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3 Nutritional Supplements for Women's Heart Health

More women fear breast cancer than any other disease. Yet, cardiovascular disease (CVD) or heart disease claims over ten times as many women’s lives as breast cancer. In fact, CVD is the Philippines’ and the USA’s leading cause of death for both men and women. That’s the bad news. The good news is that CVD is almost entirely preventable.

What influences heart health? The following measurements tell you something about the state of your heart:

  1. Cholesterol. Excess cholesterol gets deposited in, and narrows, the artery walls.

  2. Triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides are associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease.

  3. Blood pressure. High blood pressure puts stress on the artery walls and increases the heart’s workload.

  4. Homocysteine. Too much homocysteine degrades the structural integrity of the arteries.

  5. C-reactive protein. Elevated C-reactive protein is associated with a higher risk for hypertension and heart disease (CVD).

Keep an eye on these measurements by having them tested regularly. Ask your doctor what the optimal measurement for each is. (A functional medicine doctor can give you the most optimal levels instead of the ‘normal’ levels.)

For a healthy heart, the general recommendations are:

  • Eat a balanced, whole foods diet.

  • Avoid processed foods.

  • Avoid foods with trans fats (also labelled as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil).

  • Limit saturated fats.

  • Engage in regular moderate exercise like walking.

Select nutritional supplements can also make a big difference. There are several things to keep in mind when buying and taking nutritional supplements. The most important in this particular case is to consult your physician or heath care provider if you are currently on medication. Some supplements may interact with certain medications such as lessen the efficacy of your medication.

Here are the top three supplements that studies have shown to be effective in supporting women's heart health:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Chances are you’ve heard about omega-3 essential fatty acids because they’re good for so many things. They are anti-inflammatory and support joint, brain, and heart health.

They’re called essential because our body cannot produce them on its own.

On supplement labels, you may see omega-3 as EPA and DHA, the two most common types of omega-3. (Eicosapentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic acid)

Omega-3s are most abundant in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. That’s why most omega-3 supplements are in the form of fish oil. Some are in the form of krill oil. Krill are small, shrimp-like marine animals that are rich in EPA and DHA. Avoid krill oil, though, if you have a seafood allergy as it may trigger a reaction.

If you’re vegan, you can also get your omega-3s from walnuts and chia seeds. Just note that the omega-3 in plant sources is alpha linolenic acid or ALA (not alpha lipoic acid, which is an antioxidant), which your body then converts to EPA and DHA. Conversion rates, however, tend to be quite low. Some researchers suggest that conversion is less than 1% of ALA.

Here are just some Omega 3 benefits shown by research:

  • Helps maintain healthy levels of C-reactive protein.

  • Reduces triglycerides by about 15%.

  • Promotes a desirable blood pressure.

  • Lowers risk of coronary heart disease.

  • Reduces risk of heart attacks.

You can buy these essential fats as liquid omega-3 oil, but most people prefer the convenience of omega-3 pills. Whichever omega-3 supplement you choose, just keep in mind that quality differs tremendously among different brands.

Research the source of a brand’s fish oil to know if they were sourced responsibly and sustainably and to know the likelihood of mercury contamination. Test also that it isn’t rancid. Rancid fish oil can be harmful and may cause inflammation instead.

An easy way to test for rancidity is to break open a fish oil capsule and smell it. If it has a strong fishy smell, chances are it’s rancid. Fish burps (when your burps have a fishy smell) are another sign that the fish oil has either gone bad or the softgel casing has certain undesirable additives.

Dosage recommendation is generally at 500 mg to 1,000 mg per day. Ask your doctor the dosage that’s right for you.

Read here for a more detailed guide to omega-3 supplements.

2. Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

An antioxidant produced by the body and used for cellular energy, Co-enzyme Q10 or CoQ10 has been shown in studies to be especially helpful in reducing mortality due to heart failure.

Heart health benefits of CoQ10 are the following:

CoQ10 comes in two forms: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is the active form that’s made by the body from ubiquinone. Older people will benefit more from ubiquinol while younger people will do fine with ubiquinone, the more affordable and more widely available form of CoQ10 supplement. This is because young people still have the ability to convert ubiquinone to ubiquinol. The body loses this conversion ability as we age.

It's best to take this supplement with food for better absorption because CoQ10 is fat-soluble. The usual recommended dosage for CoQ10 is 100 to 200 mg a day though studies have used 50 mg to 1,200 mg for adults.

Consult your physician to know if you will benefit from CoQ10 supplementation as well as the right dosage for you. One way to know this is to have a simple blood test that measures CoQ10 levels.

3. Magnesium

I’m sure you know that magnesium is a mineral. We all learned this in high school, maybe even grade school, science. It’s found naturally in many foods, especially plant foods, because plants take up magnesium from the soil they grow in. The most important sources are leafy green vegetables like spinach, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, avocados, and bananas.

Sadly, the depleted state of the soil in commercial agriculture has led to lower amounts of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, in commercial produce. In addition, our body usually absorbs only 30% to 40% of the magnesium in foods. So, it can be helpful to take magnesium supplements.

Magnesium supports heart health in the following ways:

Magnesium supplements come in several forms: Magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, magnesium L-threonate, magnesium lactate, magnesium taurate, and magnesium glycinate.

Though they all benefit heart health, each form has an additional specialized function. For example, magnesium glycinate makes for better sleep. Magnesium L-threonate can cross the blood-brain barrier and helps with cognitive function. Magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide help with the occasional constipation.

As with CoQ10, a simple blood test can tell you if you have a magnesium deficiency.

Again, consult your qualified healthcare professional or physician for the right magnesium supplement and dosage for you or if you even need supplementation.

There you have it! The three nutritional supplements that can help keep your heart healthy: Omega-3, CoQ10, and Magnesium. Remember to consult your doctor before you take them, especially if you’re on medication as they can interact with or lessen the efficacy of certain meds.

Before deciding to take nutritional supplements, remember that it’s best to begin with a healthy, balanced diet of whole foods and to engage in lifestyle practices that:

  • keep you moderately active,

  • manage stress effectively,

  • sleep well, and

  • keep you connected socially and spiritually.



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