Top 5 Heart Health Supplements (Revised 2018)

Top 5 Heart Health Supplements (Revised 2018)

Written by Myles Spar

Posted on: May 17, 2018

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Heart Health Supplements, Heart health,

In an earlier post, I listed some of my favorite supplements for heart health. I’ve done quite a bit of research on other healing modalities, so I also wanted to highlight some non-traditional approaches to cardiovascular care. These systems of medicine have been around for thousands of years, and current research supports their efficacy. Here are some alternative ideas for heart health.
Guggul, an herb that features prominently in Ayurvedic medicine, has demonstrated potential for improving heart health. Research suggests a bioactive constituent of guggul called guggulsterone possesses lipid-lowering, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Another Ayurvedic herb called bitter melon could reduce cardiovascular risk factors, particularly for men with diabetes or prediabetes. Bitter melon may help regulate blood sugar, and animal studies indicate it can lower triglyceride levels as well.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
According to Chinese Medicine, the heart has special significance because it’s considered to be “the ruler” of all the organs in the body. When you’re healthy and everything in your body is balanced, your heart is a caring and good-natured leader. The heart is also especially important in TCM because it is thought to contain the Shen, which is loosely translated to mean soul or spirit but also includes thoughts and feelings (which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the heart-mind).
When it comes to preventing heart problems, acupuncture has been shown to be a safe and useful tool. A review paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated it could be useful either alongside or instead of conventional treatment for prevention of heart disease. And a study conducted at the University of California-Irvine’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine found regular acupuncture treatments can lower hypertension by stimulating the release of an opioid found in the brainstem region that controls blood pressure. Other research suggests acupuncture may improve blood flow to the heart in patients with coronary heart disease. Although this therapy alone won’t be enough to treat cardiovascular problems, it could be an effective complement, especially since it won’t interact with any medications.
In cases where people have already been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition, TCM offers gentle solutions. For example, tai chi may be an effective recovery technique for people who’ve experienced heart failure. In one study, 100 outpatients with systolic heart failure were divided into two groups. One completed a 12-week tai chi program while the other, a control group, spent an equivalent amount of time receiving education. By the end of the 12 weeks, those in the tai chi group had greater improvements in quality of life and mood.
As is the case with acupuncture, a main component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy is often most effective as a complementary therapy used alongside other treatments. Consider a study comparing the effects of conventional medication versus homeopathy in people with essential hypertension. While drug treatment was way more effective than homeopathy for lowering blood pressure, both worked equally well to improve patients’ subjective complaints. These results suggest that even though you shouldn’t attempt to treat hypertension with homeopathy alone, it might be helpful when added to a standard treatment protocol—especially since drug interactions aren’t an issue.
Other research has examined the use of homeopathy for heart failure. In one study, patients with mild cardiac insufficiency were either given a homeopathic preparation called Cralonin or conventional medication (ACE inhibitors/diuretics). Evaluating treatment efficacy based on 15 variables, researchers found Cralonin was “non-inferior” to drug therapy (meaning it worked just as well) on all parameters except blood pressure reduction. Again, you probably wouldn’t want to treat heart failure with homeopathy alone, but science indicates its complementary potential.
Hopefully it goes without saying that you should check with your doctor before trying any new medicine or therapy, and I recommend working with experienced practitioners of these modalities to gain the best understanding of how they can help protect your heart. Or you can contact Tack180, where we can create a personalized care plan that combines knowledge of integrative medicine with the best of what modern science and technology has to offer. You can also read about diet and heart health here and here, and I offer some tips for heart attack and stroke prevention here.


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Top 5 Heart Health Supplements (01/08/18)

I’m a huge proponent of lifestyle changes to maintain your best asset—your health. When it comes to heart health, there’s a lot you can do to protect your ticker and prevent disease. I write about how basic diet changes can affect heart health here, and I hone in on favorite foods for heart attack and stroke prevention here. But what if you want to do even more? Here are my top five heart health supplements.


1. CoQ10
According to Andrew Weil, MD, this antioxidant supports circulatory health and optimal heart muscle function in addition to reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. It can also be useful for patients on statin medications, which lower the body’s supply of CoQ10. Supplementing with CoQ10 may be particularly helpful for people with chronic heart failure. In one double-blind trial conducted over two years, patients who took 100 mg of CoQ10 three times daily in addition to standard therapy experienced symptom improvement and a reduction of major adverse cardiac events compared to placebo.


2. Fish Oil
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been shown to reduce the inflammation that can lead to cardiac events like heart attack and stroke. According to a recent American Heart Association advisory, omega-3s may be especially beneficial for people who’ve recently had a heart problem. Their study showed a daily 1,000 mg dose of fish oil could reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 10% in heart attack and heart failure patients. When choosing a fish oil supplement, U.S. News & World Reports says to read the label carefully to see how many milligrams of EPA and DHA the product contains—I advise my patients take 2,000 mg of the two combined—and make sure you’re buying from a reputable company to ensure potency and purity.


3. Hibiscus Tea
According to a recent study, hibiscus tea may be as effective as the prescription medication lisinopril for treating high blood pressure. A group of researchers in Nigeria set out to determine the effects of hibiscus tea on blood pressure compared with lisinopril, a known inhibitor of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). In the study, patients with mild to moderate hypertension were given hibiscus tea, placebo fruit drink, or 10 mg of lisinopril every day for four weeks. The hibiscus group had a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure compared to the placebo group at weeks two, three, and four and decreased diastolic blood pressure at week four. Not only is hibiscus tea a safe and inexpensive way to treat high blood pressure, it also tastes great.

Try this recipe by Tieraona Low Dog, MD, from Prevention. But check with your doctor before stopping any blood pressure medications you are currently on. And I don’t recommend this if you have diabetes.

4 c water
3 Tbsp dried or 4-5 Tbsp fresh hibiscus flowers
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp raw sugar
Juice of 1 orange

Boil water and pour over hibiscus and cinnamon stick. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain out hibiscus and cinnamon stick. Add sugar and orange. Serve hot or iced.


4. Aspirin
Thanks to its blood-thinning properties, aspirin can help keep your arteries clear by preventing clots from forming. A Canadian meta-analysis examining the use of aspirin to prevent heart attacks found it works especially well for men. Currently, the American Heart Association suggests people at high risk of heart attack should take a low-dose aspirin daily, as well as heart attack survivors. Since recommendations around aspirin therapy are constantly evolving, Dr. Oz offers a quiz called “Do You Need to Be on An Aspirin Regimen?” here. Make sure to check with your doctor before you start taking aspirin.


5. Vitamin D
Studies have shown a strong association between vitamin D deficiency—a common condition in the United States and worldwide—and risk of cardiovascular disease. And a recent analysis by Johns Hopkins of survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults for nearly 20 years found a link between adequate vitamin D levels and exercise in reducing heart attack and stroke risk. Concerned you may be D-deficient? Check in with Dr. Spar about having your level of Vitamin D and other important micronutrients tested to see if supplementation is the right course for you. The Mayo Clinic reports supplement dosing for heart disease varies between 200 and 2,000 IU daily, so check with your doctor about that, too.

Want to learn more about the way supplements can enhance your health? Check out my list of 5 supplements everyone should take, then see Dr. Spar’s Guide to Supplements.


About Myles Spar, MD

Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey Dr. Spar!

    Hope you are doing well. Miss having you as my doctor but am aligned with a great guy down here in Palm Springs. (Though you remain the best doctor EVAH!)

    All the best!


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