Natural Ways to Support Heart Health

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Medicine bottles and calendula flowers on wooden backgroundTips from the leaders in natural health on supplementation, diet, and more!

As detailed in this issue’s article on statins, the American Heart Association’s dangerous new guidelines say that heart disease prevention can only come from a prescription bottle. But as demonstrated by the long list below, there are plenty of ways to keep your heart healthy naturally!

This is far from a comprehensive list, so be sure to talk to your integrative doctor or healthcare provider to discuss what options are best for you:

Dietary Supplements

  • Long-term supplementation with selenium and CoQ10 (taken together in the study) has been proven to reduce heart-related risk of death by 6%. Taken alone or together with other nutrients, CoQ10 is considered one of the leading heart supplements.
  • In addition to CoQ10, Dr. Stephen Sinatra recommends supplementation with L-carnitine, D-ribose, and magnesium, as all four supplements nourish mitochondria, your body’s “power plant” cells that produce ATP, the energy source that triggers vital biochemical functions. Your heart is full of mitochondria, and keeping them healthy and productive is key to preventing heart disease.
  • Studies show that individuals with high levels of vitamin K experience a significant reduction in heart disease.
  • Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D can help prevent heart disease, particularly in diabetics.
  • Other supplements often recommended include vitamin C, gamma E, hawthorn, niacin, melatonin, omega 3 fats, garlic, bromelain, folate, B-6, B-12, arginine, green tea extract, and anti-glycation supplements such as carnosine and benfotiamine.
  • There is an overlap between supplements for the heart in general and those for blood pressure, but other supplements often mentioned for blood pressure include magnesium, potassium, nattokinase, quercetin, celery, hibiscus, cinnamon, pomegranate, beets, grape seed extract, olive leaf extract, folate, and tocotrienols.

Diet

  • Balance your omegas. An imbalance of your fatty acids—too much omega 6 (found in soybean oil and meat from animals fed soy) and too little omega 3 (found in fish, beans, nuts, and some vegetables)—can cause systemic inflammation, which can trigger heart disease, depression, and cancer.
  • Watch your blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that people with high blood glucose levels have a nearly 300% higher risk of coronary heart disease than those with healthy glucose levels. Reducing your intake of grains (both whole and found in processed foods), sweets, and potatoes can help lower your blood glucose levels.
  • Eat walnuts! A 2013 Penn State study found that consumption of whole walnuts or extracted walnut oil can help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining blood vessel integrity.
  • Other foods that seem to be heart protective include vegetables, fruits (in moderation), chocolate, and olive oil.
  • What to avoid: Traditional advice such as to avoid butter or eggs seems to be false. Butter—high in vitamin K2, which is hard to find—may help the heart. The single most important thing to avoid may be trans fats (such as in margarine). See our article about the FDA’s recent proposal about synthetic trans fat. But sugar and especially high fructose corn syrup is also a big risk for the heart, both by promoting diabetes, which takes its toll on your heart, and perhaps directly.

Exercise and Relaxation

  • If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10% of your body weight can reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Circuit training—short bursts of intense exercise—helps improve the elasticity of your arterial walls, improving overall heart health. (Two of ANH-USA’s staff members swear by CrossFit for this kind of exercise!)
  • Meditation has been shown to result in a 48% reduction in the overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
  • Sleep is important and sleep apnea can increase your risk considerably.

Other Natural Interventions

  • Brush your teeth! Dr. Sinatra, in his book Reverse Heart Disease Now, recommends keeping up with your oral hygiene, as bacteria produced from periodontal disease can trigger arterial issues.
  • Blood viscosity testing. According to integrative health pioneers Dr. Jonathan Wright and Dr. Robert J. Rowen, blood with elevated viscosity (that is, thick blood) is a major risk factor in heart disease. Testing your blood viscosity can help detect and assess your cardiovascular risk.
  • Donate blood! Too much iron in your blood can lead to a heart attack. Donating blood will not only help keep iron levels in check, but can help maintain a healthy blood viscosity.
  • Monitor your hormones as you age. If you supplement, be sure to be use bioidentical hormones, and if sex hormones, use creams rather than tablets.
  • Monitor your bones. If you have osteoporosis, the problem may be lack of vitamin K. In the absence of K2 and other vital co-factors, calcium ingested may have migrated to your blood vessels or heart rather than where you want it, in your bones.

