With February being Heart Health Month, and Valentine’s Day, our love holiday, falling right in the middle of the month, we see a lot of heart symbols around. But as we hang the Valentine’s and shower our loved ones with cards and heart-shaped chocolates, let’s not forget the importance of our own beating hearts.
A vital organ, the heart beats over 100,000 times a day, pumping nearly 8,00 liters of blood throughout the body. 8,000 liters might not even fit on the shelves of an average supermarket, but that amount of blood courses through our veins each day.
Our hearts never stop beating and carry a weighty responsibility for our overall health and vitality.
An estimated 17.7 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. In the United States, one in four people die from heart disease. With cardiovascular disease remaining the leading cause of mortality for both men and women, it’s no wonder we’ve dedicated February to heart health, but perhaps we’d be better served remembering our hearts every day of the year.
Key Supplements for Heart Health
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s continue to demonstrate protective heart health benefits in the research. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), specifically, have strong anti-inflammatory effects, and have been indicated to improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. Increased heart rate is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and omega-3s have been shown to reduce heart rate. Omega 3s have also been indicated to reduce oxidative stress and improve overall cell function immunity.
A recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies of EPA and DHA indicate a statistically significant coronary heart disease risk reduction with EPA and DHA intake, particularly among higher-risk populations (elevated triglyceride levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol). The American Heart Association asserts the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, claiming that “research has shown omega-3 fatty acids to decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death, and omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure.”
Resveratrol is a natural phytoalexin found in a variety of plant species, such as grapes, red wine, and nuts. Resveratrol has a number of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects in terms of heart health. It has been suggested to lower blood pressure, reduce heart disease and improve overall heart health. High in antioxidants, resveratrol has been shown to interfere with pathological processes, which aids in protective heart health.
ECGC: or (Epigallocatechin gallate) is a polyphenol found primarily in green tea with strong antioxidant benefits. ECGC helps to minimize oxidative damage in cells, aiding in protective heart health. It may play a role in weight loss and improving upon metabolic and cardiovascular health.
CoQ10 is essential for heart health, as it helps to revamp the mitochondria in our cells -- or essentially the “powerhouse” of our cells -- providing our body with energy, known as ATP. Our heart is constantly working, day in and day out, regardless if it is tired or not. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is critical in supporting the functioning of the heart.
CoQ10 also serves as a preventive agent against cardiovascular disease. CoQ10 supplementation has been shown to reduce blood pressure, as well as increase serum total antioxidant capacity. In terms of metabolic health, CoQ10 shows improvements in triglycerides, as well as cholesterol levels. Greater benefits are exerted from CoQ10 supplementation with regular exercise.
In addition to proper supplementation for our heart health, we also must not forget the simple things we can do every day in terms of taking care of our heart.
Lifestyle Tips for a Healthy Heart
- Follow a healthy diet. Focus on fresh, organic and whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables as these have strong antioxidant properties. Consume heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and plenty of fiber. Reduce intake of added sugars, refined carbs, as well as excessive alcohol consumption. Refrain from smoking.
- Engage in regular, strenuous exercise. Not only is physical activity conducive to emotional well-being and reducing stress, it also helps to aid in metabolic health (lowers blood pressure, boosts our good cholesterol, improve circulation or blood flow and keeps our weight under control) all of which have positive implications on our heart health.
- Get plenty of quality sleep. The heart is impacted when the body doesn’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to poor metabolic health, compromised immunity and increased blood pressure, all of which impede our heart health. Aim for 7-8 hours.
- Do what makes you happy. In a 2007 Harvard study that followed more than 6,000 men and women aged 25-74 for 20 years, researchers found that “a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance” appear to reduce heart disease risk. The “protective effect was distinct and measurable,” which means a happy heart is a healthier heart.
This month, while nibbling on those Valentine’s treats, and every month… take the time to do what’s protective of your heart health.