As you enter into your golden years, keeping your heart healthy becomes more critical than at any other time in your life. Sure, heart issues can affect anyone at any age, but your risk of cardiovascular disease skyrockets as your age advances. And while that sounds like common knowledge, the American Heart Association puts real numbers to the anecdotal evidence—67 percent of people between the ages of 60-79 are impacted by a form of heart disease, and that number jumps to 84 percent of people after 80 years of age.
Article at a Glance:
- Certain key vitamin deficiencies can compromise heart health
- Heart health can benefit from proper nutritional support.
The Best Nutrients For Your Heart
- CoQ10 is an antioxidant enzyme that protects the heart from free radicals
- Found in some foods, but in low levels
- CoQ10 has been linked to a reduced risk in certain heart conditions
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- The “good” kind of fat, Omega-3 is found in fatty fish, krill, and nutritional supplements
- EPA, DHA and DPA, the fatty acids in Omega-3 , contribute to heart health
- Supplementing has been shown to have a positive effect on heart health
- Vitamin B12
- One of the eight vitamins in the B complex
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to elevated levels of homocysteine
- High blood levels of homocysteine are linked to cardiovascular disease
- Vitamin D
- Deficiency in vitamin D shows ties to certain heart conditions
- As vitamin D levels increase, incidents of high blood pressure decrease
- Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the world
Practical Tips For Heart Health
- Studies show there are everyday steps you can take to ensure a healthier heart
Yes, we all age. But before you accept heart problems as an unavoidable fact of life, realize that aging doesn’t have to mean an array of heart conditions are just around the corner. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle—which includes a nutritious diet, a healthy weight, and supplements when needed—could potentially help you reduce your risk of developing heart conditions as you age.
It’s never too late to improve your heart health, but what are some of the real steps you can take to help your heart stay strong? And what are some specific nutrients you should ensure are leading the charge in your heart healthy regimen?
Heart Conditions By The Numbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, globally, more than 2 billion people are affected by a deficiency in vitamins and minerals obtained from various food sources. And these nutrients serve as some of the body’s most important disease fighters, including those conditions associated with the heart.
About the heart specifically, the CDC says that close to 610,000 people succumb to heart disease in the U.S. every year. What’s more, the organization reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, with coronary heart disease being the most common type of heart disease, with close to 380,000 fatal cases annually. Meanwhile, about 735,000 people in the country suffer a heart attack.
But what, if anything, does nutritional intake have to do with these heart condition numbers? The science says quite a lot actually. Evidence suggests that righting the ship in nutritional deficiencies of the heart could help to improve the outcome of cardiovascular events. According to that study, poor dietary intake saps the heart of energy and leaves it vulnerable to heart conditions.
About the heart specifically, the CDC says that close to 610,000 people succumb to heart disease in the U.S. every year.
The Best Nutrients With Heart Health Benefits
A healthy heart is one of the 6 Pillars of Smart Nutrition—a major cog in the machinery that keeps your body in a state of vitality and keep you on the path to overall wellness. As such, your heart needs lots of attention in order to ensure to it pumps blood and oxygen to your other vital organs and throughout your entire body. And following the research, four nutrients in particular are key to heart health: CoQ10, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D.
CoQ10 For A Healthy Heart
An antioxidant charged with protecting the heart against damage from free radicals, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) provides energy for muscle contraction across your body, including in your heart, where it’s found in some of high concentrations. But one of the caveats regarding CoQ10 is that the enzyme’s levels in your body sharply declines as you grow older—and, unfortunately, when you need it most. And if you’re on statin drugs, the CoQ10 drop-off can be even more severe.
In order for CoQ10 to have a real effect on your cardiovascular health, the research says that you’ll need to take in 100 to 200 mg per day. Now, while this powerful antioxidant is found in foods like cold water fish, vegetable oils, and some meats, the natural levels of CoQ10 in these sources is rather paltry. This seems to suggest that supplementation might be the best way to get the CoQ10 you need for real cardiovascular benefits.
But what are specific heart benefits of CoQ10? For starters, as an antioxidant, it cultivates positive cellular function and reduces oxidative damage to your cells. Essentially, CoQ10 keeps oxidative stress from causing numerous adverse health conditions, like neurodegenerative disease, high blood pressure, and inflammatory conditions. CoQ10 has also been linked to a reduced risk in heart failure, with research suggesting that the antioxidant compound could potentially help reduce the risk of fatal results in incidents of severe heart failure.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids For Sustained Heart Health
One of the worst things you can do for your body is overload on saturated fats, which, as a calorie-dense and nutrient-poor food, can be the mortal enemy of a healthy heart. The American Heart Association says the best course of action is to limit your daily intake of saturated fats to around 5 percent of total calories is ideal. And the main reason to avoid, or at least drastically limit, saturated fats in your diet is because there’s evidence it can contribute to the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other heart-related conditions.
Running counter to saturated fats are polyunsaturated fats (click here for a lesson on the different kinds of fats). One of the polyunsaturated fats are Omega-3 fatty acids, which is famously found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements. Your body doesn’t produce Omega-3s on its own, so you’ll need to get about 2 servings of fish per week—a serving size that’s equivalent to about 200 to 500 mg of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA), the two most helpful kinds of fatty acids found in fish.
