By Michael A. Smith, MDAtherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease take a huge toll on our society. More than 81 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, making it the leading cause of death in the country.
As of 2006, cardiovascular disease was responsible for at least one in every 2.9 deaths in the United States.1
So what can we do to help protect ourselves against this all-too-common killer? The most obvious answer is to eat well and exercise, but beyond that, what else can we do?
Step 1: Support Heart Muscle FunctionThe heart muscle requires a tremendous amount of energy to pump blood throughout your body. It beats on average 60 times per minute; 3,600 times per hour; and a whopping 86,400 times per day.
With all that activity, your heart needs a constant supply of energy to maintain optimal function. So how do we help support the heart’s big-time energy needs? These two supplements are a great place to start:
- Ubiquinol CoQ10
CoQ10 is needed to convert the energy from fats and sugars into usable cellular energy. Unfortunately, your body’s production of CoQ10 declines significantly as you get older.2 And with less CoQ10, the heart muscle simply can’t perform at peak levels. Start by testing your CoQ10 blood level. This will let you pinpoint the dose that’s best for you. For the sake of reference, an average dose of CoQ10 is between 25 to 200 mg/day.
D-ribose, a carbohydrate molecule found in every living organism, facilitates the production of ATP — the “energy currency” for your cells.3
In studies of healthy athletes, supplying fatigued muscle cells with D-ribose quickly restored ATP levels to normal.4 It’s not just for athletes though: Many cardiologists now also suggest incorporating D-ribose into treatment regimens for patients with congestive heart failure.5
Step 2: Ease Vascular InflammationInflammation damages the cells that comprise the inner lining of your arteries. An effective way to measure inflammation is through a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test. Studies have shown that higher levels of CRP reflect vascular inflammation and are associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and peripheral vascular disease.6
Polyunsaturated fats, such as the omega-3 fats, are a great way to ease inflammation and help keep CRP levels in an optimal range. Omega-3 fats suppress multiple steps in the inflammatory process, limiting the production of inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins.7
One particular study found that a greater intake of omega-3s was directly related to lower levels of the blood markers associated with dangerous endothelial dysfunction.8
The suggested omega-3 fat dose is between 2,000 and 4,000 mg/day. Be sure to look for a fish oil product with a 5-star rating by the IFOS, the International Fish Oil Standards. This 5-star rating lets you know that your omega-3s are virtually free of heavy metals and other environmental contaminants.
Step 3: Preserve Endothelial Cell FunctionEndothelial cells line the inside of our arteries. If these cells are healthy, the artery is healthy. One promising protective agent for endothelial cells is pomegranate. Packed with unique antioxidants, pomegranate guards the endothelial cells against free-radical assault.
In clinical studies, pomegranate has shown great promise in averting the many pathological changes associated with cardiovascular disease. Many scientists believe pomegranate works through several mechanisms to support endothelial cells by:9
- Reducing Oxidative Stress
- Supporting the Synthesis & Activity of Nitric Oxide
- Inhibiting the Oxidation of LDL-cholesterol
By the way, also try to eat as many pomegranates as you can! However, unless you’re willing to eat several of them a day, you may want to look into taking the extract for maximum benefit.
Your Healthy Heart To-Do List
- Check your CoQ10 blood level and start supplementing with a dose based on your blood work.
- Supplement with 5 to 10 grams/day of D-ribose powder. You can even use D-ribose as a natural sweetener for coffee and tea.
- Get your daily intake of 2,000 to 4,000 mg/day of omega-3 fats, preferably from a 5-star rated fish oil product.
- Incorporate fresh pomegranates into your diet and supplement daily with a high-quality extract.
Are you taking any of these proactive steps to protect your heart? Perhaps you should be. Share your take below in the comments!
- American Heart Association: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2010
- Mech Ageing Dev. 2010 Apr;131(4):225-35.
- Hypotheses. 2004;62(5):819-24.
- Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004 Jan;286(1):R182-8.
- Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 May-Jun;15(3):44-52.
- Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2001;1(2):153-7.
- J Nutr Biochem. 2003 Sep;14(9):513–21.
- J Nutr. 2004 Jul;134(7):1806-11.
- Nitric Oxide. 2006 Sep;15(2):93-102.
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