The heart is the engine that your body runs on. It doesn’t matter how ripped, strong, or smart you are, if your heart stops working so does everything else. This of course means that we have to keep the heart running (or at least idling) from the moment we are born onwards. That’s no sweat for a heart fresh from the factory! Unfortunately, as we age, our heart’s machinery starts to break down and we are at greater risk for complications.
As you age, your heart can struggle to beat faster during physical exercise. Additionally, fatty deposits can build up on the arterial walls and constrict blood flow. We also experience the stiffening of our artery walls, called arteriosclerosis. This can create narrow passageways for blood, causing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the thickness of your heart muscle (just like straining to curl weights can increase bicep thickness over time). Thicker heart walls decrease the amount of blood volume your heart can hold, weakening the heart. Eventually, arteriosclerosis can decrease the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your heart causing the heart to further weaken or fail. 1
There are two avenues we can take to boost our heart health: dietary and lifestyle interventions and supplements.
The most effective dietary and lifestyle interventions for heart health are a healthy diet, a consistent exercise plan, and stress mitigation strategies. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. This can be as simple as walking everyday or playing tennis. Try to limit your intake of saturated fats (the solid fats on that T-bone), added sugars (these are included on nutrition labels), and excess salt. Limiting saturated fats and added sugars can also help you maintain an appropriate caloric intake. This will assist in maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure. Finally, you need to find ways to minimize stress. Just like an aggressive driver can damage their engine, stress can wreak havoc on your heart. Get adequate sleep, follow a workout program, and make time for friends and family to avoid constantly revving your engine throughout the day. 2
Supplements seem like a no-brainer for heart health, but which ones are best for you? It’s important to choose well-studied ingredients that will help improve blood flow to and from the heart and protect your heart from aging. We’ve put our top three supplements that you need to take for heart health below!
Why do we age? One professor in the 1950s came up with a simple answer: free radicals or reactive oxygen species. Denham Harmon theorized that our cells exude dangerous byproducts, known as free radicals or Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), during normal metabolism. (You’ve undoubtedly heard of free radicals and their nemeses, the great and powerful antioxidants). Dr. Harmon hypothesized that when unstable free radicals are present, they can react with different cellular components and machinery. Free radicals can damage cell structures, proteins, and DNA, and lead to age related disease. Dr. Harmon called this “The Antioxidant Theory of Aging”.3
So, how do antioxidants help fight the good fight against ROS? Well, our cells have an internal defense system to protect the body against roaming free radicals. These natural antioxidants are called superoxide dismutase (SOD). These antioxidants can donate one of their electrons to a free radical, neutralizing it and preventing any further damage to the cell’s machinery. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, SOD antioxidants get a little slower as they age. This leads to more free radical build up and further age-related issues.3
Despite being nearly 70 years old, the Antioxidant Theory of Aging has continued to show validity. However, we have since learned that not all free radicals are bad. In fact, free radicals are necessary middle men in cell reactions. 4 They can even help trigger physiological changes and are important in increasing heart beat and blood flow in response to running! 5 Researchers have now proposed a “redox stress hypothesis”. This hypothesis states that there is a delicate balance between the oxidation (loss of electrons) and reduction (gain of electrons) in the body. This balancing act shifts more towards oxidation as we age, resulting in an accumulation of damage. 6 Luckily, there are antioxidant supplements that can help.
SPECTRA is a trademarked combination of fruit, vegetable, and herb extracts and concentrates: broccoli powder and broccoli sprouts concentrate, onion extract, tomato concentrate, dried carrot, spinach, kale concentrate, brussel sprout concentrate, whole coffee fruits extract, acerola extract, camu camu powder, acai berry concentrate, mangosteen concentrate, green tea extract, apple extract, turmeric concentrate, garlic, basil concentrate, oregano, cinnamon concentrate, elderberry concentrate, blackcurrant extract, blueberry extract, sweet cherry powder, blackberry powder, chokeberry, raspberry powder, and bilberry extract. This particular blend of extracts, when taken together in precise quantities, is shown to inhibit free radical production, optimize cellular metabolic activity, and increase nitric oxide levels within our bodies. 7 That means that your body can fight the oxidative stress of aging, keep your blood vessels pumping, and make sure your cellular machinery is staying in that perfect reduction-oxidation balance.
