Do you have high blood pressure? Are your cholesterol levels soaring through the roof? Or do you have a family history of heart attacks, congestive heart failure and heart disease?
For some people, simple lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and exercising just 10 minutes every day, is enough to decrease their risk for debilitating heart conditions.
For others, these changes should be accompanied by well-researched cardio supplements that are proven to make a difference.
The best supplements for heart health are those that provide multiple benefits, including the reduction of triglycerides, lowering “bad” cholesterol and increasing “good” cholesterol, and general overall cardio protection.
Here are a few of the best heart health supplements that can be integrated easily into a person’s daily routine:
Vitamin E is an antioxidant powerhouse. It protects healthy heart cells from free radicals. It does this by preventing the oxidation of fatty acids during metabolism.
Although most of us think of Vitamin E as a single element, it is actually a group of eight different compounds called tocopherols and tocotrienols. These are further divided into their isomers: alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
D-alpha-tocopherol is the most well-known form of Vitamin E because the body puts more of it in the bloodstream than the other forms. This doesn’t mean, however, that the lesser known isomers are unimportant.
In fact, research shows that gamma-tocopherol and gamma-tocotrienol have special functions that alpha-tocopherol cannot perform. Gamma-tocopherol is better than alpha-tocopherol at increasing the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that discourages the production of free radicals and decreases oxidative stress.
Gamma-tocopherol is also better than alpha-tocopherol in producing nitric oxide (NO), a chemical found in the lining of the arteries that is essential to keeping the cardiovascular system healthy. Nitric oxide works by relaxing the arterial walls, improving circulation and preventing plaque deposits from attaching to the arteries.
On the other hand, gamma-tocotrienol suppresses the production of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme, which is used in the production of cholesterol. Preliminary research shows that over time gamma-tocotrienol can help lower cholesterol levels.
A large-scale, five-year study also shows that tocotrienols are more effective than drugs and surgery in treating stenosis, or constriction of the carotid artery. This is vitally important, because when this narrowing of the carotid artery is left untreated, it can lead to stroke.
Stenosis is commonly treated with angioplasty, a surgical procedure where a balloon is inserted, then inflated to widen the artery. While angioplasty has been proven effective, it also has serious risks. If plaque detaches from the arterial wall during the procedure it can cause a stroke, which is exactly what the surgery is hoping to prevent.
Following their surgery, many patients (approximately one-third), redevelop stenosis.
However, the results of the study on the effects of tocotrienols on stenosis are promising. Out of the 25 individuals who were given tocotrienols after angioplasty, 10 showed regression of stenosis, 12 remained stable and three showed minor worsening.
Granted, the above information is quite technical and without a medical degree, can be difficult to understand. Put simply, when supplementing with Vitamin E, a good choice is a supplement like this one, that contains all compounds of Vitamin E not just alpha-tocopherol.
CoQ10 is a natural substance found in the body. It comes in two forms: ubiquinol, the active antioxidant form, and ubiquinone, the oxidized form, which is converted into ubiquinol once ingested.
CoQ10 is found in every cell of the human body. However, CoQ10 is found more abundantly in parts of the body that require the most energy production, such as the heart, the kidneys and the liver.
One of the main functions of CoQ10 is to convert food into energy. It is also a powerful antioxidant that can fight free radicals which can damage heart cells.
CoQ10 is especially useful in patients who have had a heart attack. Studies show that patients who take these cardio supplements within three days after a heart attack, minimize their risk of a future heart attack or of dying from heart disease.
Incidentally, it appears that statin drugs, which are used for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease, may also deplete the body’s stores of CoQ10. That’s why it’s important for patients who take these types of prescription drugs to also take a high quality CoQ10 supplement.
Help for congestive heart failure
Some studies also show that patients who have congestive heart failure have low levels of this important coenzme.
One symptom of people who have heart failure is the pooling of blood and other fluids in their arms and legs. Used as a natural heart failure treatment, CoQ10 has been proven to help prevent fluid from collecting in the extremities. It also reduces existing pooling.
CoQ10 has also been shown to lower blood pressure, although it takes a while for the beneficial effects to take place. One study showed that participants who took CoQ10 showed decreased blood pressure four to six weeks after beginning the cardio supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Too little omega-3 fatty acids and too much omega-6 is the leading cause of many health problems, including heart disease, strokes and heart attacks.
The most common source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil, which contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaeoic acid (EPA). There are also plant sources, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is converted into omega-3 inside the body.
Evidence suggests that omega-3 is specifically effective in lowering triglyceride levels. High triglycerides are associated with heart disease as well as diabetes. Research suggests that omega-3 can lower triglyceride levels by as much as 30% to 50%, depending on the quality of the fish oil supplements.
Like Coenzyme Q10, it has also been shown to reduce blood pressure because it can relax the arterial walls and widen the blood vessels.
Please note: people taking statin drugs may not receive the same benefits from omega-3 oils as those not taking cholesterol lowering medications. However, it is encouraging to note that omega-3 is effective in keeping healthy people free from heart disease.
When buying a fish oil supplement, it is important to choose a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil like this one, so that any heavy metals or contaminants are removed. If you find it difficult to take pills or capsules, there are also liquid fish oil supplements made with natural flavorings that eliminate any fishy tastes.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Niacin, or Vitamin B3, is used for converting carbohydrates into immediate energy. A recent study shows that niacin is more effective than Ezetimibe, a statin used to control the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Statins work by preventing LDL from being transported from the liver to the bloodstream. Niacin does the same. However, niacin also increases the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol while working on lowering LDL levels at the same time.
The presence of a significant amount of HDL is important because HDL picks up the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream and puts it back into the liver for elimination.
Results of the study show that niacin can increase HDL by as much as 35% and lower LDL by up to 50%.
When taking niacin supplements for heart health, start with small doses, as niacin can cause skin flushing in the cheeks, necks and ears of some people. For some, a better alternative to niacin is inositol hexaniacinate, a compound of B vitamins that has the same heart-healthy effects as niacin minus the side effects.
In this rushed modern society, where we eat on the run and often can’t find the time to work in regular exercise, trying a combination of these supplements may be a sensible choice. Although these four cardio supplements might not totally reverse heart disease, you are likely to receive definite benefits.