The heart is the power center of the human body. It keeps the blood flowing from top to bottom, delivering key nutrients along the way that keep us healthy, help us manage ailments, and generally ensure we remain upright for at least the majority of the day.
Article at a Glance:
We aim to highlight the vital importance of Omega-3, CoQ10, and Vitamin D in the realm of Heart Health.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acid is not produced by the body, so it must be obtained via diet. However, the amount needed for true cardiovascular prosperity goes well beyond two servings of fish per week.
- CoQ10 supplies energy to the heart, but our body’s natural levels taper off as we age. Therefore, supplementation could prove beneficial.
- Vitamin D displays positive effects on blood pressure, but deficiency in this particular vitamin is perhaps the most common in the world.
And maintaining healthy circulation is hard work, as the heart pumps blood at the rate of 100,000 beats per day. This is no small feat, considering that if laid out in a straight line, the human body’s blood vessels would measure more than 60,000 miles in length—more than twice the circumference of the Earth. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
But what happens when your heart is trying to do its job delivering blood, oxygen, and vital nutrients throughout the body, but lacks those so necessary for its own health and function?
Before answering that question, let’s examine what exactly it means to suffer from a deficiency of vitamins and minerals.
Cardiovascular Health: Signs Of Nutrient Deficiency
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vitamins and minerals are crucial to the human body’s development and well-being, serving as adept disease preventers and aiding in overall wellness. Some of these nutrients cannot be biosynthesized, meaning that they must be obtained through diet. This seems to be the root of the problem, as the CDC reports that globally, more than 2 billion people are affected by a deficiency in vitamins and minerals obtained from various food sources.
Back to the question at hand: What happens to the human body in cases of nutritional deficiency? The short answer is, well, everything—at least, potentially. A lack of key nutrients can lead to a medical journal’s worth of maladies throughout the body. For example, low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to cognitive impairments in older adults, along with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, healthy blood levels of vitamin D appear to be associated with a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
We’ll have more on vitamin D later….
The evidence is clear: Less-than-ideal conditions within the heart, the very organ needed to sustain the vitality of every other bodily element, can have catastrophic consequences, potentially leading to a system-wide breakdown.
How Are Heart Problems Linked To Nutritional Deficiencies?
The CDC maintains extensive statistics on all things heart related. According to its research, about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year; heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women; coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, with more than 370,000 people succumbing to it annually; and every year, about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack.
There is evidence suggesting that correcting nutritional deficiencies of the heart could potentially improve quality of life and outcomes in people with heart failure. In that 2016 study, the failing heart is characterized as being an “energy-compromised” organ, placed in its altered state via poor dietary intake—which has been shown to predict cardiovascular situations. Such cardiovascular-compromising situations include elevated blood lipids, lack of energy, and high blood pressure.
An overabundance of lipids—cholesterol and triglycerides—can cause damaging build ups and blockages in arteries.
The heart has high energy demands related to the maintenance of specialized cellular processes, including ion transport, muscle function, and cellular homeostasis.
High blood pressure—or hypertension—means the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be.
As the research shows, these and other cardiovascular-altering ailments are tied directly to specific deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. It’s clear: A diet suffering from inadequate levels of essential nutrients is the sworn enemy of a healthy heart. But what are some of the specific vitamins, minerals, and natural products that could aid in maintaining a healthy, robust heart that you can trust to deliver all of those essential nutrients to all corners of your body?
How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Relate To Heart Health?
When you hear the word “fat” used in association with a meal, your immediate reaction might be to banish it from your food and your diet completely. However, some fats shouldn’t be condemned for the sins of other fats. In the world of fats, there are good, bad, and everything in between.
Leaning decidedly on the side of the good are Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Called “essential fats,” Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats found in oily ocean dwellers like albacore tuna, salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines, swordfish, mackerel, mussels, and more. Unlike other types of fats, Omega-3s cannot be made by the body from scratch, meaning that it must be absorbed from a diet rich in this essential fat.
Compared to fish, krill oil is the relatively new kid on the block. Derived from tiny shrimp found throughout the world’s oceans, krill oil contains the same Omega-3 Fatty Acids as fish oil, with a few added benefits. Most striking is that krill oil naturally contains the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin (thanks to the tiny shrimp’s diet of microalgae), and it also possesses a higher rate of bioavailability, meaning the effects are felt quicker by the body.
