Heart of the matter: Supplements for a healthier heart
Updated: Jan 18
It’s no surprise that we folks just love more than having fun with good food, but every so often we have to cut the butter and salt, using less sugar, and get real – diet is an important risk factor in coronary heart disease. More than 1 in 4 deaths were due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Australia, and coronary heart disease contributes to the major CVD death (1).
The heart is part of the body’s circulatory system and taking great care of your heart to avoid cardiovascular disease is critical. The main function of the heart is to keep blood that’s full of oxygen and other important nutrients circulating throughout your body to ensure all body organs stay healthy and work properly. Your heart never takes a break, it’s hard at work while you are carrying out your daily activities, from sleeping to stressful moments and intense workouts. You can carry on without some organs, but heart certainly not one of them. Blood vessels play an essential role in supporting or feeding the heart muscle, thus ensuring healthy blood vessels is the key to avoid blockage that could lead to heart attack. This can be achieved by avoiding smoking, be active, managing stress well and practice healthy diet.
If you have a family history on heart disease, you may know what could keep your heart grow stronger. Here we provide some helpful tips to keep your heart system running and pumping smoothy for years to come by taking supplements that could improve your heart health, according to the latest scientific findings.
Supplements for a healthier heart
Since the late 1970s, numbers of studies have supported a link between omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and a lower rate of heart attacks and related problems. Although your body needs 2 forms of omega fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6, it is the omega-3s that get merits from researchers (2). Their studies have shown that Omega-3s help prevent coronary heart disease in healthy people and slow the progress of the disease in those who already suffering it.
The 3 main omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for cardiovascular health are α-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is primarily found in plant-based food such as olive, soybean, walnuts and flaxseeds. While EPA and DHA are primarily found in marine-based food, including a variety of fatty fish, including tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut and cod. It’s important to distinguish the good and bad fats as the good fats can prevent build up of plaque on heart vessels, while the bad type of fats (hydrogenated oil) are known to be inflammatory and damaging to blood vessel lining (3).
2. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10, is an enzyme that the body naturally produces to regulate important functions such as blood pressure regulation and electron transport. CoQ10 helps mitochondria, the powerhouse in the cell, to convert compounds in food into energy. Besides contributing energy, CoQ10 also functions as antioxidant, preventing free radicals from harming the body. Studies have shown that CoQ10 supports the heart health in patients with heart failure (4).
As the natural production of CoQ10 decrease as we age, thus, it is essential to include CoQ10, either as food or supplement in one’s diet. Fish, meat, and whole grains are some food examples containing high CoQ10.
The reduced and active form of CoQ10, ubiquinol is more readily absorbed when taken in supplement form, as it is water-soluble. Ubiquinol is 8 times more absorbable than ubiquinone, the oxidized form, and has shown to be more effective in managing health issues such as heart failure and fibromyalgia.
Natural astaxanthin is a very unique antioxidant from the microalgae, Haematococcus pluvalis, that can be found from arctic marine environments, such as the common fresh water rock pools throughout the world. Astaxanthin gives the pink and red colour to salmon, shrimp and lobster.
Astaxanthin functions to protect the cell nucleus against free radicals with its unique molecular structure that makes it literally hundred of times stronger than any other antioxidant molecule. Astaxanthin is often called the “The King of Antioxidants”. Studies have shown that natural astaxanthin reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, improving lipid profiles and promotes better blood flow in capillaries. Lower triglyceride levels and increased HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) was shown on a study of 61 non-obese subjects (5).
4. Wild Garlic
Wild garlic, also known as Allium ursinum has a long tradition of medicinal use in many different countries. Wild garlic also contains a variety of trace minerals and vitamins. Studies have shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, inhibit platelet aggregation, all of which are beneficial in cardiovascular disease (6).
Red yeast rice has been labelled as one of the top natural remedies for high cholesterol levels, as it contain the active ingredient, monacolin K, that is identical to lovastatin, which is found in prescription medications. Red yeast rice can correct cholesterol levels, as well as having anti-inflammatory properties, metabolic syndrome, blood sugar levels and more.
A review that concludes 21 studies on red yeast rice study have shown the reduced levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, including triglycerides and blood pressure, when compared to a control group (7).
6. Vitamin K2D3
Vitamin D3 and K2 each function more effectively in the presence of each other and has been claimed as the perfect pair to amplify the effects of each other. Vitamin D3 and K2 have been shown to balance calcium for better bone and cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that Vitamin K is safe and effectively maintained healthy arterial elasticity and cardiovascular function (8). While low levels of vitamin D is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke.
Your heart affects every part of your body. Diet, lifestyle and emotional well-being can influence your heart health. Thus, caring for your heart health could help one to live a long, full life.
1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Cardiovascular disease. Cat. no. CVD 83. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 05 March 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-diseases/cardiovascular-health-compendium
2. Chaddha, A. and A.E. Kim, 2015. Omega-3 fatty acids and heart health. Circulation 132(22).
3. Takeuchi H, Sugano M. Industrial Trans Fatty Acid and Serum Cholesterol: The Allowable Dietary Level. J Lipids. 2017;2017:9751756. doi:10.1155/2017/9751756
4. Gao L, Mao Q, Cao J, Wang Y, Zhou X, Fan L. Effects of coenzyme Q10 on vascular endothelial function in humans: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Atherosclerosis. 2012 Apr;221(2):311-6. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2011.10.027. Epub 2011 Oct 25. PMID: 22088605.
5. Yoshida H, Yanai H, Ito K, Tomono Y, Koikeda T, Tsukahara H, Tada N. Administration of natural astaxanthin increases serum HDL-cholesterol and adiponectin in subjects with mild hyperlipidemia. Atherosclerosis. 2010 Apr;209(2):520-3. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.10.012. Epub 2009 Oct 14. PMID: 19892350.
6. Bayan L, Koulivand PH, Gorji A. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014;4(1):1-14.
7. Xiong X, Wang P, Li X, Zhang Y, Li S. The effects of red yeast rice dietary supplement on blood pressure, lipid profile, and C-reactive protein in hypertension: A systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Jun 13;57(9):1831-1851. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1018987. PMID: 26167669.
8. van Ballegooijen AJ, Beulens JW. The Role of Vitamin K Status in Cardiovascular Health: Evidence from Observational and Clinical Studies. Curr Nutr Rep. 2017;6(3):197-205. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0208-8