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5 top supplements to keep your heart going strong

November 26, 2014 (Updated: May 7, 2020)
Lily Moran

With so many moving parts in our bodies, the trillions of cells, in the multiple major organs, all endlessly interacting with each other, why single out the heart? What about cognitive health? Kidney, liver, joint and mobility health, lungs, skin, and digestive system health?

Good question.

One reason is that heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans. We can’t let that distinction remain unchallenged, year after year. We want heart disease off the list, not topping it.

Another reason is that an unhealthy heart threatens your health—your entire body. The car analogy always works here. When the pump that keeps our blood circulating—the engine, essentially—isn’t functioning well, then nothing else does.

Here are the top 5 supplements we recommend to protect your engine and keep it running at peak performance for years to come:

#1: Omega-3 for heart health

The first on our list is omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). We recommend them to everyone, even those in perfect health. They’re that important.

The medical community nearly unanimously agrees that chronic, low-grade inflammation welcomes almost every disease in the book—diabetes, cancer, arthritis, digestive disorders, cognitive degeneration, and of course, heart disease.

Once again, the car analogy adds dimension. Those rubber and plastic tubes you see under the hood? Imagine that inside, they’re full of clumps of sticky stuff keeping oil and gas and other necessary fluids from getting where they’re needed.

Now imagine that on the outside, they’re drying out and losing their elasticity.

So inside your veins and arteries, you’ve got obstructed blood flow preventing the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients. Every cell in your body becomes under-nourished, and accordingly, under-performing.

At the same time, there’s trouble on the outside of those veins and arteries. A healthy, forceful blood flow would keep them supple and flexible. But if they become rigid and brittle, they can literally crack open. In which case, you could die or suffer a stroke.

Wouldn’t you rather have healthy, free-flowing veins and arteries?

Bring on the omega-3, and:

  • Raise your HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Thin your blood and protect against clots
  • Keep your blood vessels flexible
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, arthritis
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Protect against hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Lower triglycerides (blood fats)
  • Regulate heart arrhythmias
  • Protect and fortify the immune system
  • Balance insulin resistance (pre-diabetes)
  • Reduce the symptoms of asthma and allergies
  • Enhance memory, focus, and attention
  • Create healthy new cells while repairing old ones

There’s a simple blood test to determine whether chronic inflammation is keeping you from enjoying full, vital, happy health. It measures the presence of C-reactive protein, a marker that always appears with excess inflammation, and points the way toward reducing it.

How much omega-3 does your heart need? Until recently, eating more omega-3-rich fish would been one way to go. But tragically, any fish rich in omega-3 is also rich in mercury, heavy metals, and other toxins. Get your omega-3s from a daily dose of 1,500 mg of EPA and DHA (the top two EFAs) from a quality supplement.

#2: Curcumin reduces inflammation

With inflammation in mind as Public Health Enemy # 1, enter curcumin, an extract of the spice turmeric. It’s been used by healers all over the world for centuries—who knew nothing of its chemical composition, nothing about why and how it worked—only that it worked.

Now we know, from thousands of hours of research, how and why curcumin deserves its place on our list. Everything curcumin does helps prevent inflammation from getting a foothold in your body, and directly or indirectly protects and nourishes your heart:

  • Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Improves circulation and blood vessel flexibility
  • Slows the effects of aging
  • Helps detox your body
  • Protects against cognitive disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Supports healthy kidney and liver function

Be careful not to confuse turmeric with curcumin. Turmeric is a root that contains only around 5 percent curcumin. You can use turmeric in all sorts of delicious recipes, but it won’t deliver enough curcumin to help you unless it’s in almost every meal. This is the case in Indian, Latin, Asian, and South American cuisines, for example. So go with a curcumin supplement with high bioavailability for optimum absorption in your body.

We recommend taking 500 mg of curcumin up to three times daily. As always, especially if you’re taking blood thinners, talk with your physician or pharmacist before adding any supplement to your daily regimen.

#3: Vitamin D3 supports healthy blood pressure

What if I tell you that lacking just one essential vitamin makes you twice as likely to die prematurely?

And what if I tell you that more than two-thirds of Americans don’t get enough of that vitamin—and you might be among them?

Ready to dash off to the vitamin store?

Good. Weather permitting, hop to it—with plenty of skin bared to the sun. That’s because sunlight on your skin is essential for helping your body make life-and health-prolonging vitamin D3.

Many people recognize vitamin D3’s importance for maintaining bone health. But let’s give our so-called “sunshine vitamin” our respect for going above and beyond.

D3 makes our list for outstanding contributions to:

  • Reducing your risk of high blood pressure
  • Lowering high blood pressure
  • Keeping your immune system in top shape

Bonus points for also:

  • Reducing your risk of depression
  • Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and several kinds of cancer
  • Helping delay (even prevent) cognitive decline, generally, and Alzheimer’s, specifically
  • Increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphate

This is the only vitamin we know of that’s got a light switch—literally—in the form of sunlight on our bare skin.

But if all it takes is sunshine on skin to produce it, why are so many Americans so dangerously deficient?