Studies show that EPA and DHA, long chain Omega-3 fatty acids, could potentially contribute to lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The fatty acids achieve this by working to prevent blood clots and blood vessel inflammation, two dire symptoms that could spell trouble for your heart. Now, we’ve discussed plenty about EPA and DHA–but did you know that there’s a lesser known player in the fatty acid game?
Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) is the unknown brother to EPA and DHA. Emerging evidence suggests that DPA, the intermediate fatty acid species between EPA and DHA, may also play a role in imparting the health benefits previously attributed solely to EPA and DHA. As it relates to the heart, DPA has shown much promise, with various studies suggesting that the fatty acid can play just as much of a significant role in protecting your heart as its more popular fatty acid brethren.
As for fish oil supplements, research shows that they could potentially deliver the Omega-3 fatty acids you need for heart health. A clinical study found that heart attack survivors who took 1,000 mg of Omega-3s every day for seven years saw a dramatic decrease in the likelihood of a second heart attack. And then there’s the question of triglycerides, high levels of which in your blood might increase your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association says that individuals with high levels of triglycerides should supplement between 2,000 and 4,000 mg of EPA and DHA per day.
Vitamin B12 Boasts Heart Benefits
As we’ve discussed before, of the 13 essential vitamins in the world, eight of them are B vitamins. And among that B complex of vitamins, vitamin B12 (cobalamin) might be the most versatile. The full-body benefits of vitamin B12 run the gamut from energy and brain health, to hair, skin, nails, bones, and vision. One of the most intriguing areas of interest is what it could do for your heart health—but more specifically, it’s the absence of vitamin B12 that relates to your heart.
In cases of vitamin B12 deficiency, high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine have been observed. And why is this significant in relation to cardiovascular health? Homocysteine is a product of your metabolism, accumulating until it is used to process other vital substances in your body—but without vitamin B12, homocysteine cannot be converted and its accumulation has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease,
As we know, vitamin B12 works very well with other members of the vitamin B complex. And as such, results from various studies show that combinations of the vitamin with folic acid and B6 could band together to get those homocysteine levels back down to normal. While one other study suggests that multivitamins with vitamin B12 could potentially help to decrease elevated levels of homocysteine.
How Vitamin D Benefits Heart Health
Much like vitamin B12, the connection between vitamin D and your heart has a lot to do with deficiency. High blood pressure, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and other heart conditions, all seem related to a deficiency in vitamin D. One study in particular showed a strong connection between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular conditions in a large sample size of both men and women.
Another study analyzed data from close to 150,000 people in Europe and North America combined, with the results demonstrating that as vitamin D levels increase, the odds of developing high blood pressure decrease.
Meanwhile, vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” for a reason. Found in very few foods, your body mainly depends on exposure to the sun in order to synthesize this highly important vitamin. There are many factors that prevent people from getting the sun necessary for vitamin D synthesis, which is why vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common and serious vitamin shortfalls in the world.
Practical Steps You Can Take To Ensure Heart Health
The world of nutrients can sound complicated and overly scientific to some, but behind all the technical jargon is a collection of practical precautions you can take to keep your heart pumping. Some of these steps to cardiovascular clarity might sound like no-brainers, but let’s take a look at four helpful pieces of advice and the science behind each one.
No ifs, ands, or butts about it: smoking is bad for you. Whether we’re talking about cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or anything else, smoking in all its various forms is just about the worst thing you can do for your heart. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, with the American Heart Association, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all stating that quitting smoking is crucial for your heart.
You’re probably sitting down while you read this, but you might want to stand up. Not only is sitting for long periods of time detrimental to your health, but researchers say that this sedentary lifestyle we’re all accustomed to is specifically bad for your heart. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to get up and run a marathon or walk across the country like Forrest Gump. Keep things simple. If you take an hour break for lunch at work, spend the first 30 minutes eating your lunch and the last 30 minutes taking a stroll around the parking lot or neighborhood. And if you sit in an office all day, take regular breaks to move around—or maybe even invest in one of those standing desks, which studies show boast health benefits.
Pass On The Salt
You probably don’t need a blog to tell you this, but our food is loaded with salt. In fact, if your main source of sustenance is restaurant take-out or processed foods—as opposed to meals you prepare yourself from start to finish—there’s a good chance you’re getting way too much salt in your diet. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, if the U.S. population reduced its average salt intake per day to half a teaspoon, the number of people who develop heart disease every year would significantly decrease.
Mind Your Belly
Santa Claus is a jolly fellow—but he’s also at risk for getting heart disease. Research clearly demonstrates that excess belly fat is linked to high blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid levels—both of which are risk factors for heart disease. Reduce your waistline by consuming less calories per day and making room in your schedule for regular exercise. And one of the most fun—and beneficial—ways to exercise is dancing. Studies show that no matter the style of dance, moving your body to the music can burn up to 200 calories per hour, making for a great heart-healthy workout.
Come Together Right Now For Heart Health
As a robust heart is an incredibly vital organ to a healthy existence, you should look for all the help you can get in keeping it running efficiently and effectively into your advanced age. The above nutrients perform individually to make this happen, while the fat-soluble nature of CoQ10 and vitamin D mean your body gets an absorption boost when they’re combined with Omega-3 fatty acids. Adding vitamin B12 to the equation makes your heart that much more ready to take on anything old age can throw at you.