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Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally (1). That is why it is so important to stress the need for improved heart health support.
When it comes to overall health, ignoring the health of your heart would be like forgetting to put an engine in your car. This is because the heart pumps blood rich oxygen to all parts of the body (2).
Without a healthy heart, your body would simply not sustain life. That’s why caring for your heart through such ways as diet and exercise is vital to improving the quality and quantity of your life.
When it comes to nutrition, a heart healthy diet full of whole foods like fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and low in high-sodium processed foods is ideal (3).
It’s also just as important to stay active often to maintain heart muscle strength and manage your weight to lower heart disease risk. Also, quitting smoking or not starting as well as managing stress is necessary to lower your risk of high blood pressure that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Along with such lifestyle changes, supplements may be essential to filling in the gaps of your healthy lifestyle to help prevent heart disease.
In fact, research shows that certain nutrient deficiencies can put your heart health at risk. This study showed that one out of five people with heart failure were deficient in nutrients such as vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iodine, and selenium as well as vitamin D (4).
Therefore, in addition to the heart healthy lifestyle behaviors mentioned, adding a supplement to your daily routine may be beneficial.
So, let’s talk about the top ten supplements that can help you best support your heart health.
10 Helpful Supplements for a Healthy Heart
Antioxidants, by definition, help to fight inflammation and in turn oxidative stress in the body that can lead to chronic disease like heart disease (5).
Examples of some antioxidants include beta-carotene as well as vitamins C and E.
Although you can consume these vitamins through colorful fruits and vegetables, sometimes you may not consume enough of these foods daily. Therefore, taking such vitamins in supplement form can help fill in the nutrient gaps in your diet and in turn improve your heart health.
Beta-carotene, in particular, is an antioxidant that is converted to the carotenoid form of vitamin A in the body. This fat-soluble vitamin is vital for vision, immune health, and reproduction in the body (6).
When it comes to heart health, studies show that the potent carotenoid lycopene can greatly improve heart health.
Research shows that by reducing inflammation, lycopene increases the ability of the body to use nitric oxide (7). This in turn has shown to improve the dilation of blood vessels in those with heart disease. By doing this, lycopene can help improve heart health outcomes and can also help prevent heart disease in healthy individuals.
Another antioxidant effective in improving heart health is coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10.
CoQ10 is produced by the body naturally, but sometimes a person may not have enough of this compound to sustain optimal health (8). For example, as people age, levels of CoQ10 in the body decrease. Also, those with heart disease have been shown to have lower levels of CoQ10.
Therefore, such individuals at risk for low levels of the compound would benefit from supplementing their diet with CoQ10.
In fact, research shows that CoQ10 can be protective against heart disease in older adults. This study looked at a group of healthy older adults that were given a daily supplement of CoQ10 and selenium for four years (9).
Study results show that the protective effect of this supplement not only lasted through the four-year study period, but this effect also extended during the 12-year follow-up period.
Furthermore, other recent research shows that CoQ10 can help lower lipid levels (10). A meta-analysis of eight clinical trials, study results show that CoQ10 supplementation may be effective in lowering total cholesterol.
Since elevated cholesterol levels are a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, these results show that CoQ10 could help reduce a person’s risk of heart disease health outcomes.
Related: Top 10 CoQ10 Supplements
Selenium, as mentioned before, may play a role in improving heart health. It is an essential nutrient needed in the body for thyroid hormone metabolism, reproduction, and for protection from oxidative damage (11).
Most adults should consume 55 micrograms of selenium each day for optimal health. You can consume selenium through food, but the rich food sources of this nutrient like Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, sardines, and canned shrimp are not common foods in the refrigerator or pantry. Therefore, this is why supplementation of selenium is likely ideal for most people.
When it comes to heart health, research shows that selenium supplementation was helpful in improving both heart health and related metabolic health.
One study found that selenium supplementation helped lower the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (12). This result suggests that selenium may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body in those with heart disease.
