Support Your Heart Health With These 5 Supplements
With reports indicating that only one in five American adults have optimal heart health, many doctors and researchers are looking for ways to help support cardiovascular health in the other 80 percent of us. Further, by the time we reach our eighth decade, up to 90 percent of adults experience dysfunctional heart health in some form.
Although increasing age is a leading risk factor for heart conditions, growing older doesn’t have to result in declining cardiovascular health. While lifestyle factors like nutrition, exercise, and stress management are certainly top-tier ways to support heart health, research has shown that some supplements can help, too.
Keep in mind that supplements are never a magic pill but, rather, a helpful addition to “supplement” a healthy lifestyle. In this article, read more about the top five supplements that have been studied for their ability to support various aspects of cardiovascular health.
5 Supplements to Support Heart Health
1. CoQ10 Ubiquinol
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential compound made in the mitochondrial membrane—as a coenzyme, it’s considered a helper molecule that activates and assists other enzymes with functioning correctly. One crucial role that CoQ10 plays is in the electron transport chain, where it facilitates the cellular production of energy in the form of ATP. While CoQ10 is found in all organs and tissues, the highest concentrations are located in the heart, kidneys, liver, and muscles.
There are two forms of CoQ10—ubiquinol and ubiquinone. While both are needed at different times for efficient ATP production, ubiquinol is considered the more bioavailable and active form of CoQ10.
The strong antioxidant activity of CoQ10 is a leading reason why the compound supports heart health, as it can protect cardiovascular cells from oxidative stress—the buildup of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that damage cells and DNA.
CoQ10 also supports healthier inflammatory pathways and supplies the heart with some of its significant energetic needs. As discussed in this cardiology review paper, the driving force behind cardiac dysfunction may be inadequate mitochondrial energy production, which CoQ10 can help to support.
Further, a meta-analysis analyzed the results from 14 randomized controlled trials, finding that cardiac patients who were supplemented with CoQ10 had significantly reduced mortality risk compared to those taking a placebo. Similarly, researchers reported in a review that CoQ10 supplementation reduced levels of cardiovascular fibrosis—scarring—in older adults, which reduced the risk of cardiovascular-related mortality.
Calcium-alpha-ketoglutarate (Ca-AKG) is the supplement form of AKG—a molecule most known for its role in stimulating energy production. AKG is a vital component of the Krebs cycle, a series of reactions that creates ATP from the foods we eat.
AKG functions as an antioxidant and may help the body to fight free radical damage. Although AKG is created naturally in the body, its production tends to diminish with age, with levels reported to drop by 10-fold between the ages of 40 and 80.
In addition to potentially lengthening lifespan and maintaining muscle function, Ca-AKG may help to support heart health with age. This is partly due to its status as an antioxidant, as oxidative stress is a leading cause of damage and dysfunction to these organs.
One study found that supplemental Ca-AKG supported aged mice’s blood vessel elasticity—a measure of strong cardiovascular health. Similarly, a 2018 study looked at how AKG administration affected markers of heart and brain health in mice with cardiovascular damage. The researchers found that AKG helped fight oxidative stress and free radicals, which correlated with better biomarkers of heart structure and function—plus, it supported cognitive activity.
Hydroxytyrosol is one of the primary antioxidant compounds found in olive leaf extract and olive oil—a known contributor to health and longevity. Some of the noted cardiovascular effects of hydroxytyrosol include protecting cholesterol from oxidative damage, maintaining normal cholesterol concentrations and blood pressure, and supporting healthier cardiac inflammatory responses.
In a trial of adults with abnormal lipid and cholesterol levels, supplementing with hydroxytyrosol and pomegranate extract for 20 weeks led to significant reductions in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increases in HDL (“good”) cholesterol, which indicates cardioprotective activity.
4. Krill Oil
Krill oil is a supplement rich in omega-3 fatty acids and the antioxidant astaxanthin. Omega-3 fats support cardiovascular health by incorporating into cell membranes and supporting healthier inflammatory responses that can protect blood vessels, endothelial tissue, and arteries surrounding the heart.
Adequate consumption of omega-3 fats is linked to healthy cholesterol and lipid profiles, normalized blood pressure, and reduced blood clotting. These heart-healthy effects stem from the fats’ ability to support healthier inflammatory pathways.
While omega-3 fats are certainly helpful to consume on their own, krill oil has a leg up on fish oil due to its high astaxanthin content. Astaxanthin is a pigmented compound known as a carotenoid, and it has exceptionally high antioxidant activity.
Unlike most other carotenoids, astaxanthin has a unique structure that remains both inside and outside of the cell membrane. This allows it to inhibit fat oxidation and scavenge for inflammatory ROS from all sides. A buildup of ROS causes oxidative stress, which contributes to aging and damage to cardiovascular cells.
Resveratrol is a compound found in several foods, including red grapes, cocoa, peanuts, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries. However, drinking red wine is not sufficient to get a clinically relevant dose of resveratrol—a more efficient way is through supplements. But not all resveratrol supplements are created equal—the more bioavailable form is trans-resveratrol, as opposed to the poorly absorbed cis-resveratrol.
Resveratrol supports heart health by fighting inflammation, providing antioxidant activity, and strengthening blood vessels and arteries. It also benefits the cardiovascular system by increasing nitric oxide production—a compound that helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation—and protecting the function of the mitochondria in heart cells.
It also promotes autophagy, our body’s internal recycling program that clears damaged and dysfunctional compounds. This process is essential for protecting the quality and function of heart cells; low levels of autophagy are linked to cardiovascular aging and dysfunction.
In a randomized controlled trial, supplementing cardiac patients with 100 mg per day of resveratrol reduced inflammation and improved several markers of heart health, including left ventricular function (our heart’s main pumping chamber), lung capacity, exercise tolerance, and overall quality of life.
Utilizing Supplements to Harness a Healthy Heart
There’s no getting around the fact that you need a healthy lifestyle to support cardiovascular function with age—but some supplements can help boost your efforts.
Compounds like CoQ10 (ubiquinol), calcium-AKG, hydroxytyrosol or olive leaf extract, krill oil, and trans-resveratrol have all shown promise for supporting heart health. Some of the functions of these impressive compounds include providing potent antioxidant activity, supporting healthier inflammatory responses, promoting autophagy and mitochondrial function, and normalizing blood pressure and lipids.
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