Tests

There are many useful blood tests including fibrinogen, homocysteine (usually controlled with B6, folate, and B12), and c-reactive protein. The Life Extension Foundation has an excellent panel. There is also a new test for oxidized LDL cholesterol currently available from Dunwoody Labs and other sources. It is oxidized LDL which seems to be the real villain for your heart rather than LDL itself.

When testing, don’t forget thyroid. Also remember heavy metals—lead, cadmium, and mercury can all take a toll on your heart. That is why chelation has been shown to be an effective remedy for heart disease. Oral chelation is less effective but might be used as a preventive. You’ll need a skilled integrative doctor to steer you to the right tests (blood, urine, or hair), since conventional doctors often mistrust the connection with heart disease and in any case are not experienced in knowing which test to use.

An old stand-by, the waist-to-hip ratio, still remains one of the most reliable predictors of heart attacks.

A Treatment You May Not Have Heard Of

  • EECP (enhanced external counterpulsation). This has been a therapy promoted by Dr. Julian Whitaker, another integrative medicine pioneer.

Treatments That Need a Second (or Third) Opinion

  • Antibiotics taken routinely before dental cleaning to protect the mitral valve or other parts of the heart. The antibiotics kill the good bacteria which your body depends on for digestion and immunity. If you do take antibiotics, be sure to follow with a good pro-biotic.
  • Bypass operations, angioplasty, and stents. Research suggests that these are often done when they should not be. Bypass may lead to brain damage.
  • Chest radiation, e.g., routine or for breast cancer treatment. Keep in mind that the heart may be directly in the line of fire.

How do you keep your heart happy and healthy? Share your strategies and suggestions in the comments section below!

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  • Helen Tam-Semmens

    No meat and dairy is the key, ie, a vegan diet. It worked to lower my cholesterol. And actually reversed a lot of people’s heart disease.

    The following CNN Sanjay Gupta’s documentary is well worth watching:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-Unn7LjFkI

    The following are just some of the researches showing how bad meat and dairy is to our health:

    Meat consumption strongly correlates with cancer:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1140864?dopt=Abstract
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/165553
    http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/facts/meat-consumption-and-cancer-risk

    Red meat increases risk of heart disease and cancer:
    http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/03/red-meat-raises-red-flags/
    http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1134845

    Animal protein increases risk of heart attack. Plant protein significantly decrease risk of heart attack:
    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/protein-and-heart-disease/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954454/

    Animal protein increases risk of diabetes:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797984/

    Meat increases risk of osteoporosis and bone loss:
    http://news.cornell.edu/stories/1996/11/eating-less-meat-may-help-reduce-osteoporosis-risk

    Meat increases risk of arthritis:
    http://arthritis-research.com/content/9/1/R16

    Dairy increase risk of cancer due to hormones:
    http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/12.07/11-dairy.html
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-6-28.pdf

    Dairy causes infant apnea and crib death:
    http://nutritionfacts.org/2012/06/21/cows-milk-casomorphin-crib-death-and-autism/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21478761

    Dairy increases risk of autism. “The opiate-like casomorphins liberated from the cow’s milk protein, casein, are also accused of participating in the cause of other conditions including type I diabetes, postpartum psychosis, circulatory disorders, food allergies, and autism”, Michael Greger M.D:
    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cows-milk-casomorphin-and-autism/
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19576256

    Humans have no need of cow’s milk. Bone fracture rates highest in countries that consume milk:
    http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1704826

    • There is one very serious flaw in all the information you are quoting: there is no difference drawn between conventional meat/dairy and organic/natural/raw sources of meat and dairy. There is a huge difference between the two, so painting both with the same brush is false and improper.

      A vegan diet is MASSIVELY unhealthy for the vast majority of people who try it. I’ve counseled numerous clients who were terribly malnourished from vegan diets.