Another study looked at the effect of consuming selenium through Brazil nuts on lipid levels. This study found that a single serving of Brazil nuts can improve the lipid profiles of healthy people (13).
Finally, a meta-analysis study looked at selenium supplementation and its impact on metabolic health. Study results show that selenium supplementation can reduce insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity (14). This is good for heart health since insulin sensitivity is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
Related: Top 10 Selenium Supplements
The B vitamins are eight water-soluble nutrients that play a vital role in brain function, energy production, and DNA synthesis and repair, among other things (15). Not to mention, that various studies have found certain B vitamins to play an important role in heart health matters.
B vitamins can be found in both animal and plant-based sources but have been found to be more bioactive in animal-based sources. Because of this, those who do not consume enough animal products daily, such as those on mostly plant-based diets like vegetarians, may be lacking in B vitamins. Therefore, supplementation would be needed in such cases to ensure that these individuals can reap the full health benefits of B vitamins.
When it comes to heart health, research shows that lower levels of B vitamins in the diet and the blood has been linked with oxidative stress and high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood (16).
These two factors in turn greatly increase the risk of heart disease. Therefore, it can be suggested that supplementing with B vitamins could reduce such risk factors.
In particular, studies have looked at the effects of niacin supplementation on heart health outcomes.
One study found that extended-release niacin may help reduce levels of remnant cholesterol and increase “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (HDL) in coronary heart disease patients (17).
This is a significant result since remnant cholesterol is a combination of the very low density and intermediate density lipoproteins. These lipoproteins promote a high risk of plaques in the arteries that in turn increase risk of heart disease and related health issues. However, there are no studies to confirm that taking niacin along with statin therapy adds any benefit (19).
Therefore, be sure to talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your current medication regimen.
Related: Top 10 Vitamin B-Complex Supplements
Although vitamin D is well-known for its bone health benefits, its heart health benefits are just starting to reveal themselves.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in very few foods like salmon, swordfish, tuna fish, cod liver oil, and fortified milk or orange juice, to name a few (20). Thus, most people rely on sun exposure to soak up their daily dose of vitamin D.
However, for those who live in certain climates, or do not go outside often, vitamin D deficiency may occur. In these cases, people may require supplementation to help meet their minimum daily requirement of 600 IU of vitamin D daily.
To find out if you are low in vitamin D, you will need to ask your doctor for a blood test since it is typically not included in the average annual lab check.
When it comes to heart health, the research on vitamin D is still in its early stages. However, so far research is finding a link between a higher risk of heart disease risk factors and lower vitamin D levels (21).
In the meantime, if you are vitamin D deficient, it may be of benefit to supplement with vitamin D as recommended by your healthcare provider (23).
Related: Top 10 Vitamin D Supplements
Carnitine, an amino acid found in all cells of the body, is vital for producing energy (24). Most people produce enough carnitine naturally in the body to meet their daily needs. However, some people take carnitine, also known as L-carnitine, to improve performance or to replenish carnitine stores as they age.
Other promising benefits of L-carnitine though are related to heart health.
Research shows that L-carnitine can reduce risk of several heart health factors like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity (27). Also, in those with diseased heart muscle, L-carnitine levels may be low, so supplementation could help improve heart health outcomes.
Studies show that L-carnitine supplementation has been shown to significantly increase the “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and slightly lower triglyceride levels in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) (28).
Not to mention that L-carnitine can help improve clinical symptoms in those with congestive heart failure (29). Therefore, if you are at risk for heart disease, it may be worth asking your healthcare provider whether L-carnitine may be helpful for you.
Related: Top 10 L-Carnitine Supplements
Magnesium is a mineral in the body found in cells and bone that is important for producing energy in the body as well as conducting nerves, contracting muscles, and controlling normal heart rhythm (30). Therefore, it comes as no surprise that magnesium is an important factor in heart health.
Most adults should consume about 310-420 milligrams of magnesium a day through foods like almonds, peanuts, cashews, and legumes like soybeans and black beans. However, if someone doesn’t eat enough of these types of foods, then they may be prone to health issues related to low magnesium intake such as increased risk of bone health and heart health issues.
