Doctors always advise trying to cover all nutritional requirements from diet. However, heart health supplements should be considered when deficiencies arise or when you cannot cover nutrition in your diet for one reason or other.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the world’s leading cause of death, taking a whopping 17.9 million lives each year, globally. However, preventing cardiovascular disease is not that difficult & not entirely out of your control.
First thing you can do & which is very much in your easy control is that You can decrease your risk of heart disease by eating a healthy diet. Cardiologists recommend diets that limit excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium & cholesterol, such as “The Mediterranean diet“. And if for some reason you aren’t able to get enough vitamins & minerals from your regular diet, the American heart association recommends that taking certain supplements can help. While the best way to get those needed vitamins & minerals is of course from the foods you eat daily, however you should cover your nutritional deficiencies through supplements if you aren’t fortunate enough to cover them through diet alone.
Here are the 5 best heart health supplements:
There are several supplements you can choose if you think your diet doesn’t cover all the required amounts of heart-healthy vitamins & minerals.
Omega-3s,major Heart Health supplements
A good amount of research studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can help to prevent heart disease & strokes & Omega-3 tops the most commonly recommended heart health supplements. The National Center for Complementary & Integrative health suggests that people who eat seafood rich diets, which happen to be the prime source of Omega-3 fats, are less likely to die of heart disease. These research studies compared people who ate seafood once a week & those who rarely or never ate it.
If you are taking medicine that affects the blood clotting process, like aspirin or statins, you should consult with your doctor before taking any Omega-3 supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Our body needs these fats to build brain cells & Omega-3s also help to keep your heart healthy & protect against stroke. They also help to improve your heart health if you already have heart disease.
Our body is not capable of making omega-3 fatty acids on its own. They need to be taken from diet. Certain fish are the best possible source of omega-3s. To cover omega-3s, look for fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout & Atlantic mackerel. You can also get them from some plant based foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids should make up 5% to 10% of our total calorie intake.
You can take supplements containing Omega-3 fats, fish oil or cod liver oil.
Omega-3s’ benefits for Heart
Omega-3s are good for our heart & blood vessels in several ways.
- They reduce the level of triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood.
- They reduce the risk of developing an irregular heart beat (arrhythmias).
- They slow down the buildup of plaque, which itself is a buildup of fat, cholesterol, & calcium. Plaque hardens & blocks our arteries & reduces their normal functioning.
- They help to slightly lower blood pressure.
These healthy fats may also help with cancer, depression, inflammation, & ADHD.
How Much Omega-3s you need ?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating a minimum 2 servings a week of fish rich in omega-3s. A serving amount is 3.5 ounces (100 grams). Oily fish rich in omega-3s include:
- Albacore tuna
- The main Omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) & docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
- A typical fish oil supplement contains 180 mg of EPA & 120 mg of DHA, however the amount may vary depending on the brand.
- On the other hand, flaxseed oil contains the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
- EPA & DHA are predominantly found in animal foods like fatty fish, while ALA is mostly found in plant based foods.
- The Adequate Intake of ALA is 1.1 grams per day for adult women & 1.6 grams per day for adult men.
- One tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains a whopping 7.3 grams of ALA, which greatly exceeds the daily needs.
- However, ALA isn’t the biologically active form & it needs to be converted to EPA & DHA to be used for something other than just stored energy like other types of fat.
- While ALA is also an essential fatty acid, EPA & DHA are linked to many more health benefits.
- Additionally, the conversion process from ALA to EPA & DHA is unfortunately quite inefficient in humans.
- One study found that only 5% of ALA is converted to EPA and less than 0.5% of ALA is converted to DHA in adults.
Consuming fiber rich diet may help lower the blood cholesterol levels. Research studies have shown that high-fiber foods might also reduce blood pressure & inflammation, both of which can provide a boost to the health of heart.
People who don’t get enough fiber, particularly soluble fiber from their diet can benefit from taking fiber supplements like Metamucil, Konsyl and Citrucel.
While there is no strong evidence that the daily use of fiber supplements can cause any harm, they may cause some side effects such as bloating & gas. It is recommended that if you have a history of Crohn’s disease or a bowel blockage, you should talk to your doctor before taking fiber supplements.
A high-fiber diet appears to reduce the risk of developing various health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, constipation & colon cancer. Fiber is important for a healthy digestive system & for lowering cholesterol.
