For many people, monitoring blood pressure and being mindful of cholesterol is a fundamental part of everyday life. Fortunately, there are a number of safe, natural therapies, including supplements for heart health, that address the underlying causes of cardiovascular health concerns. And getting to the root of these problems can allow you to effectively maintain your heart health.
For starters, lifestyle changes are the foundation of my heart health program, including a high-fiber, low-glycemic diet with lots of vegetables and legumes, adequate protein and modest amounts of healthy fats, along with a sensible exercise program.
In addition to eating an appropriate diet and engaging in regular exercise, there are several targeted supplements, vitamins, and minerals that can provide extra support to your cardiovascular system. Here are five supplements for heart health that I recommend adding to your arsenal.
Nutrients for Heart Health
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is one of the most important heart health supplements. CoQ10 helps to produce energy within the mitochondria of cells. Every cell in your body depends on this energy, and this is especially true for your heart. While each of the muscle cells in your biceps contains 200 mitochondria, every heart cell has 5,000!
CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight free radicals. In addition, CoQ10 helps maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promotes arterial health, and supports a strong heartbeat. I recommend taking 100–300 mg of CoQ10 daily, in divided doses, with meals.
Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital components of cell membranes and precursors to important chemical messengers. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are particularly important for overall cardiovascular health.
They support arterial health by promoting proper blood vessel dilation, reducing “stiffness,” and improving vascular function. Increased consumption of omega-3 EFAs also helps to promote normal cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to maintain normal blood pressure.
Almost all fresh, raw, unprocessed nuts, grains and seeds contain substantial quantities of the omega-6 fatty acids. Fish, squid and krill oil supplements, flaxseed, and cold-water fish are the most abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
L-carnitine is another key nutrient for cardiovascular health. It helps chaperone EFAs into the mitochondria, where they are turned into energy. L-carnitine works with CoQ10 to help ensure your heart has the energy it needs to keep pumping. I recommend 1,000–2,000 mg of this supplement for heart health once or twice daily, between meals.
Niacin, or nicotinic acid, is a form of vitamin B3 that supports healthy cholesterol levels by raising levels of HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL and triglycerides. Its primary downside is the flushing (a discomforting warm, tingly, itchy feeling) it can cause when it dilates the blood vessels and subsequently promotes the release of histamine.
You can minimize flushing by starting with a low dose and building up gradually over the course of a few weeks. Taking this supplement for heart health in divided doses with meals also reduces flushing. A baby aspirin (81 mg) half an hour before taking niacin at bedtime is helpful as well. Note: I don’t recommend inositol hexaniacinate, or “no-flush” niacin, for lipid lowering because it doesn’t work as well.
I recommend taking 1,000–2,000 mg of niacin daily, in divided doses. Caution: High-dose niacin is best taken under the supervision of a doctor.
Magnesium is a vital supplement for heart health because it helps maintain and support relaxation and dilation of vascular and arterial walls and shuttles potassium and sodium into and out of cells. Magnesium also supports healthy heart rhythms, particularly when given intravenously; although oral supplementation (which doesn’t require a physician’s assistance) is helpful as well. I recommend at least 500 mg of magnesium daily.
Want to know how your cardiovascular health measures up? Take the Whitaker Wellness Heart Health Test.