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Health healthy supplements formed into a heart shape

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in adults in the United States, surpassing death from all forms of cancer, respiratory disease, stroke and accidents. Your lifestyle behaviors play an integral role in your risk for heart disease and stroke. We all know adhering to a heart-healthy diet and maintaining a cardiovascular exercise program are beneficial for your heart, but what role do supplements play in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system? What are the best supplements for heart health?

One of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized™ is “Take the Right Supplements for You.” We spoke with Cooper Clinic Cardiologists John S. Ho, MD, and Nina B. Radford, MD, to discuss the best supplements for heart health to improve cardiovascular risk factors and overall heart health.

Omega-3 Heart Health Benefits

Omega-3 Lowers Blood Pressure

Studies show eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (such salmon, cod, sardines, and canned light tuna) or consuming fish oil supplements can benefit health by reducing high blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) can remain symptom-free for many years in some patients. However, the damage to blood vessels and the heart will persist even if the condition is left undetected, making hypertension a top risk factor for heart problems including stroke and heart attack. This is also one reason it’s important to have an annual preventive health exam.

A review of clinical research suggests a link between omega-3 intake and a modest reduction in blood pressure. Engaging in most healthy lifestyle behaviors can modestly reduce blood pressure and every little bit counts! Lowering blood pressure a few points with exercise, a few points with omega-3 intake or a few points with weight loss can really add up! You may be able to avoid taking medication (or reduce the amount taken) to manage hypertension and skip the co-pay and side effects.

Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP)

Change Intervention Prescription Approx. Impact on SBP Hypertension Approx. Impact on SBP Normotension
Weight loss Weight/body fat The best goal is ideal body weight but aim for at least a 1-kg (2.2 lbs) reduction in body weight for most adults who are overweight. Expect about 1 mm Hg for every 1-kg reduction in body weight. -5 mm Hg -2/3 mm Hg
Healthy diet DASH diet Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, with reduced saturated and total fat. -11 mm Hg -3 mm Hg
Reduced intake of dietary sodium Dietary sodium Optimal goal is <1500 mg/d but aim for at least a 1000 mg/d reduction in most adults. -5/6 mm Hg -2/3 mm Hg
Enhanced intake of dietary potassium Dietary potassium Aim for 3500-5000 mg/d, preferably by consuming a diet rich in potassium. -4/5 mm Hg -2 mm Hg
Physical activity Aerobic 90-150 min/wk at 65-75% heart rate -5/8 mm Hg -2/4 mm Hg
Physical activity Dynamic resistance 90-150 min/wk 58-80% 1 rep maximum 6 exercises, 3 sets/exercise, 10 repetitions/set -4 mm Hg -2 mm Hg
Physical activity Isometric resistance 4 x 2 (hand grip), 1 min rest between exercises, 30-40% maximum voluntary contraction, 3 sessions/wk 8-10 wk -5 mm Hg -4 mm Hg
Moderation in alcohol intake Alcohol consumption In individuals who drink alcohol, reduce alcohol to Men ≤2 drinks/day Women ≤1 drink/day -4 mm Hg -3 mm Hg

The American Heart Association recommends adults consume at least two servings of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel or trout each week. These types of fish provide long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA), which research shows can improve heart health.

Omega-3 Lowers Triglycerides Levels

Someone with elevated triglyceride levels may also benefit from omega-3 supplements for heart health. Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in the blood and elevated levels are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Advanced Omega-3 Supplement

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“The data on omega-3 as it relates to decreasing triglycerides is very strong,” says Ho. “I take Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 because I have high triglycerides myself. I also have calcification, which omega-3 can help with.”

Not getting enough fatty fish through your diet? Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 contains 1,400 mg of EPA and DHA in each two-softgel serving.

“Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 has among the highest levels of EPA and DHA,” explains Ho. “That’s why I recommend it to my patients.”

Omega-3 Supplements Reduce Heart Attack Risk

The VITAL study followed 25,871 adults aged 50+ as they supplemented 50 mcg (2,000 IU) vitamin D and 1 gram of fish oil per day.

According to the first round of findings, people who consumed less than the American Heart Association recommendation for fatty fish but took the omega-3 supplement experienced a 28% decreased risk of heart attacks. Also, for people with low fish intake, the chance of any cardiovascular event was reduced by 19%. The study also found omega-3 fatty acids reduced the rate of angioplasty procedures by 22%.

Not getting enough fatty fish through your diet? Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 contains 1,400 mg of EPA and DHA in each two-softgel serving, which can be beneficial.

“Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 has among the highest levels of EPA and DHA,” explains Ho. “That’s why I recommend it to my patients.”