Green Tea Leaf Extract
Tea is the most commonly consumed (non-water) beverage in the world. The popularity of tea may be due to the low shipping weight, low cost, connection to 3,000 years of tradition, and its large amount of antioxidants. 8 Drinking tea is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, making it a must have beverage for the 30 million plus Americans with cardiovascular disease! 9
Green tea contains green tea catechins. These are four molecules that exert powerful antioxidant effects in the body. It is believed that the consumption of these catechins in green tea help dilate blood vessels, allowing greater blood flow and lower blood pressure. A meta-analysis of 9 human trials on green tea consumption found that green tea can increase the diameter of your arteries by 40% relative to your normal baseline. Anyone who's been stuck in congested traffic can understand how opening up 40% more lanes can increase the speed and ease of traffic! 9
Beets, yes the cousin of the turnip, and their main bioactive compound, nitrate, are a must have supplement for heart health. Nitrates derived from beetroot and similar veggies can reduce blood pressure, protect the heart, and improve your body’s response to exercise. 10
The magic of nitrate comes from their metabolite, nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can have a twofold effect on heart health: improving blood flow and reducing exercise oxygen costs. Nitric oxide helps relax the muscles of the arterial walls, increasing blood flow and thus, heart health. (In fact, green tea extract may work by increasing nitric oxide production and/or decreasing its breakdown). Further, nitric oxide can help reduce the consumption of oxygen by your mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). 10 One study performed on 9 healthy and well trained men found that ingesting dietary nitrates from beetroot reduced the oxygen cost of exercise by 5.4% and increased energy efficiency by 7.1% during moderate exercise. 11 Incredibly, supplementation of beetroot decreased the systolic blood pressure of the healthy young men by 4%. 12 Systolic blood pressure is a measure of the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts. Therefore, beetroot and beetroot extract can help decrease blood pressure, improve exercise endurance, and give your heart a much needed tune up!
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Our hearts are finely tuned machines. If you run them ragged and ignore proper maintenance, you will notice significant wear and tear over time. However, if you choose the right fuel and supplements, you can expect your heart to run smoothly for decades to come.
-Choose a balanced diet low in saturated fat and added sugars.
-Stay active for at least 150 minutes every week.
-Supplement with high quality supplements that improve blood flow, decrease blood pressure, and provide solid cardioprotective properties.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Heart health and aging. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/heart-health-and-aging.
- Chronic stress can cause heart trouble. www.heart.org. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/02/04/chronic-stress-can-cause-heart-trouble.
- Wilcox, K. (2009, May 1). Free radical shift: Antioxidants may not increase life span. Scientific American. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/free-radical-shift/.
- Dröge W. Free radicals in the physiological control of cell function. Physiol Rev. 2002 Jan;82(1):47-95. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00018.2001. PMID: 11773609.
- Karolinska Institutet. (2011, March 1). Free radicals may be good for you. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 3, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228090404.htm
- Nemzer BV, Fink N, Fink B. New insights on effects of a dietary supplement on oxidative and nitrosative stress in humans. Food Sci Nutr. 2014;2(6):828-839. doi:10.1002/fsn3.178
- Spectra™ - clinically researched antioxidant action: Futureceuticals. Spectra™ - Clinically Researched Antioxidant Action | FutureCeuticals. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://www.antioxidant-action.com/#science.
- Stone, D. (2021, May 3). The world's top drink. Culture. Retrieved November 3, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/the-worlds-top-drink.
- Ras RT, Zock PL, Draijer R. Tea consumption enhances endothelial-dependent vasodilation; a meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2011;6(3):e16974. Published 2011 Mar 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016974
- Chen K, Pittman RN, Popel AS. Nitric oxide in the vasculature: where does it come from and where does it go? A quantitative perspective. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2008;10(7):1185-1198. doi:10.1089/ars.2007.1959
- Larsen FJ, Weitzberg E, Lundberg JO, Ekblom B. Effects of dietary nitrate on oxygen cost during exercise. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2007 Sep;191(1):59-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.2007.01713.x. Epub 2007 Jul 17. PMID: 17635415.
- Lansley, K. E., Winyard, P. G., Fulford, J., Vanhatalo, A., Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., DiMenna, F. J., Gilchrist, M., Benjamin, N., & Jones, A. M. (2011). Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the o2cost of walking and running: A placebo-controlled study. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110(3), 591–600. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.01070.2010