Which dietary supplements should you take to improve heart health? Learn about supplements that may lower cholesterol and boost heart health.
Despite claims to the contrary, most dietary supplements don't improve heart health. Photo via Shutterstock
Many individuals take supplements to boost their health. There are supplements supporting the health of the bones, joints, muscles, skin, and hair... what about heart health supplements?
You may not be as familiar to this kind of supplements, but they do exist and the market is also flooded with products claiming to boost heart health.
Are they as helpful as their manufacturers advertise?
Let's find out.
What are Heart Health Supplements?
Heart health supplements, as the name suggests, are dietary supplements that claim to promote or support heart health. They do so by lowering blood pressure and/or blood cholesterol levels, in turn reducing the risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Why Should You Take Heart Health Supplements?
According to the World Health Organization report, Cardiovascular disease is among the leading causes of mortality not just in the United States, but in the whole world. It claims as much as 17.9 million lives worldwide every year. Four out of five deaths are brought about by heart attack and stroke, with most of them being people aged below 70.
Prevention and protection from this disease is the main reason why people would want to take nutritional supplements for their heart. Others take heart health supplements to reduce the side effects of their cardiovascular medications.
What are the Key Ingredients to Look for in Heart Health Supplements?
There may be many different brands of heart health supplements but the ingredients used by the manufacturers don't vary that much. Such include:
Coenzyme Q10 - A substance naturally produced by the body, it is otherwise known as ubiquinone or ubiquinol. Its main function is to lower blood pressure alone or in combination with other medications, most especially heart failure drugs. It may also be used to counteract the side effects of statins, a.k.a. cholesterol-lowering drugs. Food sources include organ meats (i.e. heart, kidney, and liver), sardines, mackerel, soy oil, and peanuts.
Fiber: Naturally abundant in fruits and vegetables, but if you can't obtain enough from diet, getting them from supplements is another option. Its main function is to reduce the amount of cholesterol our body takes in from food (source). It lowers the amount of LDL cholesterol (a.k.a. "bad" cholesterol) and increases the amount of HDL cholesterol (a.k.a "good" cholesterol). The most popular fiber added to heart health supplements include psyllium husk, wheat dextrin, calcium polycarbophil, and methylcellulose (source). When taking fiber supplements, be sure to increase your water intake.
Magnesium: A reliable predictor of heart disease, adequate levels of this nutrient is said to reduce the risk of high blood pressure (source), high blood cholesterol(source), atherosclerosis(source), arteriosclerosis(source), and soft tissue calcifications(source). It comes in many forms, with magnesium sulfate (a.k.a. Epsom salt) being the most common.
Green Tea: This popular drink may help lower total cholesterol levels according to several studies. In effect, it also lowers risk for heart disease. It also has powerful antioxidant effects, which help protect the cells against free radical damage (source).
Heart Health Supplements - Do They Really Work?
Not all heart health supplements are guaranteed to work and some are even dangerous if taken in high doses. In general, if they contain the right ingredients, heart health supplements could be of benefit. But out of the numerous supplements available in the market, experts tend to hail fish oil as the most helpful.
How to Choose the Best Heart Health Supplements?
The first step towards picking the right heart supplement is finding out if you actually need one. For this, you have to consult your doctor who will also determine which supplements are most likely to help.
If you suffer from any cardiovascular problems, prior consultation with your specialist becomes even more necessary. It's very risky to treat a serious heart problem with over-the-counter supplements you're not absolutely sure of. This is especially true since supplements are not regulated by the FDA so the manufacturers aren't really required to prove the benefits or safety of their products. But this is not to say that all supplements are useless and unsafe. It's just a matter of picking the right one, again, preferably with the help of your trusted healthcare provider.
The Bottom Line
Your heart, or should we say your whole body in general, needs nutrients to function properly. Ideally, they must come from a nutritious diet, with supplements only serving as adjunct to fill in the gaps should you fall short of the recommended daily intakes. They should not substitute for real food nor make up for unhealthy eating habits.
Furthermore, none of the available heart health supplements today can prevent heart disease. Healthy lifestyle choices are still the best preventive measure.
**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.
*Result may vary. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a serious medical condition, or have a history of heart conditions we suggest consulting with a physician before using any supplement. The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and should not be relied upon as a medical advice. Always consult your doctor before using any supplements.
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