Written by: Cameron Rosario
Medically reviewed by: Robert Philibert
There are a seemingly endless number of supplements currently available on the market that claim to benefit heart health. In fact, about half of the U.S. population claims to use some variation of a multivitamin or mineral in hopes of combating heart disease. Unfortunately, some of these claims are left unfulfilled by the consumer as they are not considered a direct solution to improving one’s heart health.
Before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, it is important to consider some key points to ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to improve your heart health.
1. Supplements Do Not Replace Your Medications
Despite any claims that may be present on a supplement’s packaging, they do not and should not replace the prescription medications provided to you by your doctor. One of the main reasons is that not all the claims present on these supplements are tested by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Additionally, the supplements bought in health food and grocery stores may be different from the one used in research. This is due to the manufacturing of dietary supplements not being standardized, which renders variations in efficacy and side effects between brands or different lots of the same brand.
2. The Best Sources Of Vitamin And Minerals Should Be From Your Diet
Unlike supplements, maintaining a healthy diet has been proven to be a robust way to improve one’s heart health. A diet that places an emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and drinking enough water is usually recommended to improve one’s overall health.
3. Be Transparent with Your Doctor Before Taking Any Supplement
There is no one that knows your heart health and appropriate treatment better than your doctor. By maintaining clear communication with your doctor, you can help avoid any chances of the supplement interfering with your prescription medication or increasing your disease risk.
For example, though vitamin E is known to be a powerful antioxidant, it can increase one’s risk for heart failure and stroke. As a result, patients who take heart-related medications are often discouraged from taking vitamin E supplements.
Heart Health Supplements
Once you consider the aforementioned guidelines, there are some potential OTC supplements available that have been associated with improvements in cardiovascular health and disease risk.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in oil from certain types of fish, vegetables, and other plant sources. They are essential nutrients in our diet. But humans cannot make these nutrients. They can be obtained from the diet or through fish oil supplementations. Some studies show that taking it can lower your level of triglycerides. Taking it, along with other diet and exercise measures, may decrease high triglyceride levels that can lead to coronary artery disease, heart disease, and/or a stroke.
2. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a ubiquitous lipid antioxidant in the body. It is found in the highest concentrations in highly metabolic organs such as the heart. It functions as an energy transfer molecule that plays a key role in cell growth and maintenance. Specifically, as an antioxidant, it protects against free radicals and potential modifications to the body’s proteins, lipids, and DNA that are associated with cardiovascular disease. CoQ10 can be taken in through one’s diet as trace amounts are naturally present in a wide range of foods. However, high amounts of CoQ10 can be found in high amounts in organ meats (heart, liver, and kidneys), some muscle meats, fatty fish, and nuts.
3. Red rice yeast
Red rice yeast is white rice that is fermented with the yeast Monascus purpureus that turns the rice red. It has been suggested that it contains a fungal secondary metabolite, monacolin K, that is able to interfere with the key enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis. Monacolin K is also found in Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering prescribed drug, and is structurally similar to other natural statins. Some research suggests that red yeast rice containing sufficient monacolin K can lower one’s total blood cholesterol, triglyceride, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels ⎼ all of which is correlated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. In the United States, red rice yeast can be found in a powdered form where it is used in many culinary applications as food coloring. It is also available in commercial preparations and OTC supplements.
These are just a few of the supplements that are available. Although there are supplements that have shown some promise to improve heart health, these supplements and others that you may consider are no exception to the guidelines outlined above. Always consult your doctor before incorporating any of these supplements to your routine.