Every year, I write at least one column listing my top supplements for heart health. I try to do this without looking back at what I’ve written before. But when I finally do reread what I wrote the previous year, I’m always amused to find that the list doesn’t change that much.
So here’s this year’s list of superstar heart supplements. A good supplement plan isn’t the only thing you’ll need—far from it—but it’s a great addition to a heart-healthy lifestyle. These supplements are an excellent place to start.
1 COENZYME Q10. The heart needs a lot of energy. It never takes a vacation and beats approximately 86,400 times a day, day after day, year after year. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) literally “recharges” the energy production factories—known as mitochondria—in the cells. It’s needed to generate the “bitcoin” of cellular energy, ATP. The cells use ATP to power everything you do. ATP is needed to pump your blood, burn fat, snore, digest food, dance the rhumba, blink your eyes—every single operation in your body requires ATP, and CoQ10 helps make it. Ubiquinol, the active form of CoQ10, has been shown to be better absorbed and utilized by the body.
2 PANTETHINE. Pantethine, the active form of pantothenic acid, is the most important component of CoQ10, and some research supports its use for lowering high cholesterol levels. Look for products featuring Pantesin, a proprietary form of pantethine that has been clinically studied and shown to help promote healthy cholesterol levels.
3 OMEGA-3S. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in plant foods such as flaxseeds and ani-mal foods such as coldwater fish. Flaxseed oil has some marvelous properties—there’s a lot of good research on flax oil and cancer, for example. But for heart health, fish oil has the heavier research pedigree. Fish oil has been shown to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. And it helps decrease the risk of sudden cardiac death.
But for me, the most important action of omega-3s is that they are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation either causes, promotes, or amplifies just about every degenerative disease known—including heart disease. And low levels of omega-3s have been associated with everything from heart disease to ADHD. That’s why I recommend omega-3 supplements for everyone, including children.
4 MAGNESIUM. Magnesium is the ultimate “antistress” nutrient. It basically calms things down, functioning as a kind of “relaxer.” It relaxes (dilates) the arteries, which lowers blood pressure and makes it a lot easier for the heart to pump blood. It improves sleep, which in turn lowers stress. It helps lower blood sugar, a major concern of diabetes and metabolic syndrome, both of which wildly increase the risk of heart disease.
According to surveys, almost no one gets enough magnesium. One easy (and fun) way to get your magnesium is to take a relaxing magnesium bath (powders and flakes are now available and can be easily added to a warm bath).
5 NIACIN is accepted even by main-stream doctors because it lowers cholesterol. But its real value is that it lowers Lp(a), an independent risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks. It also raises HDL cholesterol, specifically HDL-2 cholesterol, which is the most beneficial of the HDL subclasses. The only problem with niacin is the dreaded niacin flush, which is why a lot of people don’t take it. Sustained-release niacin was introduced to remedy this problem, but there’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. For this reason, avoid sustained-release versions.
6 D-RIBOSE. D-ribose is another of the components of ATP, that cellular energy molecule we talked about earlier. Without D-ribose, you’ve got no ATP. Without ATP, you’ve got no energy to do anything, including basic metabolic functions. When the heart is stressed, it can’t make enough D-ribose to replace lost energy quickly.
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