The heart is the largest muscle in the human body. It pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through your circulatory system every day. The heart is essential to the function of the human body, because it forces blood to your organs so that they can become oxygenated. When your heart is unhealthy or not functioning properly, it can severely affect your health.
There are a number of ways to ensure that you are taking good care of your heart. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are key. Beyond that, supplementing can be an excellent support method. This guide is all about supporting heart health with the right kind of supplementation.
The Importance of a Healthy Heart
The health of your heart affects every aspect of your overall health. A healthy heart supports the health of your entire body by pumping blood to all parts of the human body. Blood transports vital nutrients, hormones, and chemicals that your cells need to survive. Blood also cleans the body by extracting waste which is then removed in the liver, kidneys, or intestines. Your heart is so vital that heart health is often directly indicative of your overall health.
Heart health is connected to oral health, ocular health, intestinal health, mental health, and much much more. It is also correlated to lifespan. Those who take care of their hearts and ensure that their heart is healthy have lower blood pressure, and less heartbeats per minute. Having high blood pressure or a high heart rate is a risk factor for a shorter life span.
Types of Potential Heart Issues
When we describe an unhealthy heart, we often are referring to different forms of heart disease. There are numerous forms of heart diseases that one can develop through a variety of lifestyle choices and habits, although some issues are genetic. The term “heart disease” can also be used to describe cardiovascular diseases. Common heart and cardiovascular diseases include:
- High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure is also called hypertension, and is a condition in which blood exerts too much pressure on artery walls. The exact causes of high blood pressure are not singular, because it develops over time and differently from person to person. Some people have secondary hypertension, however, which is high blood pressure caused directly by an underlying medical condition. Risk factors of developing high blood pressure include aging, genetics, being overweight or obese, lack of physical activity, tobacco usage, eating too much sodium, vitamin D and/or potassium deficiency, and excessive alcohol consumption. There are many health complications that can result from high blood pressure, including stroke, heart failure, aneurysm, weakened and narrowed blood vessels in the kidneys, metabolic syndrome, cognitive issues and more.
- Coronary Artery Disease – Coronary artery disease is also called coronary heart disease, and is a result of the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Arterial plaque is the combination of cholesterol, calcium, fat, and other substances in the bloodstream. Coronary artery disease develops when plaque begins to enter the walls of blood vessels. Over time, the plaque builds up and begins to inflame blood vessel walls, resulting in an increased risk of heart attacks and blood clots. The symptoms of coronary artery disease are called angina, and include pain in the chest such as aching, burning, feelings of fullness, numbness, pressure, etc. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stress, unhealthy diet, smoking, lack of physical activity, and more.
- Cardiac Ischemia – Ischemia is a condition in which oxygen flow is restricted to certain parts of the body. Cardiac ischemia is a condition in which oxygen and blood flow are restricted or reduced to the heart muscle. This happens when an artery that is directly connected to the heart is narrowed or blocked. If the blockage or restriction lasts a long time, it can cause a heart attack which may lead to heart tissue death. It may also not be severe enough to cause such immediate complications, in which case it is referred to as silent ischemia. Risk factors include experiencing previous heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity, unhealthy diet, and more.
- Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis a condition in which the arteries harden and narrow. Atherosclerosis slowly blocks the arteries and can lead to heart attacks, peripheral vascular disease, and strokes. It is generally caused by high blood pressure, smoking, or high cholesterol which damages the endothelial cells that line the artery walls. The endothelial wall damage allows LDL cholesterol to pass through to the walls of the arteries, causing white blood cells to be deployed. Plaque then builds up on artery walls, hardening and narrowing the arteries. Risk factors include insulin resistance, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, aging, genetics, unhealthy diets, etc.
- Congestive Heart Failure – Heart failure refers to the weakening of the heart muscles, meaning that the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently. Heart failure means that blood begins to move more slowly through the body, and blood pressure in the heart increases. This results in reduced oxygen and nutrient flow to your cells, organs, and tissues, which is disastrous for your health. Congestive heart failure is the domino effect that occurs when heart chambers are forced to retain more blood in order to combat the lack of blood flow; weakening heart muscle walls. This then causes the kidneys to retain water and salt, and other parts of the body to retain fluids. Risk factors for congestive heart failure include high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, previous heart attacks, coronary artery disease, etc.