Let me count the ways…

Air pollution that reflects the UVB rays back into the atmosphere instead of letting them shine through…too much time spent behind walls, including glass, which lets in light, but blocks the UVB rays that manage to get through…fear of overexposure leading to skin cancer, which is exaggerated…the scarcity of natural D3 vitamins in food…a location where winter daylight is both weak and scarce…our decreasing ability to absorb nutrients as we age…

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

So how do we get more D3 into our lives? And how much is enough?

Let’s dispense with the skin cancer worries first. We don’t need to tan or burn—which, yes, can be a precursor to skin damage. We can produce all of the D3 we need by exposing our skin for a short time—15–30 minutes—every day.

Several factors affect how much D3 your body produces—time of year and time of day, the climate and pollution where you live, and your skin type.

But these ground rules apply regardless of those factors:

  • It’s better to expose a large area of your skin, such as your back, rather than a small area such as your face or arms
  • Pale skin makes D3 more quickly than dark skin
  • A good quality supplement can ensure adequate intake with the snap of a finger or the swipe of a credit card

Given all the variables, the only way to determine your vitamin D3 level—and accordingly, your supplemental need, if any—is to test.

A simple blood test repeated every six months can help determine if your blood serum level is at the ideal 50-70 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter).

  • If you’re in that range, we recommend that every man, woman, and child take 1,500 IUs per day
  • If the result is less than 50 ng/ml, we recommend up to 4,000 IUs of D3 daily, and up to 30 minutes of direct sunlight. (Some doctors recommend up to 10,000 IUs—too much, in our opinion, and not supported by sufficient long-term study.)

Are you at risk for D3-deficiency?

With D3-deficiency, the usual risk factors are in full force:

  • Smoking
  • Too much alcohol
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise/sedentary lifestyle
  • Social isolation

Correct as many of these as you can, and your risks plummet. Ask your doctor if a D3 supplement might help you get and stay D3-sufficient.

#4: B vitamins reduce homocysteine

When you eat protein, your body produces the amino acid homocysteine, which breaks down into compounds you need to manage energy production in your cells.

But there’s a risk factor—too much homocysteine in the blood is linked to an increased risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots
  • Oxidized LDL (bad cholesterol), the kind that damages arteries

It takes only a moderate amount of homocysteine to triple your risk of heart attack or stroke. And strangely, it’s one of those known risks—that’s not often discussed outside the lab or the doctor’s office. Most people know a little about good and bad cholesterol, for example, and good and bad bacteria.

But few people know the dangers of homocysteine.

Enter: Vitamins B6 and B12. They’re multi-tasking team players in an impressive list of essential interactions in our bodies, including energy production, digestion, cognitive function, and more.

So what happens when vitamins B6 and B12 meet excessive homocysteine? You’ve got a platform on which to build heart health protection that deserves Top 5 status.

But not just any B6 and B12 vitamins. You need a supplement that includes higher-quality methylated B6 and B12. This special formula targets homocysteine and keeps it at non-threatening levels.

But there’s more.

B6 has been shown to protect against…you guessed it…inflammation, Public Health Enemy #1. Increasing your B6 intake can be a game changer if you have ailments ending in “-itis,” which literally means ‘inflamed.”

There’s still more.

Combine B vitamins with folic acid (also called folate) and you’ve got even more protection for your heart.

A major research effort found that participants who took both folic acid and B6 reduced the likelihood of a heart attack or of dying from heart disease by 50 percent.

Then there’s vitamin B12. In one clinical trial, subjects who took folic acid along with vitamins B6 and B12:

  • Lowered their homocysteine levels
  • Had fewer repeat angioplasties, fewer nonfatal heart attacks, and fewer deaths than those who took a placebo

Find a supplement that combines at least 1.3 mg of methylated B6, 2.4 mcg of B12, and 400 mcg folate/folic acid and your heart will definitely go on.

#5: Coenzyme Q10 for heart strength

Here’s another supplement with low “brand recognition.” Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) behaves like a vitamin, playing a major role in fueling and firing up the mitochondria that give your cells the energy you need to function.

In particular, CoQ10 helps produce the energy that keeps your heart beating nonstop, by increasing the amount of blood the heart can pump. That means your organs get the nonstop oxygen and nutrition they need.

CoQ10 also works as an antioxidant to protect your heart from the free radical damage that can turn healthy cells into any number of different diseases. Studies have shown that it helps:

  • Reduce bad cholesterol
  • Improve good cholesterol
  • Protect the heart during a heart attack

Low levels of CoQ10 are very commonly associated with various heart ailments, coronary heart failure (CHF) in particular, so including it on our Top 5 list was a no-brainer.

Our bodies can produce CoQ10, but that amount decreases as we age. So a CoQ10 supplement is the best way to go. People over 50—and especially those with a history of CHF—could benefit from taking at least 200 mg of CoQ10 supplements daily, 100 mg in the morning, and 100 mg at night.

CoQ10 can be taken in addition to most mainstream cardiovascular drugs, but take note: CoQ10 supplementation is essential if you take a statin drug for cholesterol management—statins limit your body’s production of CoQ10.

Happy, healthy heart!

Your heart is an incredibly hard-working, efficient machine that needs to be properly nourished. Taking a few simple steps to protect it now can reward you with improved health for years to come.


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