A mom I know just had a heart transplant. Yes, you read that right. Transplant. Right now, she’s the only person I know who’s not taking this hard-working organ for granted. The rest of us go about our daily routines without giving a second thought to the fist-sized muscle in our chests that’s constantly pumping life-giving blood throughout our bodies. Beating an average of 80 times per minute, 115,200 times per day, more than 42 million times a year.
Of course, we all know our bodies wouldn’t function if our hearts stopped working. But what we might not know is how critically important nutrition is to supporting healthy heart function.* There are two nutrients that are particularly vital to heart health—Coenzyme Q10 (a.k.a. CoQ10) and omega-3 fatty acids.* You may already know a good deal about the importance of omega-3s, so let’s start with CoQ10.
CoQ10 is a vitamin-like nutrient that helps your cells generate energy—in a form known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—needed to carry out some of your body’s most critical functions.* If you think of your cells’ mitochondria as a tiny engine, you can think of CoQ10 as the fuel that powers them. CoQ10 is most highly concentrated in your heart, brain, kidneys, and liver—organs with high-energy requirements.1 CoQ10 also acts as an antioxidant, helping to neutralize the free radicals that can damage cells.*
Our bodies make CoQ10, which is a good thing because our cells couldn’t functionwithout it. However, as we get older our bodies make less and less of it. You can also get small amounts of CoQ10 from foods such as beef, fish, organ meats, olive oil, soybeans, broccoli, and avocados. But according to the National Institutes of Health, these food sources are not enough to significantly boost the CoQ10 levels in your body. For this reason, many people—particularly those concerned about heart health—decide to take CoQ10 supplements.
As a supplement, CoQ10 comes in two forms: ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Both forms occur naturally in the body and are part of the same energy-making cycle inside your cells. Ubiquinone is the oxidized form of CoQ10, and when your cells use it to make energy, it is transformed into ubiquinol, the reduced form of CoQ10. Your body strives to maintain a controlled balance between the two forms, converting ubiquinone to ubiquinol as needed.2 Some people—athletes and older adults, in particular—prefer supplementing with the (more expensive) ubiquinol form of CoQ10 because it needs no conversion once it is absorbed. Either form, however, will increase your body’s stores of this vital nutrient.*
Omega-3s and Your Heart
We could all probably do a better job of keeping our hearts healthy over the long term. One way to do that is to make sure we’re getting the right amount of healthy fats in our diet.
Healthy fats are so important to heart health, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish (rich in omega-3 fats EPA and DHA) each week. For people with a documented history of heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends consuming 1000 mg omega-3s EPA and DHA daily, and 2,000–4,000 mg omega-3s EPA and DHA for those with other known risk factors such as high triglyceride levels.*
Why are omega-3s so important for heart health? To start with, structurally, the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA make up part of our cell membranes, playing a key role in helping each and every one of our cells remain flexible and fluid enough to effectively absorb nutrients and expel wastes.*4
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have also been clinically shown to help modulate both systolic and diastolic (upper and lower numbers) blood pressure.*5Numerous other studies have found that omega-3s EPA and DHA help to lower triglyceride levels, and support healthy cell signaling (omega-3 fats make up 40% of fats in the central nervous system) and heart rhythms.*6 The bottom line? Omega-3s EPA and DHA are essential for helping maintain optimal heart function. So make sure your diet contains enough of these healthy fats.
Feed Your Heart Well
Do your heart a favor and don’t take it for granted. Show it the care it deserves by eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and supplementing with CoQ10 and omega-3s to fill in any nutritional gaps. Your heart will love you back for a lifetime.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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