by Laurel Sterling, MA, RD, CDN
February is National Heart Month, and coincidentally Valentine’s Day too! We need to protect those magnificent hearts of ours as much as possible. An average heart can pump 2,000 gallons of blood each day throughout the body, which is amazing to me. As most of us know, in order to keep our heart functioning optimally, it’s important we try to avoid smoking, alcohol consumption, excessive stress, and environmental pollutants and that we maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Certain herbals and nutritional supplements also support a healthy heart. Here are some of my favorites:
Fish oil is the first of the nutrients I will highlight for heart health. Many cardiovascular benefits of fish oil include: promoting healthy blood clotting, supporting normal heart rhythm, maintaining healthy normal triglyceride levels (circulating blood fats), supporting normal blood pressure, and promoting optimal blood vessel health. The omega-3s that it provides also support our immune system.
Vitamin D is one of the most beneficial nutritional supplements for supporting heart and immune system health. However, the amount of vitamin D3 required varies from person to person. The best way to know how much you need is to have your vitamin D levels tested by your health practitioner.
Research over the past several years has been showing how valuable and necessary vitamin K is for adults as well as children in promoting healthy cardiovascular function, blood flow (by maintaining vascular elasticity), and bone and teeth calcification. Vitamin D3 is important for calcium transport and absorption, to help ensure vitamin K makes it to the parts of our body where it’s needed most.
Most of vitamin K’s benefits are derived from its role in making several key proteins, particularly osteocalcin and matrix GLA protein. More technically, vitamin K promotes the carboxylation of these proteins. (Carboxylation adds one carbon, one hydrogen, and two oxygen atoms.) Without carboxylation, these proteins cannot do their jobs. Without enough vitamin K2 as MK-7 in the body, a significant amount of osteocalcin will remain inactive and unable to bind calcium.
Magnesium is a very important mineral that oversees over 350 enzymatic processes in our body. It assists in immunity, irritability, rapid heartbeat, relaxing smooth muscles, maintaining healthy normal blood sugar, and so much more. Magnesium is extremely important for muscles, and the heart is a crucial muscle. Start with a small amount of chelated magnesium, like 250mg in the evening before bed. The amount that each person will tolerate varies.
Calcium is very important also for the heart. Like other muscles in the body, the heart requires calcium for contraction. Calcium flows into the muscle cells and works as a switch to allow heart muscle fibers to slide past each other and contract. Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3 & vitamin K1 and K2 all work together to benefit our cardiovascular system.
Adding more antioxidants into our regime has proven to be highly beneficial to heart and overall health. Antioxidants defeat free radicals and are responsible for preventing oxidative stress. Now we could eat 70% or higher dark chocolate to get more antioxidants, which may not be the best thing to do because some of us can over eat a good thing like dark chocolate…present company included, or use supplemental antioxidants like vitamin E and CoQ10.
Vitamin E, is an important antioxidant that protects our tissues. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is uniquely suited to intercept free radicals, and protects the fats in low density lipoproteins (LDLs) from oxidation.
CoQ10 is another important antioxidant and fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies produce. We produce CoQ10 in the mitochondria of our cells, which is called the powerhouse of the cell. This is where ATP (energy production) is done. CoQ10 is a key component of the electron transfer chain involving ATP production. It is concentrated in our muscle cells, liver, and highly concentrated in our heart muscle. There are many factors why we may not have enough in our body. As we age, we make less of it, and it is very depleted by statin drugs and many blood pressure drugs.
To improve mitochondrial function, you can also opt to add in D-Ribose. This is a naturally-occurring carbohydrate that promotes healthy heart function, provides energy for the cells, and increases muscle strength. If you are occasionally fatigued or have been excessively work out, ribose is a supplement you may want to look more into adding to your supplement routine.
Another is the amino acid L-Carnitine. It plays a critical role in increasing ATP-energy production, and it is responsible for transporting fatty acids into the cell where energy is produced. L-Carnitine also improves triglycerides levels.
As you can see there are many important nutrients that support heart health. What you decide to add in and how much you should take would best be determined by a health care practitioner. A special note to those who may already be on heart medications is to be sure to check with your practitioner as many of these (fish oil, vitamin E, CoQ10) are mild blood thinners or mild clotting agents (like vitamin K) and may not be able to be taken with certain anticoagulant medications. Help maintain a healthy heart and cardiovascular wellness through a variety of supplement options and combinations.
The Daily Dose blog features health and wellness articles from Senior Nutritionist & Educator Jolie Root, LPN,LNC; Nutritionist & Educator Laurel Sterling, MA, RDN, CDN; and Featured Guest Blogger Karen Roth, MSNC. Other guest bloggers will also join us.