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Nutrients for Heart Health (And Where to Find Them)

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

Heart conditions increasingly common among adults across the world; one in four deaths in the United States is related to heart disease. It is increasingly important to practice preventative care for heart health. Here are more than thirteen compounds you can eat and drink at every meal to care for your cardiovascular system.

1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)


How it works:

- Thiamin is required for the reactions involved in heart muscle contraction.

- Thiamin deficiency has been associated with heart failure, gastrointestinal disease, and diabetes.


Best food sources:

- Asparagus

- Sunflower Seeds

- Green Peas

- Flaxseeds

- Brussels Sprouts



2. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)



How it works:

- Sufficient Vitamin B6 levels have been associated with a reduced risk of mortality in some populations with heart failure.


Best food sources:

- Tuna

- Spinach

- Cabbage

- Bok Choy

- Bell Peppers



3. Vitamin B9 (Folate)



How it works:

- Vitamin B9 has also been associated with reduced risk of mortality for individuals with heart failure.

- Folate regulates levels of homocysteine and nitric oxide in the blood, a balance necessary for proper cardiovascular function.


Best food sources:

- Lentils

- Asparagus

- Spinach

- Turnip Greens

- Broccoli



4. Vitamin D



How it works:

- Cross-sectional studies have shown an association between low vitamin D levels and higher blood pressure levels.

- Vitamin D improves endothelial function—meaning that it improves the durability of tissues, including heart and blood vessel tissues.

Best food sources:

- Salmon

- Sardines

- Tuna

- Cow's Milk

- Eggs



5. Magnesium



How it works:

- Magnesium inhibits smooth-muscle contraction (reducing arrhythmias) and may play a role as a vasodilator (lowering blood pressure).

- Magnesium enhances control of inflammation—chronic low-grade inflammation is common and has been tied to an increased risk of heart disease.


*Interesting Note* Diuretics used to treat heart failure can cause magnesium deficiency due to excess excretion. Individuals taking diuretics should be mindful of their magnesium intake.


Best food sources:

- Spinach

- Swiss Chard

- Beet Greens

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Summer Squash



6. Potassium



How it works:

- Adequate potassium intake is associated with lower blood pressure, as well as a lower risk of stroke.

- Extremely low potassium levels can lead to arrhythmias.

- Maintaining normal levels of potassium is critical—your body typically has no trouble keeping potassium levels in check. However, in extreme cases, very high or low blood levels of potassium would cause the heart and nervous systems to shut down.


Best food sources:

- Beet Greens

- Swiss Chard

- Spinach

- Bok Choy

- Brussels Sprouts



7. Calcium



How it works:

- Calcium from dairy (as opposed to from supplements) is associated with a lower risk for hypertension.

- Calcium works with vitamin D to increase the strength of blood vessels.

*Interesting Note* Individuals with heart failure are at a greater risk of osteoporosis due to lower activity levels, impaired renal function, and some prescription medications. Calcium is a key nutrient for bone health, so in this case it serves two purposes!


Best food sources:

- Tofu

- Collard Greens

- Spinach

- Mustard Greens

- Plain Yogurt



8. Fiber



How it works:

- High intakes of fiber are associated with lower cholesterol and less instances of heart disease.

Best food sources:

- Raspberries

- Collard Greens

- Turnip Greens

- Navy Beans

- Dried Peas & Lentils



9. Antioxidants


Antioxidants simply deserve their own post. (Here)



10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids



How it works:

- Omega-3s interfere with blood clotting and prostaglandin synthesis, and lower blood triglycerides, as well as relaxing the blood vessel walls, reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

*Interesting Note!* The American Heart Association recommends two 4-ounce servings of fish per week—how will you cook yours?


Best food sources:

- Flaxseeds

- Walnuts

- Sardines

- Salmon



11. Coenzyme Q10



How it works:

- CoQ10 can potentially increase exercise tolerance, decrease symptoms, and improve quality of life for those with heart failure and angina pectoris.

- People who suffer from heart failure typically have lower-than-average levels of CoQ10.


Best food sources:

- Beef

- Herring

- Chicken

- Trout

- Peanuts



12. L-Arginine



How it works:

- L-Arginine increases blood flow by dilating blood vessels.

- L-Arginine helps to regulate the pH of blood and intracellular fluids, a balance necessary for heart health.


Best food sources:

- Turkey

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Soybeans

- Eggs

- Peanuts



13. Caffeine (yay!)



How it works:

- A 2010 Dutch study suggested that modest intake of coffee or tea reduces risk of heart disease.

- A 2010 American study of over 100,000 individuals showed that those who had 1-2 cups of coffee per day had a 7% lower risk of hospitalization for arrhythmias. Those who had four or more cups per day, had an 18% lower risk.


*note* Not everyone can tolerate caffeine. Remember, it is a psychoactive drug! Listen to your body. If caffeine makes you feel jittery, anxious, or restless at night, maybe it's not for you.


Best food sources:

- Coffee

- Black, Green, and White Teas

- Dark Chocolate


















Resources:


Mahan, L. Kathleen, and Janice L. Raymond. Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Elsevier, 2017.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/237191.php

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=75

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/potassium

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=90

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/report?nutrient1=511&nutrient2=505&nutrient3=&fg=&max=25&subset=0&offset=0&sort=c&totCount=5070&measureby=m

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12553744

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/coenzyme-Q10

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=100




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