- Arrhythmia – Arrhythmia refers to the improper or abnormal beating of the heart, or the change from a normal sequence of electrical impulses to an irregular sequence in the heart. Improper or abnormal heart-beating causes the heart to be unable to effectively pump blood throughout the body. This can affect every organ in the body, sometimes causing organ failures. Arrhythmias occur when the normal electrical conduction pathways to the heart are interrupted, the heart’s natural pacemaker develops an abnormal rhythm, or another part of the heart takes over as the heart’s pacemaker. Types of arrhythmias include atrial fibrillations, bradycardias, conduction disorders, premature contractions, tachycardias, and ventricular fibrillations. High-fat diets, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, abuse of alcohol, and more are all risk factors for arrhythmias.
- Peripheral Artery Disease – Peripheral artery disease is a circulatory disease that affects the extremities of the body. Generally, it is the restriction of blood flow due to narrowed arteries, often to the legs. Symptoms such as leg pain are produced from this disease. Atherosclerosis causes peripheral artery disease. Risk factors for this disease include smoking, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, obesity, aging, high cholesterol, etc.
How Can Supplements Help Support the Heart?
Supplements can support heart and cardiovascular system health in a number of ways. Supplementing is a method of improving your diet, and as we have discussed through the list of common heart diseases, one of the major risk factors of heart diseases is an unhealthy diet. On top of that, any heart disease that lists high blood pressure or high cholesterol as a risk factor is inherently listing an unhealthy diet, because an unhealthy diet puts you at risk for developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
With that said, the foods you eat still have the greatest effect on your heart health. Adding supplements can help, but they cannot fix a poor diet on their own.
Why Should You Consider Taking Supplements to Promote Heart Health?
Supplements are designed to supplement your diet with what it may be lacking naturally, or to provide it a beneficial boost of extra nutrients. The majority of Americans do not get all of the necessary nutrients from their diets, meaning that they are malnourished. Supplementing can help nourish the body and keep you healthier, in more ways than one.
Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body, supplying the rest of your organs with nutrients and fluids to keep your cells alive. Supplementing can help protect your heart, which protects your overall health. Heart disease happens to be one of the most common causes of death, causing 1 in 4 deaths in the United States alone.
10 Supplements With Heart Support Benefits
What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a chemical compound commonly found in wine, berries, grapes, and peanuts. It is also considered a polyphenol, which is a form of antioxidant. Highly bioactive resveratrol has been shown to help promote heart health and circulatory health. In an Australian study of men with high blood pressure and postmenopausal women, highly bioactive resveratrol was given to participants and the brachial artery was studied. The study found that after consuming the resveratrol, the participants experienced an increase in blood flow within an hour of consumption. It’s now considered one of the best heart supplements out there.
How Resveratrol May Help Promote Heart Health
The antioxidant properties of resveratrol can help protect the endothelial lining of the arteries from oxidative damage, which ensures that blood flows through the body properly. Resveratrol also supports the production of nitric oxide by the endothelium, which keeps blood vessels dilated.
How to Take Resveratrol
Resveratrol is fat-soluble, meaning that is is more bioavailable if taken with food. Dosage recommendations are generally between 200 mg and 500 mg daily. This resveratrol dosage is considered safe for long term use and also effective for producing the desired health benefits.
Resveratrol Side Effects
Some people may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, stomach cramps, or diarrhea. Resveratrol is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, because its effects have not been studied on women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What is Niacin?
Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, is a vitamin that is water-soluble and found in many foods. Niacin is found in yeast, milk, fish, eggs, beans, vegetables, cereal grains and more. Niacin is necessary for your body’s cells to properly utilize fats and sugars. It is required for metabolizing food, and you must consume niacin daily because the body does not store it. A lack of niacin contributes to a condition called pellagra, and symptoms include cognitive impairments, inflammation of the skin, and digestive issues. Niacin is a good heart supplement because it is capable of enhancing the amounts of good cholesterol in the body, which is beneficial to the heart and circulatory system.
How to Take Niacin
Higher doses of Niacin can have adverse side effects, so it is recommended to speak with your doctor before taking niacin supplements.
Niacin Side Effects
Niacin may produce side effects such as flushing of the skin, itchiness, or redness if taken in excess. Some people may experience gastrointestinal discomfort. Be sure to follow the directions on the supplement packaging.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is fat-soluble vitamin that the body produces endogenously when sunlight hits the skin. It also exists in some foods and is sometimes added to foods. Vitamin D is important to how the body uses calcium to form and strengthen bones. It is also important to the modulation of cell growth, reducing inflammation, supporting the immune system, regulating insulin levels, and supporting cardiovascular health.
