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Heart Of The Matter: The Care And Feeding Of Old Thumper

Author: C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD
Source: Senior Health, May 2007

Coronary heart disease (CHD) remains the single largest killer of American men and women. One of every five deaths in the United States is caused by heart attacks-in 2004, for example, there was one evey minute. About 38% of the people who experience a heart attack in a given year will die from it. And unless dramatic diet and lifestyle changes are enacted, almost all of the remaining 62% will either die of a second heart attack or heart failure or suffer a greatly reduced quality of life.

Sadly, 90% of CHD patients have at least one of these major risk factors: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes, obesity, or current medication with cholesterol and/or blood pressure medications. So even if you’re “being treated” with drugs for your blood pressure or cholesterol, it’s only a technically with respect to your risk to CHD! Truly lowering you risk requires exercise, normal body weight, and good nutrition.

The heart is composed of specialized muscle tissue that requires specific nutrients for optimum performance. The following supplements are top priority for preventing or reversing CHD.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found in all our cells. It’s particularly concentrated in the inner membrane of the mitochondria, where it drives the respiratory chain, providing energy for all muscular contractions and most cellular activities.

Abnormally low levels of CoQ10 in heart tissue are observed in patients with heart failure. Indeed, “energy starvation” of the heart muscles is a primary feature of heart failure. Angina-chronic chest pain associated with heart weakness-is a direct result of inadequate energy being supplied to the heart muscles. Although it is a more complex phenomenon, anginal pain can be compared to the pain which we experience when we overwork our muscles with strenuous exercise.

Several controlled trials with a combined total of over 1,000 heart patients showed reduction in anginal pain and fatigue, improved exercise capacity, increased ability of the heart to pump blood, and reduced hospitilization frequency with CoQ10 supplementation. Coenzyme Q10 is also the most effective natural product known for treating chronically high blood pressure (hypertension). Eight different clinical studies found that CoQ10 lowered blood pressure significantly with no side effects.

Please note that doses of CoQ10 which are effective at treating heart conditions are on the order of 100 mg two to three per day. Sixty to 100 mg/d is more appropriate for preventing heart disease or helping with hypertension.


L-Carnitine is a conditionally essential amine biochemical with escorts fatty acids into the inner layer of the mitochondrial membrane, where they are oxidized. L-carnitine has a role in the treatment of cardiac disorders because it protects the heart muscle from oxidative stress and low oxygen levels due to poor circulation or partial arterial blockage. Patients with heart attack, angina, or congestive heart failure treated with 1,500-6,000 mg L-carnitine per day for up to one year had improved exercise tolerance and less pain, weakness and shortness of breath compared to placebo. Patients who had previous heart attacks had fewer instances of later heart failure or death if they begin L-carnitine treatment after their first cardiac event.

Fish Oil

Low blood plasma levels of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA) is an unequivocal indicator for increased risk of death from CHD. EPA and DHA are the long chain essential polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil supplements and throughout the aquatic food chain. Supplementation with 2-4 g/d fish oil has been shown to reduce CHD risk factors within three months. Heart muscle requires DHA in its cell membranes in order to contract properly. Low or absent DHA is a direct cause of arrhythmia! Higher levels of both DHA and EPA in the arterial cell membranes improves flexibility of the arterial walls, which in turn lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk for arterial rupture. Higher levels of EPA in blood plasma reduces the risk of deadly blood clots within the blood stream.

Phytochemical Antioxidants

Inflammation of the arterial wall (endothelium), especially within the coronary arteries, sets in motion the process of arthersclerotic plaque formation. Large plaques in the coronary arteries can block blood flow to the heart, or can become dislodged and impair circulation anywhere in the body. Inflammation also reduces arterial flexibility.

Specific foods and phytochemicals such as garlic, grapes, nuts, and resveratrol directly protect the endothelium.