Healthy Q & A: Heart Health

Q: A close friend of mine recently had a heart attack; he is only in his mid fifties and in decent health (or so I thought).  It’s made me start to worry about my own heart, and I wanted to write to see what kinds of things you would recommend for heart health.

A: That would certainly be a wakeup call!  Unfortunately many people don’t think much about heart health until they’ve been diagnosed with a problem.  There are many supplements that can make a difference in keeping the heart and cardiovascular system healthy.  I would be remiss however, to recommend a supplement without first bringing up healthy lifestyle choices.  Most of the diseases and health problems people struggle with are a result of having a sedentary lifestyle and eating the wrong foods.  I don’t mean that to be an accusation, but just a comment on our society.  Many people have jobs where they have to sit behind a desk for eight or nine hours and then and eat take-out food every day.  With a job like that it can be difficult to find time to exercise because often people are so worn out by the time they get home that 30 minutes of exercise almost sounds like an impossibility.

Exercise however, can actually help with reducing stress and help with increasing energy levels. If you aren’t able to set aside a half hour block of time each day to exercise, you can still make small lifestyle changes that add up over time to a more active life.  Start parking your car farther away when you go to work or the store, or take the stairs rather than waiting for an elevator.  At night when watching television, use the three minute commercial break to do some stretches or keep a set of hand weights to exercise with next to the couch.  It has been shown in studies time and time again that regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and a host of other problems.

The first supplement I would recommend for heart health is Coenzyme Q10 (or CoQ10).  To explain how CoQ10 works we need to go down to the cellular level (the human body is an absolute miracle).  Each of our cells contain mitochondria, which work as a cell’s power center, giving cells energy to function.  CoQ10 works with the mitochondria to help them to function and give them energy.   Not surprisingly, the cells that have the most mitochondria in the body are heart cells, which is nature’s way of giving the heart the power necessary to drive the heart’s non-stop pumping.  Countless studies have shown CoQ10’s ability to help the heart to function better and prevent heart attacks.  There have also been studies documenting CoQ10’s ability to increase heart function in patients with congestive heart failure, as well as helping to prevent heart disease.  

Our body naturally produces CoQ10, but the amount the body is able to make reduces significantly as we age.  Statin drugs like Lipitor have also been shown to decrease the amount of CoQ10 that is produced in the body, so if a person is on cholesterol medication it is even more crucial that they supplement with CoQ10.  It’s interesting to note that CoQ10 has been found to help offset the common side effects of statin drugs like muscle pain and weakness.  

Another great but little known supplement for heart health is nattokinaise.  Nattokinaise is a common supplement in Japan which has been found to have the amazing ability to help break up blood clots.  Blood clots are associated with both heart attack and stroke, so nattokinaise can be extremely helpful in preventing both problems.  Blood clots form when strands of protein called fibrin accumulate in a blood vessel.   In a heart attack, the blood flow to the heart is cut off, stopping its oxygen supply.  If blood and oxygen are unable to reach a certain tissue in the body that tissue will eventually die.  Strokes happen in a similar way, where a clot blocks blood flow to the brain, often causing permanent damage.  Nattokinaise is so important because it helps to break down the fibrin in the blood that causes those damaging clots.

Finally, the last supplement I wanted to mention is vitamin K2.  Vitamin K is most well known for helping to ensure proper blood clotting.  When you cut your finger, the reason you don’t bleed to death is vitamin K.  Recent studies have found some very interesting things about a specific form of vitamin K known as K2.   The researchers found that vitamin K2 is able to work in the body to direct calcium to work in the proper places.  Calcium is a wonderful thing when it is deposited in the bones.  It’s not at all good however, when it’s deposited in the arteries, causing arterial calcification and hardening of the arteries.  Vitamin K2 is beneficial for both bone health and the health of the arteries which direct blood to and from the heart, keeping bones strong by making sure they have the calcium they need, and keeping arteries flexible by reducing arterial calcification.  Noted cardiologist Dr. Sinatra regularly prescribes vitamin K2 to his heart patients with wonderful results.  The one reason not to take vitamin K is if you are taking prescription blood thinners like Coumadin.

Heart health really encompasses so much, and I’ve only listed a few of my favorite supplements for a healthy heart- there are many, many more including fish oil, hawthorne, niacin, and others. The good news is there are many natural products that have a beneficial effect on the heart.  It’s much easier to prevent a problem than fix one that has already occurred.  Even if you’re a person who is genetically predisposed to heart problems, there are many steps you can take to prevent heart disease and heart attacks.  Your health truly is in your hands.  Good luck, and be well!