      Look at it like this: any diet that requires a host of supplementation to garner your nutrition is much too extreme and unbalanced. Veganism typically stems from a misguided pro-animal ideology. The very notion absolutely flies in the face of our human evolutionary history.

      And while I’m not a huge proponent of dairy for adults, raw dairy has been shown to have numerous health benefits. You can look no further than pasteurization and homogenization for destroying the healthy aspects of dairy. In fact, the foods highest in vitamins A, D, E, and K are raw milk and butter.

      Finally, natural, healthy, organically-raised and fed meat is a must-have for a proper, balanced diet. Anyone who says otherwise is selling an agenda or is hopelessly misguided.

  • Shasha

    Hi, No gluten/dairy/soy/sugar…vitamins/good oils, LDN, Vit D3, Vit C/Vit E, zinc, fish oil (thins blood), Mg, Osteoprocare, B vitamins, thyroid medicine (Zn/Se may help T4 to to T3), no bad fats, dairy free strong probiotic, HCl and enzymes with meals, bioidentical hormones, Coenzyme Q10 and more may help. I can’t have saturated/monounsaturated fat which clogs my blood vessels right away. I can have hard boiled good eggs/raw walnuts (open shells to avoid hidden gluten …freeze to keep them fresh). Heated oils and dehydrated food hurts me…make free radicals. Organic vegetables..blanched. No fruit except low sugar/starch. No GMO food. Brown rice helps me…is fiber…but get low arsenic kind. Exercise/sunlight and more may help.

  • Evie Wilson

    I love your newsletters! They are very informative, and demonstrate true knowledge and humility in what you say. There is much in medicine still to be “discovered” and incorporated into treatments, and the cholesterol issue is a major illustration. I’ve heard that the elderly need higher levels of it, and that statins may be especially dangerous for them, especially if they take multiple prescriptions. And prescribing dangerous statins for children seems to be increasing, truely horrible! Keep up the excellent work!

  • candace badgett

    Dear All,
    I am a supporter (donor) to your organization.. I love what you do!! But it saddens me when I see you not give credit where credit is due… especially when it misleads consumers. I am referring to your reference in this article to the fact that meditation has been shown to reduce risks of heart disease by 48%. This is true! However, the nine year longitudinal study that proved this to be true… was done on one specific kind of meditation : Transcendental Meditation (TM). This significant reduction in risk for heart disease has not been shown to be the case with any other type of ‘meditation’ practice. To imply that all meditations are the same, and that all meditations will yield a 48% reduction in risk factor for heart attack and stroke, is very irresponsible… and very unlike you. Because you are so credible… an error like this is even more serious… because it carries more weight. Please correct this inaccuracy by informing your readers of exactly WHICH meditation technique caused a 48% drop in heart disease and stroke risk. Mindfulness or Vipassana or Oneness or Compassion meditation, or other techniques that involve concentration or contemplation do not have this kind of long term, statistically significant research If you do your research you will see that the American Heart Association reviewed all studies done on all mediations and concluded that they could only endorse TM as an effective meditation intervention for reducing the risk of heart disease. So please be more careful and more thorough in your research, and more responsible to your readers. It is a waste of our most precious commodity (time!) to be misled by the implication that spending time doing ANY meditation technique will reduce our risk for heart disease stroke and death…. when that is absolutely not the case.
    With all appreciation for the otherwise great service that you provide to all of us
    Candace Badgett

  • Bruce Stewart

    Good article but make that green “tea” extract. 😉

    • Thanks Bruce! We’ve made that edit. Best, ANH-USA

  • Allan Bressler

    I do not take statins have lowered cholesterol to 148 from 170 and triglycerides from 200 to 96 and am keeping my self a live with heart trouble by eating mostly organic foods that I grow and supplements that I take plus heart meds

    • Dave

      Try hemp seed oil, Or, at least check it out and do yourself a favour after you discover the best source of EFAs a human can take.

  • Other supplements that can assist with lowering cholesterol include policosanol, niacin (but not buffered or niacinamide versions), red yeast rice, and tart cherry extract.