How Vitamin D May Help Promote Heart Health
Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and has been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, peripheral arterial disease, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks. Because vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for numerous cardiovascular and heart diseases, supplementing with vitamin D can help reduce your risk of developing the deficiency.
Studies have been conducted that have recently discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D and cardiovascular health. Over a billion people are vitamin D deficient worldwide, leading some to claim that vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide epidemic.
How to Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, and is best absorbed when taken with food. Follow dosage instructions on the supplement, and do not take more unless recommended to do so by a doctor. For adults, recommended vitamin D dosage ranges from 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily.
Vitamin D Side Effects
Side effects are not generally produced from taking vitamin D, unless too much is taken. Side effects of taking too much vitamin D include weakness, sleepiness, fatigue, headache, loss, of appetite, dry mouth, and more.
What is Coenzyme Q10?
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance and an antioxidant found in every cell in the human body. It is found in trace amounts in a variety of foods, but is found in higher amounts in organ meats, beef, soy oil, sardines, and peanuts. As a coenzyme, CoQ10 assists enzymes in processes such as food digestion, and it helps to protects the health of the heart and skeletal muscles. It is found is very high concentrations in the heart muscle. CoQ10 comes in two different forms: ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Ubiquinol is the active antioxidant form of CoQ10, and ubiquinone is the oxidized form that is partially converted into ubiquinol when used by the human body.
How Coenzyme Q10 May Help Promote Heart Health
CoQ10 promotes heart and circulatory health by supporting the functioning of the heart muscle, maintaining the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, and supporting the health of blood vessel walls.
How to Take Coenzyme Q10
CoQ10 is most easily absorbed when taken with meals and in divided doses. Most common dosage is between 100 to 200 mg per day.
Coenzyme Q10 Side Effects
The most common reported side effect of CoQ10 is mild insomnia, however some reports of abdominal pain, rashes, dizziness, heartburn, headache, and fatigue have been reported. In general, side adverse effects are uncommon when CoQ10 is taken correctly.
What is L-Theanine?
L-theanine is an amino acid commonly found in tea. It is well known for it’s effects on a person’s circadian rhythm, also known as the body’s sleep-wake cycle. It is touted for its ability to relax, enhance, and rejuvenate the body and mind. It is one of the active ingredients in tea that is so beneficial to your health. It also happens to be the source of the flavors found in high quality and expensive green teas, with the price of the tea being directly correlated to L-theanine content.
How L-Theanine May Help Promote Heart Health
L-theanine is one of the reasons that tea has been long revered in the East for its health benefits. It has heart and circulatory benefits, as well as rejuvenating and relaxing qualities that result in reduced stress on the heart, and relaxed arteries.
How to Take L-Theanine
Common doses of L-theanine are 100 to 200 mg daily. Because L-theanine is a water soluble amino acid, it does not have to be taken with food.
L-Theanine Side Effects
Very few adverse side effects have been reported from the proper use of L-theanine supplements. Typically, adverse side effects are derived from an allergic reaction, and include gastrointestinal symptoms. Some people may experience headaches or dizziness.
What are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are supplements that include a diverse selection of essential vitamins and minerals designed to promote overall health and supplement your diet. Multivitamin is an umbrella term, so there are many different types and different formulas of multivitamins on the market. Different formulas may be tailored to supporting a particular aspect of health, or supporting growth and development. Examples include prenatal multivitamins, multivitamins tailored towards the needs of men and women, and multivitamins intended for heart health support.
How Multivitamins Help Promote Heart Health
Multivitamins provide you with the health benefits of essential vitamins and minerals, and they help ensure that you do not develop deficiencies. They also have overarching health benefits, and benefits specific to the heart and cardiovascular system.
How to Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins should be taken before meals daily for their full benefits to be realized. Multivitamins all contain different formulas, and therefore different dosages of certain vitamins and minerals, so be sure to follow the specific instructions for dosing.
Multivitamin Side Effects
Some people may experience adverse side effects such as mild diarrhea, nausea, or upset stomach. If these side effects do occur, try switching to a multivitamin with a different formula to see what works best for you.
What are B-Complex Vitamins?
B-complex vitamins include all of the known essential water soluble vitamins besides vitamin C. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cobalamins are the vitamins that are included in vitamin B-complex. Each vitamin plays a different role in your health, and all together, they have a highly beneficial synergistic interaction within the body.