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is material from plant cells that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the human digestive tract because we do not possess the required enzymes for that. There are two important types of fiber: water-soluble fiber & water insoluble fiber. Each has different properties & characteristics:
- Soluble fiber– Water-soluble fibers absorb water during digestion. They increase stool bulk & may decrease blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in fruits ( apples, oranges & grapefruit), vegetables, legumes (dry beans, lentils & peas), barley, oats & oat bran.
- Insoluble fiber– Water-insoluble fibers remain unchanged during the process of digestion. However, they promote normal movement of intestinal contents. Insoluble fiber can be found in fruits with edible peel or seeds, vegetables, whole grain foods (whole-wheat bread & pasta), cereals, bran, rolled oats, buckwheat & brown rice.
How much fiber do I need to eat ?
The American Heart Association suggests eating a variety of fiber rich sources. Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not from supplements. Currently, dietary fiber intakes among adults in the United States average only about 15 grams a day. That’s only about half the recommended level.
Magnesium also counts among the major heart health supplements if you aren’t able to take the required level from diet. Magnesium is the mineral to support a healthy heart rate. It helps heart muscles relax so that your heart can properly beat. Magnesium also helps transport potassium & sodium across cell membranes, which promotes healthy heart rhythms, thus supporting overall cardiovascular health.
If your body is not getting the required level of magnesium, you might suffer from heart palpitations. This is because magnesium helps our body maintain a steady heartbeat & also lower blood pressure. A lack of this important mineral may also cause fatigue, a loss of appetite, muscle spasms, nausea & a general feeling of weakness.
If you wish to maintain a healthy magnesium level naturally, you should eat whole grains & dark-green, leafy vegetables. Magnesium can also be taken from low-fat milk, yogurt, soybeans, baked beans & nuts.
Nuts are one of the most magnesium rich foods. Brazil nuts are the richest in magnesium, with 350 mg of magnesium per 100 g serving, Almonds (260 mg),
cashews (250 mg), peanuts (160 mg), walnuts (150 mg) and hazelnuts (160 mg).
If for some reason, you are not able to cover your required magnesium from diet, you can take it in supplement form too though doctors recommend eating magnesium-rich foods as a better & safe option.
If you have end stage liver or kidney disease, you should not take magnesium supplements, because too much of magnesium could prove toxic. You should try to cover it from diet only. It is very rare to consume excess magnesium from diet. It is always more likely to be from over-supplementation.
Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, can help to maintain a right level of homocysteine in our blood, when it is used together with vitamins B6 & B12. It is important to maintain homocysteine levels because a high level of homocysteine(an amino acid) is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. However, folic acid supplementation does not decrease the risk of heart disease but it does help to provide protection from heart disease such as stroke. Doctors advise women who might get pregnant to get 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. This is because this B vitamin also helps to prevent birth defects.
The best source of folic acid is a diet rich in dark-green leafy vegetables, beans, peas & nuts. Fruits such as oranges, lemons, bananas, melons & strawberries are also rich in folic acid.
Folic acid can also be taken in its synthetic form in vitamins & in foods fortified with the vitamin, such as cereals & pastas. It is recommended to fulfill the daily required amount of folic acid from folic acid supplements for people who cannot cover the required dietary intake level of folic acid or in conditions that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb folate naturally.
Folic acid supplements can have mild side effects like nausea, loss of appetite, confusion & irritability. You might also experience sleep disturbances after taking folic acid supplements.
Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is an antioxidant that our body naturally produces on its own. However, the levels of CoQ10 that our body naturally produces tend to drop as you get older. Research says that people who suffer from heart disease often have low levels of CoQ10, thus Coenzyme Q10 also counts as one of the heart health supplements.
You can take CoQ10 supplements, though, to increase the levels of this important antioxidant. CoQ10 supplements are available in the form of capsules, chewable tablets, liquid & powders.
CoQ10 has been found to improve the conditions that reduce the risk of congestive heart failure. It might also help to lower blood pressure. It might even help people, who have had heart valve & bypass surgeries when it is taken in combination with other nutrients,
CoQ10 supplements do have a few & usually mild symptoms, such as loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea & upper abdominal pain. Avoid taking CoQ10 if you also take Coumadin (Warfarin).
Risks of heart health supplements
The most common form of heart health supplements, like folic acid, magnesium & fiber, may come with mild side effects. If you have certain health issues, like kidney disease, Crohn’s disease or issues with blood clotting, you should discuss with your doctor before taking any heart health supplements.
It’s important to note that the best way to get minerals & vitamins is through a healthy balanced diet. Doctors recommend diets high in seafood, leafy green vegetables, beans, fruit & lean meats so that you never need to take any heart health supplements because natural is always better. If you eat proper diet, you won’t need to take any supplements.