Also, the majority of EPA and DHA in krill oil is bound to phospholipids, as opposed to marine oil Omega-3s, which are bound to body-fat forming triglycerides. These phospholipids help make EPA and DHA more absorbable, helping them to penetrate into your cells where they will do their important work.
What Are EPA And DHA—And Why Are They Important?
The technical terms for the fatty acids that make up Omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Studies suggest that these healthy fats could display myriad benefits for the heart, with DHA and EPA—which are long-chain Omega-3s—potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering the likelihood of an abnormal heart rhythm, helping to stave off blood clots and blood vessel inflammation. DHA and EPA also display a positive effect on blood lipid levels by keeping triglyceride levels under control, while lowering blood pressure slightly and reducing plaque growth in blood vessels.
As for actually getting those fatty acids into your system so they can address your heart’s woes, clearly the most direct way is to eat those aforementioned fish. But which fish is best and exactly how much should you eat to obtain the recommended amount of fatty acids?
In their Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend at least 250 mg of DHA and EPA fatty acids every day. Meanwhile, the departments add that it’s important to consume foods higher in EPA and DHA and lower in mercury, specifically salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel.
But for your heart to truly glean all of the benefits of EPA and DHA, a more concentrated dose might be ideal. A clinical trial that followed 5,666 heart attack survivors who took 1,000 mg of Omega-3 Fatty Acids a day for seven years, saw a 15-percent reduction in having a second, non-fatal heart attack, stroke and death. And some organizations, including the American Heart Association (AHA), recommend that people with elevated triglycerides take between 2,000 and 4,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA every day. That’s a lot of fish—and most Americans don’t even get close to the 250 mg recommended dosage. Luckily, the AHA also says the best way to ingest that much EPA and DHA each day is through concentrated capsules that promote a higher rate of absorption (with your physician’s approval, of course).
What Is CoQ10? How Does CoQ10 Help The Heart?
Acting as an antioxidant in the fight to protect cells against damage, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) occurs naturally in the body and in many of the foods we eat. CoQ10 is an essential part of our body’s cellular machinery, providing energy for muscle contraction and other vital functions, such as, you guessed it: heart activity. Researchers generally recommend an intake of 100-200 mg per day for CoQ10 to influence cardiovascular health. That dosage presents a problem when you main source of CoQ10 is diet.
While the nutrient shows up in cold water fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and is also found in vegetable oils and meats, it exists in such small amounts that we don’t even come close to the low end of that recommendation. Unless you want to start eating pork and beef organs like heart or liver, supplementation might be the best course of action, especially since our body’s natural levels of CoQ10 decrease with age and due to the use of statin drugs.
But how exactly does CoQ10 work within your mitochondria—the so-called “battery pack” inside each cell—to energize the body? Essentially, it hops aboard the electron transport chain, transferring electrons into ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, life’s energy currency. This enables positive cellular function. CoQ10 also scavenges free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative damage. And because the heart, brain, kidneys, and liver demand the most energy of all our organs, this is where we find the highest concentration of CoQ10—and the most powerful thirst for it.
In their Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend at least 250 mg of DHA and EPA fatty acids every day.
How Does Vitamin D Fit Into The Heart Health Equation?
Vitamin D has long been known to benefit bones and joints, but studies also suggest a deficiency in the “sun vitamin” might link to an elevated risk of the cardiovascular disease-causing high blood pressure, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and more heart conditions. The data on the relationship between Vitamin D and incidents of cardiovascular disease is ever-evolving.
There’s more bad news: Because the human body can only synthesize vitamin D through exposure to the sun and it is found in very few foods, Vitamin D deficiency has been labeled as rampant across the globe. It is for these reasons that supplementation of Vitamin D is near essential, depending on a few factors, like skin pigment, if you live in a place with little exposure to sunlight, and age.
Indeed, a recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology analyzed data from more than 146,000 people in Europe and North America. According to the findings, for each 10-percent increase in Vitamin D levels, researchers observed an 8-percent decrease in the odds of developing high blood pressure.
How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids, CoQ10, And Vitamin D Work Together For The Heart?
CoQ10 and Vitamin D are both fat-soluble nutrients. What exactly does that mean? Simply put, this means your body needs an assist from fats in to help it break down CoQ10 and Vitamin D in order to fully absorb their benefits. That is where Omega-3 comes in—not only is it a fat, but as stated before, it is a “good” fat. So clearly, taken in tandem with one another, Omega-3s, CoQ10, and Vitamin D are truly the architects of a healthy heart.