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A healthy diet and proper exercise are important for our cardiovascular systems. But with one in four deaths in the United States linked to heart disease, we need to explore heart health supplements to enhance diet and exercise. Heart health is now more important than ever.
We’ll go through twelve supplements that are recommended to support overall heart health. Ranging from: Coenzyme Q10, a heart health supplement which help with fibromyalgia or recovery from heart attack, to ones like garlic, which has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and increase good.
Dangers & Side Effects of Heart Medications
As opposed to heart health supplements, heart medications may have side effects. Those side effects can include allergic reactions, nausea, diarrhea, angina, memory loss, or in rare cases death. And that’s not to mention the danger of losing track of any of your medications. (1)
Over-the-counter medication can still prove particularly dangerous. Medicines which help with one issue may exacerbate another. If on heart medication, you should avoid over-the-counter painkillers and decongestants. In fact, if you are looking to take a heart health supplement with heart medication, seek a doctor’s advice before you begin.
12 Best Heart Health Supplements
Often, the best heart health supplements are able to lower blood pressure, regulate cholesterol levels, increase blood flow, or reduce the risk factors of heart attack or stroke. Most of the heart health supplements we’ll be covering in this article have few to no side effects.
And finding a great deal is convenient. These heart health supplements are available in worldwide markets. Most are offered on Amazon.
Many of the supplements discuss the lowering of bad cholesterol and the increasing of good cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LDL) while good cholesterol is high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Lipoproteins are the complex particles which transport fat through the blood stream. To lower LDL and increase HDL levels is to decrease the risk of heart disease — as well as stroke.
Several cardiovascular health benefits have been linked to fish oil. Among the top ten most popular dietary supplements overall, fish oil serves effectively as a heart health supplement.
Derived from the tissues of oily fish species, fish oil refers to two different omega-3 fatty acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is a polyunsaturated fat. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a structural component of the human brain and skin. Often, both EPA and DHA are present in fish oil. But occasionally, the two compounds are separated in supplement form.
Fish oil consumption has been shown to lower triglycerides, significantly. This, in turn, helps protect the heart against heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Triglycerides are a fat formed in the body immediately upon consuming calories you don’t immediately need for energy. So it’s helpful to reduce excess triglycerides with fish oil. (2, 3, 4, 5)
Some of these same studies do show, however, that LDL cholesterol levels are raised. LDL is the more commonly occurring cholesterol, and many Americans have an excess already. (6)
There are two notes to mention about this. One, HDL cholesterol levels are also raised when taking fish oil supplements. And two, bad cholesterol has been shown to reduce in patients with high cholesterol already. (7)
Research also shows that, in those dealing with severe depression, fish oil has the potential to exhibit similar antidepressant qualities to prescription medicine. This is especially true with the EPA portion of fish oil. The DHA has not shown as much promise in this aspect. (13, 14, 15, 16)
Suggested Dosage for Fish Oil:
- 250-1000 milligrams per day
- 450-1200 milligrams daily for pregnant women
- When calculating fish oil intake, be sure to consider the amount of fish oil absorbed through diet.
- Fish oil’s effects are typically seen after days or weeks, not immediately.
- To avoid the common side effect of so-called “fish burps”, consider freezing the fish oil supplement. Or simply take fish oil with food.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Able to lower blood pressure and decrease bad cholesterol, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a prime example of a heart health supplement. Only discovered in the late 1950s, CoQ10 has not been tested as long as the other heart-healthy products on this list. But there have been some pretty interesting studies.
Studies have found CoQ10 to increase blood flow. This reduces the chance of blood clots and stroke. Similar studies found a decrease in blood pressure. This helps prevent heart disease. (17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
CoQ10 has also helped patients with heart failure to exercise longer and more efficiently. And two studies show CoQ10 decreases fatigue during exercise performance. Since exercise is an important piece of heart health, this is undoubtedly valuable research. (22, 23, 24, 25)
On top of all that, CoQ10 has shown to significantly decrease symptoms of fibromyalgia. (26)
Suggested Dosage for Coenzyme Q10:
- 100 to 200 milligrams per day
- Take with meals. CoQ10 relies on food for proper absorption.
