Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nutritional Supplements and Healthy Hearts: What Nutritional Supplements are Most Important for Promoting Optimal Heart Health

Welcome to the February issue of the Health and Wellness Catalyst Blog

February is American Heart Month, highlighting the importance of heart health in the American population.  Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women.  Also, the most common first symptom of heart disease is a fatal heart attack so it is important to work with your healthcare practitioners to effectively determine your heart disease risk and take steps to address the common and important heart disease risk factors BEFORE an attack occurs.

While it is important to consider the use of nutritional supplements for heart disease, it is also essential to put them in their proper perspective.  A healthy diet should always be the foundation of overall healthy nutrition, and this should be combined with healthy lifestyle approaches that include regular exercise and movement or physical fitness, and stress management or relaxation techniques.

Modifiable Heart Disease Risk Factors:  These can often be controlled through nutrition (diet and targeted nutritional supplementation) and lifestyle, especially if addressed at the time of diagnosis or even better preventatively - and they include:

High blood pressure                                                High Cholesterol           
Diabetes                                                            Lack of Exercise
Overweight/obesity                                                Smoking

Newer risk factors:   Inflammation (cardiac C-reactive protein),  Lp a  (can be tested)
Metabolic Syndrome:  Significantly raises risk – the core process is insulin resistance, which leads to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol problems
Often overlapping risk factor:  Depression  (this most often significantly increases the risk and needs to be addressed)

Nutritional Supplements to consider:

Fish Oil and Omega 3 Fats:
Omega 3 fatty acids decrease triglycerides that increase cholesterol levels and have anti-inflammatory effects.  This is helpful because heart disease is now known to be an inflammatory process.  These oils can also help to decrease blood pressure and several studies show that they can decrease the risk of an initial heart attack and a second heart attack.  Finally, these oils help to prevent depression and maintain memory.

Magnesium is a calcium channel blocker, so it can help to control blood pressure, but it also helps with blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance, therefore helpful for weight, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.  Other good effects that magnesium have are a calming effect on the nervous system, improves hormonal balance, alleviates constipation and helps with allergies and sensitivities.

CoEnzyme Q10:
Coenzyme Q10 helps with energy generation within cells, which is particularly helpful in heart cells and why evidence shows that it is beneficial for people who have the chronic heart condition, congestive heart failure.  Evidence also suggests that Co Q10 can be helpful for blood pressure, irregular heartbeats (arrythmias) and other heart disorders.  CoQ10 also is an anti-oxidant, protective of tissue damage.

Vitamin D:
Check your vitamin D level and make sure that it is normal – for many people it is low.  Vitamin D is important for blood sugar regulation, normal blood pressure and  depression.  Low levels also increase the risk of auto-immune diseases and specific types of cancer.  It also may be important to have higher levels of vitamin D although this is a current area of active research.

Hawthorn (this is an herbal product, Crataegus monogyna):
Some good research has shown that hawthorn can have several important effects for heart health, specifically high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), and chest pain (angina).

Other supplements:
These could be included depending upon the diagnoses and circumstances but should be considered on an individual basis – arginine, carnitine, potassium, garlic, anti-oxidants (lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, and others), B complex vitamins (B6, B12 and folate) and possibly others.

Holistic approaches to prevent heart disease and stroke:

1.    It is very important to have your primary care practitioners involved with the selection of the best nutritional supplements to take, especially if they are open to integrative or holistic approaches to care

2.     Health diet and lifestyle – includes a Mediterranean or similar type of diet, exercise or physical fitness and stress management or relaxation techniques


1.     Roth EM, Harris WS.  Fish oil for primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.  Curr Atheroscler Rep 2010;12:66-72.

2.     DiNicolantonio JJ, Bhutani J, et al.  Coenzyme Q10 for the treatment of heart failure: a review of the literature.  Open Heart 2015;Epub Oct 19, 2015.

3.     Wang J, Xiong X, Feng B.  Effect of crataegus usage in cardiovascular disease prevention: an evidence-based approach.  Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013;Epub Dec 29, 2013.

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