In fact, research shows that those who have higher circulating levels of magnesium have lower risk of cardiovascular disease (31). Also, higher levels of magnesium intake have been linked to lower risk of heart disease risk factors like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia (31,32,33).
Taking that into account, it may be beneficial to start taking a magnesium supplement if you are currently at risk for heart disease.
Related: Top 10 Magnesium Supplements
The golden spice turmeric, commonly used in Indian cuisine, contains potent heart health benefits.
These benefits stem from the activity compound curcumin, which makes up about 2-3-percent of the total weight of turmeric (34,35). Curcumin is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (34).
Black pepper, or piperine, is often consumed with curcumin to help improve the bioavailability, or body’s ability to use the compound.
By lowering lipid levels in the body, curcumin can help lower risk of heart disease in those with cardiovascular risk factors (36). Research also shows that curcumin compounds can also promote healthy blood circulation, which in turn could help lower heart disease risk (37).
The cardioprotective properties of curcumin alone are reason enough to add this supplement to your heart healthy routine (38).
Related: Top 10 Turmeric Supplements
Not only does garlic provide potent flavor to meal time, but it is also a powerful heart health supplement.
Garlic, or Allium sativum L., contains organosulfur compounds that show antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cardioprotective properties (39). Research shows that supplementing with garlic can help improve blood lipid profiles in those with high cholesterol and can also improve blood pressure levels in those with hypertension (39,40).
The major active component of garlic, diallyl trisulfide, may be responsible for such cardioprotective effects (41).
Current research reveals that the cardioprotective effect of Allium sativum may stem from its ability to reduce oxidative stress in the body (42). Also, a certain type of garlic, known as black garlic, has particularly potent antioxidant properties.
This type of garlic, made from fresh garlic processed under high temperatures and humidity, has shown to improve quality of life and left ventricular ejection fraction in those with congestive heart failure (43).
Furthermore, the supplement of aged garlic extract has been found to lower heart disease risk by reducing the accumulation of certain kinds of plaque in the arteries (40).
Related: Top 10 Garlic Supplements
Omega-3 fatty acids
A heart healthy diet is known for its focus on healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon (44).
Supplementation of this fatty acid also shows significant heart health benefits. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help improve endothelial function by promoting release of nitric oxide, which in turn helps with healthy dilation of blood vessels and reduces inflammation in the vessels (45).
The strongest evidence of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and heart health is related to research linking the supplement with prevention of cardiac death (46).
And while more studies need to be done to confirm other heart health benefits of such supplements, it would not hurt to add such a supplement to your diet to improve heart health outcomes. Not to mention that studies show that polyunsaturated fatty acids like the omega-3 fatty acids may reduce risk of diabetes, of which heart disease is a complication (47).
It is recommended that your omega-3 fatty acid supplement contain a good source of both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are two types of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (44).
Related: Top 10 Fish Oil Supplements
Related: Top 10 Krill Oil Supplements
Heart health is vital to overall health. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your heart health nutrient needs are being met through your diet.
If you are lacking in such nutrients, then a supplement such as those listed above may be necessary to fill in the gaps. Some of these vitamins can be fulfilled with a multivitamin option. However, it’s important to read the label to make sure that the multivitamin is providing enough of the important heart health nutrients to make a difference in your health.
It may be helpful to talk to a qualified healthcare provider to help you make the best choice when it comes to supplements to help support your heart health.
Also, meeting with a registered dietitian or exercise specialist may help you create a diet and exercise routine that is providing the most benefit for your heart health.
In the meantime, have your nutrient labs checked and try a heart health supplement or two, depending on your nutrient needs, so you can take the first steps towards improving your heart health today.
ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Staci.
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About the Author
Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, health editor, and founder of LighttrackNutrition.com. Through her writing, she hopes to provide others with an unbiased and evidence-based view of health and wellness topics so they can make educated decisions when building their healthy lifestyle. Email Staci.