- Frying sources of CoQ10 reduced its potency by a quarter.
- CoQ10 supplements are most effective for people who have experienced a heart attack or damage to the heart tissue. Those on statin therapy will also especially benefit.
- CoQ10 supplements come in two forms: oxidized form (ubiquinone), or reduced form (ubiquinol). Both forms seem equally bioactive.
In the early twentieth century, scientists pinpointed the existence of Vitamin D. Named so because it was the fourth vitamin to be named. It is among the 24 micronutrients essential to human survival. On top of bone health, it serves as a potent heart health supplement.
Found in fish and eggs, Vitamin D is also produced in the body when the skin is exposed to enough sunlight. The UV rays turn cholesterol into this essential vitamin. And yet many people do not possess the optimum level of Vitamin D in their bodies.
Studies show a slight dip in blood pressure when supplementing Vitamin D. It may even decrease excess triglyceride levels — the unwanted fat formed in the body immediately upon consuming calories you don’t need for energy at the moment. (27, 28, 29)
One study shows Vitamin D slightly raising bad cholesterol levels. Talk to your doctor before adding Vitamin D to your supplement regimen. (34)
Suggested Dosage for Vitamin D:
- 0.5 to 4.5 micrograms per pound of body weight, daily
- Or, the average recommendation for most adults, which is 5,000 – 10,000 IU per day
- Vitamin D should be taken with meals, or you can take Vitamin D with another supplement which is high in fat, such as fish oil.
- Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) supplements are preferred over ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2). Vitamin D3 is more efficiently absorbed and utilized in the human body.
For 2500 years, humans have been consuming cocoa. Though commonly an ingredient in chocolate, there are lower calorie methods to reaping this natural compound’s myriad of benefits. Originally a South American product, now this tasty heart health supplement is readily available across the globe.
Cocoa extract contains high levels of beneficial molecules, such as epicatechin. Supplementing epicatechin has been shown to signal the body to produce more nitric oxide. Since nitric oxide is a vasodilator, the blood vessels subsequently relax and widen. This decreases blood pressure, and just like that, we have another great heart health supplement.
Dozens of benefits have been studied in connection with cocoa and cocoa powder extract. But no advantage is more accepted than enhanced blood flow. This is due to cocoa’s influence on nitric oxide production.
Cocoa-related studies suggest benefits include:
- Enhanced blood flow (35, 36, 37, 38, 39)
- Lowered bad cholesterol (40, 41)
- Decreased coronary heart disease (42)
- Increased exercise performance (43)
- Protection from UV rays (44, 45)
Suggested Dosage for Cocoa:
- 25 to 40 grams of 85 percent cocoa dark chocolate (about 200 calories)
- Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain little to no cocoa and should not be used in supplementation.
Believed to be a source of many health benefits since the ancient Egyptians, garlic has stood the test of scientific inquiry over time. Sometimes called by its scientific name Allium sativum, many studies support the cardiovascular benefits of garlic supplements. With advantages like lowering blood pressure and getting rid of bad cholesterol, garlic can do its part for you to have a healthy heart.
Garlic has been shown to lower cholesterol that can lead to stroke or heart disease. It has also provided evidence to lower blood pressure, especially in those with dangerously high blood pressure. Not to mention raw garlic, garlic supplements, and aged garlic extract all have little to no side effects. (46)
Some studies have found specifically that taking aged garlic extract results in the lowest blood pressure, the lowest bad cholesterol, and the healthiest heart. Lowered platelet aggregation is a common reason provided by many researchers. (47, 48, 49, 50, 51)
Platelet aggregation is simply when the blood clots. Platelets are the colorless disk shapes in the blood stream, which help to form clots in cuts and wounds. Unfortunately, this life-saving mechanism can also contribute to stroke — if the platelets clot inside the blood vessels. But garlic is said to decrease platelet aggregation, thus lowering blood pressure.