Healthy Q & A: Cholesterol and Red Yeast Rice


I’m trying to avoid taking Lipitor since I know so many people who have experienced side effects.  Is there anything natural that would work in a similar way to lower cholesterol?



Sometimes prescriptions are necessary, but it’s always a good idea to see if you can help yourself naturally first.  Lipitor is a cholesterol lowering medication known as a statin, and there does exist a supplement which is known as a “natural statin”- red yeast rice.  Red yeast rice comes in capsule or tablet form and works very well for lowering cholesterol.  The specific brand that I would recommend is by a company called Nature’s Plus, since they have a red yeast rice that is in an extended release formula, which means that it’s absorbed in the body over a period of hours instead of all at once.

Like prescription statins, red yeast rice should be taken at night before bedtime, since that’s when the body produces the most cholesterol.

If you’re taking prescription statins or red yeast rice, it would be a good idea to supplement with the vitamin CoQ10 as well.  CoQ10 helps to protect the heart and gives the cells the energy they need to function efficiently.  Statins like Lipitor (as well as red yeast rice, since it works like a natural statin) can deplete the body’s stores and production of CoQ10, which can result in muscle pain, one of the most common side effects of statin medications. 

Supplement Spotlight: Are you taking the best form of your supplements?

There are many supplements which are available in a variety of different forms, some of which are significantly better absorbed, and others which have benefits which may be helpful.  Several supplements are listed below where the form you choose can make a big difference.


Vitamin B12

This is the first that comes to mind when thinking of a supplement where its form really matters.  The most common form of B12 is cobalamin, though the form we recommend the most is the methyl form of the vitamin- methylcobalamin- which is significantly better absorbed.   It’s best to look for a sublingual form that dissolves in the mouth, since if B12 is swallowed in pill form it has a difficult time being absorbed as opposed to a sublingual form, which is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.   B12 can be helpful for energy, brain function, and nerve health.  Many seniors are critically deficient in this vitamin, the effects of which can even mimic demensia.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D should always be taken in the D3 form, since that is the best absorbing.  Vitamin D3 used to be sourced from fish liver oil, though nearly all of the brands we have in the store are now made from lanolin.  Vitamin D3 is most commonly from animal sources, but we have recently started carrying a plant based,vegan D3 from Country Life.  Vitamin D is important for bone health, calcium absorption, and the immune system.



There are two forms of CoQ10, the more commonly known form, ubiquinone, and the newer, better absorbed form ubiquinol.   Ubiquinol is the specific form of CoQ10 that the body uses, and is significantly more bioavailable than the regular form of CoQ10 (ubiquinone).  Ubiquinol is more expensive however, though if you have heart issues or compromised absorption it may be worth switching to the better absorbed form.  CoQ10 has been in numerous research studies for its benefit to heart health, also, statin drugs (a cholesterol lowering medication) further deplete the body’s levels of CoQ10, making supplementation even more necessary.



The most commonly seen form of calcium is calcium carbonate, which is unfortunately notorious for causing constipation and digestive issues.  There are many well absorbing forms of calcium available, calcium citrate among others, which will not cause constipation.  Calcium should also be taken in a complex with other co factors like magnesium, boron and/or vitamin D which enhance calcium absorption.  Also, it’s best to take calcium in divided doses, since the body can only absorb about 500mg of the mineral at once.


Please come by the store and we’ll be happy to help you find the supplement and its specific form that is right for you.  Also, feel free to bring in the supplements you’re currently taking so we can go over them with you.

Healthy Q & A: Heart Disease


Heart disease runs in my family.  I think I’m reasonably healthy, but wondered what I can do to prevent it.


Family history is definitely something to be aware of, but by no means is it an absolute.  In fact, in cases like this, knowing your family history can be of great benefit, since you can take steps to ensure that your cardiovascular system stays in top shape.


One of the most important things to consider is exercise.  Exercise helps to maintain a strong heart, fights obesity, and helps with everything from depression to osteoporosis.  The most difficult thing about beginning an exercise program is actually starting, but once you get into the habit, and see the positive changes it can cause, it makes it easier to stick with it.


A number of supplements can be helpful as well.  The first I’d mention is omega 3 fish oil.  Fish oil has been proven to help with cardiovascular health and in treating high blood pressure.  Solgar’s Omega 950is a wonderful, high potency formula that we highly recommend.  Fish oil can also help with everything from brain function to joint pain, so it’s something I think everyone would benefit from.


The next I’d most recommend is supplementing with CoQ10.  CoQ10 is a substance found in every cell in the body.  The body manufactures it on its own, but as we age, the body’s production of the nutrient is greatly lowered (and some prescriptions, like statins, further deplete the body of CoQ10).  CoQ10 literally gives the cells the energy required to function, and is found in the highest concentrations in the heart.  Research has found benefit of supplementing with CoQ10 for preventing heart attacks, particularly a second heart attack, as well as for people with congestive heart failure (there’s a good article on CoQ10 and heart failure here).  CoQ10 has been researched extensively; here’s a nice overview of more of its benefits.  Another thing to mention is that most people with heart problems would benefit from the ubiquinol form of CoQ10, which is much better absorbed than the more common ubiquinone.


High blood pressure is another problem which goes hand in hand with heart disease.  One easy way to help lower it is to drink 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily (Republic of Tea has several flavored varieties which are particularly delicious).  Something else that can be of great benefit is garlic extract- the brand Kyolichas odorless garlic capsules.  Garlic can also help with boosting the immune system, so it’s a great supplement to take in the winter.


Heart health is an extensive topic, so be sure to stop in the store so we can help you more thoroughly.

Healthy Q & A: Gum Disease


I’ve been diagnosed with the beginning stages of gum disease.  I wanted to know if there was anything supplement wise that could help.


There are a number of things that can help.  CoQ10 is the first I’d recommend.  It’s a potent antioxidant best known for its benefits to heart health, but research has shown it to be beneficial to gingivitis and periodontal disease.   CoQ10 can help to strengthen gums and may help to prevent gums from receding.  Research has found that people with periodontal disease have low levels of CoQ10 in their gums, and that supplementing with CoQ10 (by pill or by rubbing on the gums) may enhance healing and tissue repair.  One placebo controlled study found that applying CoQ10 topically to the gums reduced gum loss and the depth of dental pockets after three weeks.


Oral probiotics can also be helpful, by increasing the balance of good bacteria in the mouth, they can help to reduce the amount of bad bacteria which contributes to gum and periodontal disease.  Nature’s Plus has one that’s particularly nice, it contains CoQ10 as well as probiotics strains which are especially targeted for oral health.


A high potency multivitamin would also be a good idea, since it would contain a number of vitamins which are beneficial for healing and reducing inflammation like Vitamin A, C, E, and folic acid.


Tea tree mouthwash can also be beneficial for people with gum disease.  Tea tree oil contains natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties which can help to heal gum infections and fight bad breath.   We also have tea tree treated dental floss which is a wonderful product to use with gum and periodontal disease since it brings the antibacterial tea tree oil around the gumline and between teeth.

Supplement Spotlight: CoQ10 and Ubiquinol

The supplement ubiquinol was recently on the Dr. Oz show as one of the most powerful antioxidants.  There has been some confusion regarding CoQ10 vs. ubiquinol, so I thought I’d write about both here.


Ubiquinol is the active form of CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone.  CoQ10 is produced in the body, though the amount produced decreases with age, and is further reduced by some prescription medications, specifically statins like Lipitor.  CoQ10 as ubiquinone is the more commonly known form, and is also less expensive.  Ubiquinol is much better absorbing, but more expensive as well.


CoQ10 and ubiquinol are wonderful antioxidants, and work to give the body cellular energy, specifically in the mitochondria or “power houses” of the cells.  CoQ10 is also important for heart health and has been researched with positive effects for preventing heart attacks (especially second heart attacks) and helping with congestive heart failure.  Part of the reason it’s so beneficial for heart health is that the greatest concentration of mitochondria in the body is in the heart muscle, so very literally, CoQ10 gives the heart the energy to keep beating.

Everyone would benefit from supplementation with CoQ10 or ubiquinol, especially people with heart problems or a family history of heart disease.  Persons taking statins and even the natural “statin-like” red yeast rice, should take at least 100mg of CoQ10 daily to prevent side effects like muscle pain and weakness caused in part by depleted CoQ10 in the body, since statins (and CoQ10 to a lesser extent) diminish the production of CoQ10 in the body.


For healthy people taking CoQ10 as a general preventative, the common ubiquinone form is usually sufficient, though if you’re over 65, have compromised absorption, or have any sort of heart problems, you may want to consider switching to the active, ubiquinol form of CoQ10 since it’s easier absorbed and utilized by the body.