Thiamine (B1) is necessary for converting food into fuel. Riboflavin (B2) has the same job, but also for processing amino acids and activating vitamin B6 and folic acid. Niacin (B3) is needed for processing alcohol, forming fat from carbohydrates, and regulating cholesterol. Pantothenic acid (B5) is necessary for the Kreb’s cycle of energy. Pyridoxine (B6) is needed for processing all amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Biotin (B7) is a coenzyme for the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Folic acid is needed for the reparation and growth of cells in the body. Finally, cobalamin (B12) is needed for the nervous system to function as well as the process of DNA replication.
How B-Complex Vitamins Help Promote Heart Health
Vitamin B-complex is a variety of vitamins that has positive synergistic effects on heart health, cardiovascular health, and overall health.
How to Take B-Complex Vitamins
Because vitamin B-complex is water soluble, it does not have to be taken with meals and can be taken at any time of day. If the product contains vitamin C as well, take it with a glass of water. To extract the health benefits from a vitamin B-complex supplement, take it daily as directed.
B-Complex Vitamin Side Effects
Some adverse side effects have been reported, such as diarrhea, stomach upset, and nausea. Though side effects have been reported, they are not common if used as directed.
What are Fiber Supplements?
Fiber supplements supplement your diet with fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is soluble in water, and has a consistency that is similar to gelatin. Insoluble fiber stays relatively intact throughout the digestive process, and is solid. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol and moderates levels of blood sugar, while insoluble fiber improves the health of the digestive system by helping in cleaning the gut and improving bowel movements. Because fibers clean your gut, they also help to detoxify your body, and support the health of your immune system. Fiber also can act as a prebiotic, fertilizing healthy bacteria in the gut.
How Fiber Supplements May Help Promote Heart Health
Blond psyllium husk may lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol, which is a risk factor for a majority of heart and cardiovascular diseases.
How to Take Fiber Supplements
Drink at least eight ounces of water with a fiber supplement. You can take a fiber supplement with or without food at any time of day. Make sure that you follow the directions of the product unless directed to do otherwise by a doctor.
Fiber Supplement Side Effects
Fiber supplements may produce gas, bloating, or abdominal pain as a side effect if you shock your system with extra fiber. To avoid these possible side effects, introduce a fiber supplement into your diet slowly, with small doses leading up to larger doses.
What is Policosanol?
Policosanol is a fat-soluble alcohol compound that is derived from Cuban sugarcane. Though it does come from a sugar plant, it is not sugar. It actually comes from the waxy outer coating of the sugar cane. Cuba mandated medical research programs be launched, and the Cuban Institute for Research on Sugar Cane Derivatives (ICIDCA) was formed.
Through studying sugar cane and all of its properties, they discovered policosanol. Studies have shown that policosanol, when taken long term, lowers LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol content in the blood. The active ingredient in policosanol is called octacosanol, which policosanol contains 60% of. Overall, there have been 30 studies that have come to the same conclusion. Though the compound was originally discovered in sugarcane, it can also be found in wheat and beeswax.
How Policosanol May Help Promote Heart Health
Policosanol is a good heart health supplement because of its beneficial effects on cholesterol.
How to Take Policosanol
The normal dosage of policosanol is 5 to 10 mg taken twice daily, and most people do not exceed 20 mg per day. Policosanol is fat-soluble, which means that it is better absorbed with meals.
Policosanol Side Effects
Some people have reported side effects such as rash, reddening of the skin, dizziness, upset stomach etc. These side effects are not common. If you have a bleeding disorder, policosanol can increase your chances of bleeding.
Green Tea Extract
What is Green Tea Extract?
Green tea extract is basically green tea in the form of a supplement, harnessed for the purpose of supplementing with the polyphenols (otherwise known as antioxidants) present in green tea. One of the most beneficial polyphenols in green tea is called a catechin. Green tea catechins have been shown to benefit almost every major organ in the human body. Green tea extract also contains caffeine, which can function as an alternative to coffee. There are options that are decaffeinated for those who are not looking for a buzz.
How Green Tea Extract May Help Promote Heart Health
Green tea was shown in one study to reduce LDL cholesterol by 16%.
How to Take Green Tea Extract
If you take a green tea extract supplement that contains caffeine, make sure to drink plenty of water with your dose. For dosing, follow the specific directions of your supplement. The supplement can be taken with or without food, but taking it with fish oil can help to maximize its health benefits.
Green Tea Extract Side Effects
Green tea extract side effects are generally due to caffeine content, and may include diarrhea, nervousness, sleep issues, etc. If you are sensitive to caffeine you can try a decaffeinated product.