Another reason garlic may decrease blood pressure is its connection to nitric oxide. Garlic has been observed to aid in the production of nitric oxide, which happens to be a vasodilator. Thus blood pressure decreases because the veins and arteries are more open. (52, 53)
Multiple studies suggested that a time-released garlic powder supplement may be more effective than a typical garlic supplement. Because of the time-released form of a tablet, these researchers propose that the heart health benefits are more prolonged, more absorbed and more potent. (54, 55)
Suggested Dosage for Garlic:
The minimum effective dosage of raw garlic is a single garlic clove, two or three times a day with meals. The maximum dosage for garlic supplements are as follows:
- 17.0 grams for a 150-pound person daily
- 22.7 grams for a 200-pound person daily
- 28.4 grams for a 250-pound person daily
- Microwaving garlic has been shown to somewhat damage the beneficial bioactive components.
- Grilling or roasting is acceptable as long as the garlic is sliced or crushed.
- Raw garlic has been shown to be toxic in high dosages. Do not exceed 160 milligrams per pound of body weight.
Expressed in chemistry as NO₃, nitrates have been shown to play a role in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. To absorb the optimal nitrates, you can eat low-calorie vegetables like beetroot, turnips, and spinach on a daily basis.
When absorbed, nitrates metabolize into nitrites, which are turned into nitric oxide. And since nitric oxide is a vasodilator, the muscle wall inside blood vessels will relax. This decreases blood pressure and the risk of clotting. (56)
Suggested Dosage for Nitrates:
- 440 to 870 milligrams for a 150-pound person daily
- 580 to 1,160 milligrams for a 200-pound person daily
- 730 to 1,450 milligrams for a 250-pound person daily
- Supplementation of nitrates via beetroot is common. Beetroot powders and juices are often dosed according to its nitrate content.
- Since nitrates may not be sold in dietary supplement form, we must turn to leafy greens and beets.
Found in the tissues of organisms across the plant and animal kingdoms, carnitine has been researched for over a hundred years. Besides heart health, Carnitine helps with energy, staves off fatigue, and boosts the brain.
There are four types of carnitine supplements:
- L-Carnitine can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is known for its cognitive effects.
- L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (LCLT) is commonly used to enhance exercise output.
- Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine (GPLC) alleviates poor blood flow.
In patients whose heart may not be able to efficiently pump blood and oxygen, carnitine has been shown to improve that pumping capacity. Often, legs fall victim to this lack of blood flow, causing it to be difficult to walk for long periods of time. But carnitine has been shown to get your blood levels pumping. (59, 60, 61)
One study found carnitine improves blood flow, particularly after a hearty meal. With no side effects, carnitine has also reduced blood pressure in patients with a high risk of heart disease. (62, 63)
GPLC specifically elevated nitric oxide production. And because nitric oxide is a vasodilator, it is proving particularly effective. (64)
Oddly enough, Carnitine has also been shown to increase sperm quality. However, sperm motility exhibits mixed results. (65)
Suggested Dosage for Carnitine:
- 500 to 2,000 milligrams of L-Carnitine daily
- 630 to 2,500 milligrams of Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) daily
- 1,000 to 4,000 milligrams of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (LCLT) daily
- 1,000 to 4,000 milligrams of Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC) daily
- If you have already suffered cardiac arrest, increase the dosage to between 2,000 and 9,000 milligrams, daily. This should prevent arrhythmia and angina.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is widely used to promote cognitive health. But studies show grape seed extract to be a potent heart health supplement.
As you might expect, grape seed extract is produced from a grape’s bitter seeds. Grape seed extract can lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, and reduce bad cholesterol in the blood.
Numerous studies find that grape seed extract significantly reduces bad cholesterol while increasing the good. The regulation of blood pressure is another commonly observed benefit. Connected to these benefits, some scientists suggest grape seed extract could prevent heart disease and cancer. (66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76)
A recent study proposed that grape seed extract decreases the risk of cardiovascular events during exercise. And an animal study showed grape seed extract to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure in conjunction with exercise. (79, 80, 81)
Suggested Dosage for Grape Seed Extract:
- 133-400 milligrams, daily
- No side effects have been observed under 600 milligrams daily.
