Around 7.4 million people are living with heart and circulatory disease in the UK, and it is the cause of more than a quarter of all deaths, at nearly 170,000 a year.
There are over 100,000 hospital admissions due to heart attacks per year and over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests with a survival rate of less than one in ten. Strokes cause over 36,000 deaths a year while also being the biggest cause of severe disability.
Nearly 3.8 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, a leading cause of heart disease, with diabetics being almost 50% more likely to have heart attacks.
With statistics like these, it’s more vital than ever to look after your heart health. With this mind, we have identified four key nutrients you can include in your daily diet to keep it functioning well, long into the future.
For more information and stats on cardiovascular disease, visit the British Heart Foundation website.
1) Fish Oils
Fish oils have the potential to reduce triglycerides and blood pressure, improve vascular function, reduce the risk of stroke, and protect those at high risk of arrhythmia and heart attack.
According to researchers, populations with a high marine food diet appear to have a lower risk of a heart attack.
The EPA and DHA found in fish oil may help to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It can significantly affect lipid (fat) metabolism, lowering excess triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood while also reducing inflammation, two main factors behind atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Increased intake of omega-3 oils, including fish oils, may also reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat).
A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2012 found that those with higher levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in their blood had a 30% lower chance of developing chronic atrial fibrillation.
Researchers highlighted the need for further investigation to determine whether increasing the dietary intake of these fatty acids could become an effective and primary form of prevention.
Fish oils may also help to protect heart attack survivors, and in one trial, heart attack survivors who took a high-dose fish oil supplement for six months showed considerably improved heart function and substantially reduced inflammation biomarkers, that went way beyond recommended care guidelines.
Lastly, a 2018 trial demonstrated that use of a high EPA fish oil sharply reduced the rate of cardiovascular events in individuals with a history of heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Indeed, statin-treated adults with heightened triglyceride levels saw a 25% reduction in their relative risk of heart attacks, strokes and related cardiac events compared to a placebo control group – all from taking a purified EPA fish oil.
It’s always a good idea to get as many nutrients as possible from your daily diet, but not everyone is keen on fish, particularly oily fish.
Some researchers have noticed a connection between those who don’t eat fish and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and if this sounds like you, then it could be highly beneficial to take a fish oil supplement.
Please have a look at our excellent, superior quality and extremely clean WFH Quattrocardio fish oils which are scientifically formulated to support the health of the cardiovascular, immune, neurological and skeletal systems.
2) Vitamin D3
Low vitamin D3 is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s why, during the summer months, it’s important to get yourself out in the sunlight, exposing as much of your skin as possible, for short bursts without burning.
The Vitamin D Council state that coronary heart disease (CHD) rates are higher for those of us living farther from the equator, with less sunlight.
Also, in the winter, CHD is more prevalent than the summer, which is valid for both warmer and colder countries. But wherever you live, solar UVB doses are lowest in winter, and vitamin D levels are lowest in late winter.
They suggest that keeping vitamin D levels above 30–40 ng/mL may reduce the risk of CHD and cite two studies of interest where those with lower vitamin D status were more likely to develop CHD.
Research in 2015 found that patients with vitamin D levels lower than 15 nanograms per millilitre have a higher risk of developing heart problems, including coronary artery disease, heart attacks and strokes.
The study was carried out in the United States, where one in ten people are below this limit (a considerable proportion of the population).
According to national surveys, one in five people in the UK has low vitamin D status. While there are always several contributing factors to consider when it comes to your susceptibility to any illness, this statistic does make one wonder how many of us are also running the risk of developing heart issues, at least in part for lack of vitamin D.
A five-year study by the Medical Research Council found that 80 participants with chronic heart failure who took a daily dose of vitamin D, improved their heart pumping function by 8% compared to those taking a placebo.
The trial ran for one year, with patients taking 4,000IU of vitamin D3 daily. Although this was a positive result, it did not improve their ability to exercise, and a much larger study over a more extended period is needed.
Overall, studies are conflicting as to whether or not low vitamin D levels are a significant enough risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. However, vitamin D3 is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can lower oxidative stress, which is an underlying factor for all chronic illness.
It’s virtually impossible to get adequate vitamin D through diet, minimal amounts are found in animal foods such as full-fat butter, offal, eggs, fish and fish liver. So it’s essential to take a daily supplement, especially outside of the summertime where we have limited access to sunlight.
