placebo controlled, double-blind trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;72:389-394.
32. Iso H, Rexrode KM, Stampfer MJ, et al. Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women. JAMA. 2001;285:304-312.
33. Prisco D, Paniccia R, Bandinelli B, et al. Effect of medium-term supplementation with a moderate dose of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on blood pressure in mild hypertensive patients. Thromb Research. 1998;91:105-112.
34. Porth CM, Carroll EW. Mitochondria. In: Porth CM. Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa; Lippincott; 1998:8-9.
35. Pepping J. Coenzyme Q10. American Journal of Health Systematic Pharm 1999;56:519-521.
36. Ghirlanda G, Oradei A, Manto A, et al. Evidence of plasma CoQ10- lowering effect by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 1993;33:226-9.
37. Mortensen SA, Leth A, Agner E, Rohde M. Dose-related decrease of serum coenzyme Q10 during treatment with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Molecular Aspects Med.1997; 34:18.
38. Fleming T., ed. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). In: PDR® for Nutritional Supplements. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 2001: 103-106.
39. Singh RB, Wander GS, Rastogi A, et al. Randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of coenzyme Q10 in patients with acute myocardial infarction. Cardiovasc Drugs Therapy. 1998;12:347-353.
40. Tran MT, Mitchell TM, Kennedy DT, Giles JT. Role of coenzyme Q10 in chronic heart failure, angina, and hypertension. Pharmacotherapy. 2001;21:797-806. Review.
41. Langsjoen PH, Langsjoen AM. Overview of the use of CoQ10 in cardiovascular disease. Biofactors. 1999;9:273-84. Review.
42. Soja AM, Mortensen SA. Treatment of congestive heart failure with coenzyme Q10 illuminated by meta-analyses of clinical trials. Molecular Aspects Medicine. 1997;18 Suppl:S159-68.
43. Jameson S. Statistical data support prediction of death within months on low levels of coenzyme Q10 and other entities. Clinical Investig. 1993;71:S137-9.
44. Munkholm H, Hansen HH, Rasmussen K. Coenzyme Q10 treatment in serious heart failure. Biofactors. 1999;9:285-289.
Author Decker Weiss is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Arizona.
Say hello and connect with Decker at +Google
Heart Health Topics
Nutrients for managing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure. CoQ-10, fish oil, garlic, and cardiac coherence therapy affecting the heart.