Have you ever heard a morning news segment on the health benefits of red wine? The compound resveratrol is a compound prominent in red wine. Resveratrol is a heart health supplement with some unique benefits.
Also known as red wine grape extract, resveratrol has been shown to decrease bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow. Specifically, blood flow to the brain may be improved enough to positively affect cognitive functions. (82, 83, 84)
Resveratrol has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels. And lower triglyceride levels mean easier weight loss.
Suggested Dosage for Resveratrol:
- For heart health: 5 to 10 milligrams daily
- For cerebral blood flow: 250 to 500 milligrams daily
- For postmenopausal cancer prevention: 500 milligrams daily
- For various causes, in otherwise healthy people: 150 to 445 milligrams daily
- Resveratrol supplements should consist of trans-resveratrol. Refrain from taking any heart health supplement made from cis-resveratrol.
Discovered in the 1820s in oxen, taurine gets its name from the Latin word for ox, taurus. As far as heart health supplements go, taurine is a good choice. Research has linked taurine to lowered risk of heart disease — as well as reduced bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure. (87)
An earlier study found obese patients lost body weight and lowered their triglyceride levels when on taurine supplements. Excess triglycerides lead to obesity and a myriad of issues tend to accompany it. (90)
Another study shows that patients with heart failure have a higher capacity for exercise when taking taurine supplementation. (91)
More research is needed on taurine before other claims are made notable.
Suggested Dosage for Taurine:
- 500 to 2,000 milligrams, daily
- Do not exceed 3,000 milligrams a day.
Unlike the chronological Vitamin A, B, C, and D, Vitamin K was named for the German word koagulation. This was because Vitamin K’s effect on blood coagulation was first observed in Germany.
Vitamin K’s most vital mechanism is signaling specific amino acids to sweep away calcium ions from the bloodstream. This protects the arteries from buildup, lowering blood pressure and reducing the overall risk for heart disease and stroke.
Moreover, Vitamin K2 has been suggested as a preventative measure against coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is when the heart’s blood supplying arteries narrow, restricting the flow of blood and oxygen — causing illness and even death. (98, 99, 100, 101)
Suggested Dosage for Vitamin K:
There are two forms of vitamin K: phylloquinone (Vitamin K1), or menaquinones (Vitamin K2). Vitamin K2 has been more often touted as a heart health supplement. Specifically, menaquinone-4 and menaquinone-7 have the most research behind them.
- 0.1 to 1 milligram of phylloquinone (Vitamin K1) daily
- 1.5 to 45 milligrams of menaquinones (Vitamin K2) daily
- Menadione (Vitamin K3) can exhibit toxicity, as opposed to the limited side effects of Vitamin K1 or K2.
- Topical application of Vitamin K supplement will consist of about 5% Vitamin K1.
- Plant-based sources of Vitamin K will increase the absorption rate of the vitamin when microwaved.
- Vitamin K should be taken with meals. Or, you can take Vitamin K with another supplement which is high in fat, such as fish oil.
Mainly thought to be an energy supplement, the past twenty years of research have seen D-ribose trend towards heart health. D-ribose is part of the structure of ATP. Adenosine triphosphate is the cell’s main energy source. This is the primary mechanism behind D-ribose’s connection to energy production. (102)
Not only does D-ribose provide the heart muscle with a boost of energy, but it can also improve the quality of life for those living with coronary artery disease. It can help patients with inadequate blood flow. (103, 104, 105, 106)
Suggested Dosage for D-Ribose:
- For coronary artery disease: 10-60 grams daily
- D-ribose can be taken throughout the day or all at once.
- Heart health is critical to human health. High levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), high blood pressure, and reduced blood flow can lead to heart disease, cardiac arrest, or stroke.
- Heart health supplements enhance the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. They include fish oil, garlic, cocoa, vitamins D and K — to name a few. Some may even help prevent coronary heart disease or cancer. All are readily available in worldwide markets.
- Side effects for these supplements are few and minor, but it is still recommended to talk to your health care provider before beginning any new supplementation routines.