If you are concerned that your levels are low, get tested by your GP. Public Health England recommends adults and children over the age of one take 10mcg of vitamin D during autumn and winter, and the Vitamin D Council recommends a supplement of 5,000IU daily.
Take a look at our rapidly absorbable, preservative and GMO-free Frunutta Sublingual Vitamin D3 supplement. Just pop the micro-tablet under your tongue and let it dissolve.
You could also try Vibrant Health’s nutrient-dense Green Vibrance powder, which has a generous helping of vitamin D. It contains 70 ingredients, providing an abundance of nutrients to support your entire body.
3) Vitamin K2
There are two primary forms of vitamin K – K1 (phylloquinone)and K2 (menaquinones). K1 is found in plant foods like dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
Vitamin K2 is found in fermented and animal foods such as natto, fermented soy, hard cheese, butter, egg yolks, organ meats, and dark chicken meat.
Gut microbiota is also able to synthesise vitamin K2.
Vitamins K and D actually work synergistically together, particularly when it comes to bone and heart health. And in one small 2015 study, patients with chronic kidney disease were split into two groups, one given 400IU vitamin D with 90mcg of vitamin K2 and the other just vitamin D.
The group taking K2 and D3 had reduced progression of atherosclerosis (plaque build up in the arteries), considerably more so than the group taking vitamin D alone.
Overall, research is conflicted as to whether or not there are clear links between cardiovascular disease and lack of vitamin K2, but there are several observational studies to support this theory.
For example, the seven to ten year Rotterdam study, published in 2004, followed 4,807 male participants, tracking their intake of vitamin K2 and linked higher levels with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and severe aortic calcification.
Another long term study, spanning several years, following 16,057 women aged between 49 and 70 years of age, associated an increased vitamin K2 consumption with a reduced risk of heart disease.
CoQ10 is a compound we naturally produce in our bodies but unfortunately, our ability to produce it substantially decreases as we age.
A potent antioxidant, CoQ10 aids in mitochondrial function and energy production, boosting your immunity and preventing disease.
It helps to reduce oxidative stress, which causes tissue damage and inflammation, resulting in chronic illness. Although research is inconclusive, some distinct associations have been identified between a lack of CoQ10 and heart disease.
According to research, COQ10 can have beneficial effects for patients with coronary artery disease (CAD), chronic heart failure (CHF) and hypertension.
One study published in 2008 determined that low CoQ10 was an “independent predictor of survival” in elderly patients with chronic heart failure and that “CoQ10 deficiency might be detrimental to the long-term prognosis of CHF.”
Some research also suggests that supplementing with CoQ10 could improve blood flow and enhance the physical performance of chronic heart failure patients.
It’s also known that statins can negatively affect CoQ10 levels, so it may be beneficial to supplement if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medication. CoQ10 can also help to improve statin-associated side effects, such as myopathy (muscle weakness).
The National Centre for Complementary and Integrated Health states that when taken alongside other nutrients, CoQ10 supplements may help to speed up recovery time after heart bypass and heart valve surgeries.
If you want to look after yourself and your heart, try supplementing with Cardio Essentials by Planet Source. Not only does it provide 200mg CoQ10, but it also contains 5,000IU of vitamin D3 and 100mg of nattokinase, a powerful enzyme known for its fibrinolytic properties (anti-blood clot).
Prevention is better than cure, and as heart and circulatory disease is the cause of over a quarter of UK deaths per year, it’s important to look after yourself by doing simple and effective things like eating a balanced whole food diet, performing regular exercise, taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing, spending time in good company, and getting plenty of water, fresh air and sunshine.
Taking a vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter is essential. It will help to boost your overall immunity and potentially bolster your heart health. Adding some vitamin K2 foods to your diet would also be beneficial, and potentiate the positive impact of vitamin D.
Eating oily fish two to three times per week is also necessary to receive adequate amounts of EPA and DHA. Alternatively, taking a good-quality daily fish oil is advisable, and if you are older and concerned about protecting your heart, adding a daily CoQ10 supplement may help.
If you already have heart or circulatory issues or are taking statins, there may be some natural lifestyle interventions you can make to improve symptoms, and taking some of the supplements mentioned in this article could be a good start. Just be sure to discuss with your GP before taking them, as they could interfere with prescribed medication.
This article was written by Rebecca Rychlik-Cunning, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Increased intake of omega-3 oils, including fish oils, may reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat).