Because optimal nutrition is absolutely critical to cardiovascular health, I strive every day to eat a heart healthy diet. On top of that, I also take targeted nutritional supplements for a healthy heart.
Why do I take supplements for heart health when I already eat well? Because no matter how good your diet is, it’s likely to fall short in certain areas. The right nutritional supplements have the power to help reverse heart failure, keep your heart beating as it should, and maintain healthy arteries and proper blood flow. Researchers have even shown that we as a society could save billions of dollars in heart-related hospitalization costs if those with a high risk of cardiovascular disease were to take targeted heart health supplements.1
The Importance of Heart Health Supplements for Energy Support
The heart has unique nutritional needs when it comes to energy support, because it is one of the few organs in the body that functions continuously without resting. Certain heart health nutrients, therefore, are crucial to help the mitochondria in your cells produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the fuel your body requires at the cellular level.
Without enough ATP, your cells can’t function at optimum levels—and nowhere is that more apparent than in the energy-guzzling cells that are found in the heart. Poor ATP metabolism can result in the heart becoming weak and inefficient, which can lead to a significantly compromised quality of life.
The heart health supplements Coenzyme Q10, L-Carnitine, magnesium, and D-ribose all contribute to the ATP production process, and, ultimately, a healthy heart. Here’s how each of these nutrients aids in energy production, along with dosage directions depending on your current health status.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance that’s made naturally in the body and crucial to heart health. However, production declines with age and poor diet, and is significantly impaired by statin drugs.
CoQ10 works in the body in two ways. The first is as an escort. Inside our cells, electrons are extracted from the food we eat to produce ATP. CoQ10 molecules play a central role in that process by shuttling electrons back and forth between enzymes. The second role CoQ10 plays is as a scavenger of free radicals, which is important because ATP production generates a lot of free radical activity. In this antioxidant capacity, CoQ10 helps protect cell membranes and arterial tissue from oxidative stress and inflammatory damage.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: I suggest 50 to 100 mg of CoQ10 per day. Individuals with high blood pressure or those who are taking a statin drug should take 100 to 200 mg of CoQ10 per day. Those needing additional support should take 200 to 300 mg per day. For best absorption, I recommend supplementing with the water-soluble form of CoQ10, and taking it with meals.
L-carnitine is a water-soluble compound found primarily in meat—especially in lamb. The body also makes it.
L-carnitine’s role in ATP production is also as an escort—a very special kind of escort. It’s the only molecule in our cells with the ability to move fatty acids into the mitochondria. This function is critical because the heart obtains 60 percent of its fuel from fat! Equally important, L-carnitine also carries the waste generated by ATP metabolism out of the mitochondria.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: To get the maximum benefits of L-carnitine, I recommend taking 250 to 500 mg daily in divided doses on an empty stomach. You can take up to 1 g daily if you have serious heart concerns.
All enzymatic reactions involving ATP require magnesium. People get magnesium through their diet (leafy green vegetables, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, beans, tofu, figs, apricots, and bananas are all rich in magnesium) and mineral-rich hard drinking water. However, magnesium deficiency is common due to poor diet, emotional and physical stress, and long-term use of diuretics.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: Magnesium glycinate, taurinate, or orotate are the best-absorbed supplement forms of this heart health nutrient. I recommend taking a broad-spectrum magnesium supplement that contains all three forms. Take at least 400 mg daily with meals.
D-ribose is a naturally occurring sugar derivative of ATP that helps fuel the regeneration of energy when your body can’t create it quickly enough. When the heart is under stress and deprived of oxygen—during heavy exercise, for instance—there’s a profound depression of ATP. Individuals with ischemia have low levels of ribose, which compromises the heart’s ability to re-synthesize and regenerate ATP.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: For individuals involved in moderate to intense exercise, take 5 g daily prior to activity. For those with any cardiac concerns, take 5 to 15 g a day in divided doses. And for those specifically with chronic heart failure, take at least 10 to 15 g in divided doses daily. Make sure to take ribose with meals.
Anti-inflammation & Antioxidant Supplements for a Healthy Heart
Since inflammation is the true cause of heart disease, it is important to supplement with heart health nutrients that help to counter inflammation in the body as well as fight off the free radicals that bombard our system daily. Here are the best anti-inflammation and antioxidant heart health supplements, along with my dosage recommendations.
Omega-3 fatty acids enhance heart health in several important ways. First, these vital fats help to support a normal inflammatory response in the body. In a study looking at blood levels of omega-3s and C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, those with the highest levels of omega-3s had the lowest levels of CRP.2
Omega-3s also support healthy platelet function so your blood clots as it should. In addition, these important fatty acids enhance the production of nitric oxide, the chemical that allows your blood vessels to relax—which is essential for healthy blood pressure.
There are two types of omega-3s: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While your body needs both types of omega-3s, the newest research indicates that DHA omega-3s give you the best support for your blood pressure, arterial health, and circulation. So, when supplementing for optimal heart health, choose an omega-3 supplement that is heavily weighted in DHA over EPA.
Calamari (squid) oil supplements are a great source of omega-3s, since calamari oil is naturally high in DHA. Plus, squid are sustainably sourced from deep ocean waters and harvested small (they only live up to 450 days), so they are clean. Another benefit: Calamari oil doesn’t cause “fishy burps,” or “repeating,” like fish oil can.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: To promote general heart health, try supplementing with 1 to 2 g of omega-3s daily. For an extra boost of heart health support, increase to 2 to 3 g daily. It’s also important to get omega-3s from the foods you eat. So, on a regular basis eat foods high in omega-3s, such as wild caught salmon and other cold-water fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and dark leafy greens.
Astaxanthin has absolutely remarkable antioxidant properties that benefit everything from your skin to your eyes to your brain, and everything in between—including your heart. That’s why I often refer to it as the “wonder antioxidant.” This rare carotenoid helps fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress throughout your body. You can only get astaxanthin through your diet or by supplementation, since your body doesn’t naturally produce it.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: Take 6 to 12 mg daily.
Resveratrol is a flavonoid antioxidant compound found in grape skins. Researchers have been studying resveratrol’s powerful antioxidant properties since the 1980s and it has been found to have anti-aging effects in mice, yeast, worms, and fruit flies.
More than 1,500 experiments on resveratrol have been conducted to date showing a number of heart health benefits, including its ability to protect against the free radical damage that occurs to the sensitive endothelial lining of arteries during atherosclerosis. Resveratrol has also been shown to encourage optimal blood flow, which is key for cardiovascular health. And in animal studies, resveratrol improves mitochondrial function (cellular energy production) and aerobic capacity.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: We still have much more to learn about the benefits of resveratrol supplementation for humans, but for now I recommend 25 to 30 mg of resveratrol a day in supplement form to start—not to exceed 250 mg a day.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it increases your body’s resistance to stress. Chronic stress can adversely affect your heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and circulation and take a tremendous toll on your health and well-being. Used for thousands of years in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, concentrated extracts of ashwagandha are now known to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep. Stress is a significant yet overlooked risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is why I recommend ashwagandha for heart health.
Suggested dosage of ashwagandha: Because there are many different forms and strengths of this herb, I recommend using a standardized extract such as Sensoril ashwagandha. The recommended daily dose is 250 mg.
Even though you may not have heard of curcumin before, you’ve probably heard of turmeric—the spice that is best known as an ingredient in Indian curry and yellow mustard. Turmeric’s bright color comes from curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that enhances the cardiovascular system in a number of ways.
Curcumin has the ability to reduce blood pressure by lowering the excess platelet aggregation that occurs in sticky, clot-forming blood. In addition, animal research suggests that curcumin may reduce cardiomyopathy, though more human research is needed in the hypertensive population to confirm these findings.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: First off, I recommend cooking with plenty of turmeric as a way to reap the benefits of curcumin. If you wish to take curcumin as a nutritional supplement, try 250 to 500 mg daily.
For a long time, I’ve been recommending chromium to help keep blood sugar levels in a normal range, which is very important for the health of your heart. However, I’ve recently been impressed with emerging research on a clinically studied and highly stable form of chromium called Crominex 3+, because it has been shown to have a real impact on an array of other critical heart markers.
Crominex 3+ is a special form of chromium blended with Amla fruit extract (Indian Gooseberry), and purified shilajit (a mineral-rich compound), making it very safe to take. In addition, it’s not known to oxidize like other forms of chromium can. Crominex 3+ can substantially decrease CRP—a key inflammatory marker—and LDL cholesterol, while at the same time increasing HDL cholesterol and endothelial function to maintain healthy blood flow.
Suggested dosage of this heart health supplement: For optimal blood sugar levels and the whole range of heart health benefits, I recommend 400 mcg daily.
1Shanahan CJ1, de Lorimier R. From “Science to Finance-A Tool for Deriving Economic Implications from the Results of Dietary Supplement Clinical Studies.” J Diet Suppl. 2014 Aug 28.
2Micallef MA et al. Eur J Clin Nutri 2009; 63:1154-6.