To help support heart health we all know that we need to get regular exercise, steer clear of cigarettes and eat a nutritious diet based on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils and lean sources of protein. Many herbs and nutrients also have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, often due to their antioxidant properties, or because they help maintain healthy cholesterol or blood pressure.
Here’s a quick introduction to a dozen of the most important:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 essential fatty acids such as those found in krill oil and deep-sea fish support the cardiovascular system in numerous ways, including helping to maintain healthy blood vessel function, blood pressure and heart rhythm. They may also aid in the management of normal blood lipids by supporting healthy triglyceride metabolism.. If you’re vegetarian then try flaxseed oil as an alternative, although the body doesn't seem to be able to utilise the omega-3s it contains as efficiently as it can use those in fish oil and krill oil.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a free radical-scavenging antioxidant involved in protecting LDL-cholesterol against oxidative damage and is also required for healthy blood vessel function.
- Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10 helps protect LDL-cholesterol from oxidation and replenishes the antioxidant activity of vitamin E. It is also involved in the production of cellular energy, which in turn aids healthy heart function. Coenzyme Q10 levels may be depleted when using certain prescribed medicines to lower cholesterol.
- Carnitine: The amino acid carnitine is required for proper functioning of the heart muscle, and in clinical studies it has demonstrated an ability to support cardiovascular health in a number of ways. It may be particularly beneficial for older people who experience fatigue after even slight physical activity, helping to extend their endurance and preserve their muscle mass. Carnitine may also assist in the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels in healthy adults.
- Hawthorn: In Western herbal medicine, hawthorn has traditionally been used as a heart tonic to help maintain healthy heart rhythm, blood pressure and blood vessel function. These effects are considered at least partially due to its antioxidant properties.
- Olive leaf: Olive leaves are rich in an antioxidant compound called oleuropein, which is believed to be behind many of its health-promoting properties . It may help to maintain cardiovascular health and support normal healthy blood pressure in healthy individuals.
- Folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12: Folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 work together to reduce high levels of homocysteine, which may be a risk factor for some forms of cardiovascular disease.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in numerous physiological processes that help to maintain healthy heart and blood vessel function, including helping to maintain normal healthy muscle function, heart rhythm and nerve impulse conduction.
- Globe artichoke: Globe artichoke has a long history of use in European herbal medicine as a liver tonic. It also helps support the maintenance of normal cholesterol levels in healthy people.
- Vitamin C: In its role as a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C may support cardiovascular health in a variety of ways, including helping to inhibit the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and, supporting healthy blood vessel function.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant. Unlike many other nutritional antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, it is both fat-soluble and water-soluble, and doesn't become depleted while doing its important work against free radical damage. Lipoic acid may support cardiovascular function by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol, and may also support healthy ageing and the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels in healthy people.
- Garlic: Garlic provides herbal antioxidant support for the blood vessels and may have a modest effect in supporting healthy blood lipid profiles. Numerous clinical trials have shown garlic to be beneficial for cholesterol and blood pressure health.
These diet and lifestyle tips are intended for healthy adults. If you have a cardiovascular disorder, do not take supplements or change your diet or exercise routine unless advised to do so and supervised by your healthcare professional. To do so may interfere with your medication requirements.