Omega-3 Supplements and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Dr. Radford shares five key takeaways  from the VITAL study for omega-3 supplements and cardiovascular disease prevention:

  1. Before and after supplementation with 1 gram of fish oil (containing approximately 465 mg EPA and 375 mg DHA), the Omega-3 Index (a measure of the amount of EPA and DHA in the blood) was not in the optimal range for cardioprotection, but still showed benefit for some cardiovascular outcomes.
  2. Participants in the omega-3 group with low fish consumption showed almost a 20% reduction for having any one of the three major cardiovascular events. This is important because weekly fish consumption is generally lower for most people.
  3. In the entire group of participants taking omega-3, there were fewer fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and a lessened need for stents or bypass. Stroke risk and the overall risk of death did not diminish.
  4. The cardioprotective benefits of omega-3 use demonstrated in the VITAL study are consistent with basic scientific research showing omega-3 fatty acids:
    1. Lower blood pressure
    2. Reduce the risk of blood clots and vascular inflammation
    3. Inhibit the growth of atherosclerotic plaque (hardening of the arteries)
    4. Reduce the tendency to develop abnormal heart rhythms
    5. Promote blood vessel relaxation
  5. Taking omega-3 supplements is safe. The incidence of major bleeding episodes, gastrointestinal symptoms, or other serious health events did not differ significantly between the placebo and omega-3 groups.

(Dr. Radford provided an in-depth article about the VITAL study results here.)

High Cholesterol Increases Risk of Heart Disease

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Statistics show approximately one in three American adults have high LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

100 mg CoQ10 Ubiquinol Supplement

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When cholesterol levels are too high, fatty deposits or plaque can build up in the blood vessels and eventually make it difficult for blood to flow freely through arteries. This can increase the likelihood of a heart attack.

Effects of CoQ10 Deficiency on the Body

Along with diet modifications and increased exercise, doctors often prescribe medications called statins to help lower cholesterol. While statin drugs can help bring cholesterol to an optimal range, they can also deplete the body’s coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) level, which is necessary to convert the food we eat into cellular energy.

This deficiency can lead to one of the negative side effects of statin therapy—muscle aches and pains. CoQ10 supplements for heart health can help restore levels and reduce statin side effects.

“If my patient complains about statin side effects, I always recommend CoQ10,” says Ho. He says about 30-40% of his patients see relief once they begin taking the supplement.

Cooper Complete CoQ10 is in the ubiquinol form, which is the active antioxidant form. Some research suggests this form is better absorbed by the body. Cooper Complete CoQ10 is available in a 100 mg supplement capsule. (Cooper Complete Original multivitamin and mineral supplement also contains 100 mg coenzyme Q10.)

“I always start my patients who complain of statin side effects on 100 mg of CoQ10,” says Ho. “If it begins to work, I go up to 150 mg, possibly even 200 mg.”

That being said, Ho strongly reinforces to his patients who have been prescribed statins they must stay on the medication no matter what. If CoQ10 doesn’t help alleviate statin side effects, he explores other methods.

Vitamin D Supplements for Better Heart Health

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as a hormone in the body. It regulates calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood and promotes healthy bone formation and mineralization throughout the lifespan.

Vitamin D3 125 mcg (5000 IU) Supplement

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The benefits of adequate amounts of vitamin D include cardiovascular health. Specifically, Cooper Clinic measures its patients’ vitamin D levels as part of their preventive exam and recommends 50 mcg (2,000 IU) of vitamin D per day as a baseline for all adults.

Research suggests people with low levels of vitamin D elevate their risk of heart attack. In a study conducted in Denmark, researchers found troubling results for people with extremely low blood levels of vitamin D. These groups have an 81 percent increased risk of fatal heart disease. On top of this, they have a 64 percent increased risk of heart attack compared to people with higher vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D Level Research From Harvard

The Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston conducted a study on vitamin D levels for heart health. Researchers followed 454 health professionals 40 to 75 years of age who had suffered a nonfatal heart attack as well as 900 men with no history of cardiovascular disease over ten years. Men with the lowest vitamin D levels had a higher risk of heart attack and heart failure.

Based on this and other research, Cooper Complete multivitamins contain 50 mcg (2,000 IU) vitamin D. In addition, we also offer standalone vitamin D supplements  (in 25 mcg (1,000 IU) and 125 mcg (5,000 IU)).

Multivitamins to Control Inflammation

If you’ve had a comprehensive blood panel recently, it likely included a blood test that measures levels of a protein called the C-reactive protein.

C-reactive protein, made from the liver, is an inflammatory marker for the body. Overall, it helps measure inflammation from all kinds of events—for example, getting a cold or the flu, breaking an arm or suffering a bad fall, developing cancer or having a heart attack. In detail, when the body undergoes any of these types of stress, the amount of C-reactive protein rises.

Since experts believe hardening of the arteries is an inflammatory process, C-reactive protein levels may predict heart disease along with the standard cholesterol screening tests. The C-reactive protein measure may indicate whether cholesterol plaque is about to rupture, releasing clots in the bloodstream.

A number of conditions and medications can affect C-reactive protein levels. For example, aspirin, beta-blockers, niacin and statins can lower C-reactive protein levels. In addition, quercetin, vitamin C, folic acid and vitamin B6  also lower C-reactive protein and are recommended supplements for heart health.

C-Reactive Protein and Multivitamin Research

One of the first research studies conducted on Cooper Complete looked at the impact of a multivitamin on C-reactive protein. The clinical trial (Reduction of C-Reactive Protein Levels Through Use of a Multivitamin reported in December 2003 American Journal of Medicine) found Cooper Complete Original Iron Free lowered C-reactive protein levels by 32 percent. Cooper Complete adult multivitamins contain 10 mg vitamin B6. Cooper Complete Original contains 500 mg vitamin C and Basic One contains 150 mg.

As a reminder, your physician understands your health profile best, so it’s important to talk to them about which supplements are best for you.

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