5 supplements for healthy arteries
1. Aged garlic extract
Aged garlic extract works in multiple ways to prevent atherosclerosis and improve overall heart health. One double-blind, randomized clinical trial of 88 patients with uncontrolled hypertension found that aged garlic extract lowered systolic blood pressure (the top number) as much as 11.5 mmHg and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) by 6.3 mm Hg compared to a placebo. (18)
Another clinical trial involving 65 firefighters found that a combination of aged garlic extract and coenzyme Q10 halted the progression of dangerous coronary artery calcification (CAC). After 12 months, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that those taking 1,200 mg of aged garlic extract and 120 mg of coenzyme Q10 had significant reductions in CAC progression, as well as decreases in the markers for inflammation and oxidative stress that can further damage the endothelial lining of blood vessels. (19) The newest findings show that aged garlic extract can also reduce the amount of unstable plaque in arteries. (20) This is critical since this type of plaque is more likely to rupture.
Aged garlic extract works on multiple fronts to reduce the risk factors that contribute to atherosclerosis.
2. Coenzyme Q10
Boasting anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, coenzyme Q10 provides energy to heart cells and protects the cardiovascular system from free radical damage. Research involving 51 patients with coronary artery disease showed that taking supplemental CoQ10 reduced a marker of free-radical-induced oxidation by as much as 29 percent. (21) Yet as we age, our body’s ability to make CoQ10 declines. Those taking statin drugs can also find their stores depleted. (22) Making matters worse, CoQ10 supplements are poorly absorbed by the body. Fortunately, studies show that a more bioavailable form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol provides 60% better absorption than standard CoQ10 supplements. (23) Over the past decade, studies have demonstrated that ubiquinol also inhibits LDL oxidation and may have a direct effect on the progression of atherosclerotic lesions. (24)
This mineral is essential for a healthy heart, yet many people don’t get enough. Clinical studies show a strong correlation between low magnesium levels and the formation of arterial calcium deposits that contribute to atherosclerosis. (25) Research in the Journal of Hypertension shows that magnesium helps to lower blood pressure, enhances blood flow, and improves endothelial function in people with mild atherosclerosis. (26) Plus recent findings in the International Journal of Hypertension note that adequate magnesium levels protect the lining of arteries and prevent the accumulation of platelets and debris along arterial walls. (27)
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that escorts calcium out of the blood so it can be used to build strong bones and teeth. But if you’re short on vitamin K, this calcium is picked up by soft tissue throughout your body. This can be especially dangerous when it occurs in the delicate endothelial tissue that lines the walls of your arteries. (28) A study in the journal Atherosclerosis reported that vitamin K reverses the buildup of calcium deposits in post-menopausal women. (29) Another trial involving more than 4,800 men and women confirmed that getting enough vitamin K prevents aortic calcification and coronary heart disease (CHD). (30)
Zinc is a critical antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mineral that lowers your risk for atherosclerosis. One way it does this is by reducing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides that contribute to plaque buildup. (31) Supplementation has also been shown to keep a lid on cholesterol oxidation. (32) In addition, zinc lowers inflammation and vascular cell adhesion molecules—molecules that act like Velcro to snag cholesterol and cellular debris. (33) Eventually, this waste accumulates along artery walls and blocks blood flow.
Did you know?
Taking more than 15 mg of zinc on a long-term basis can cause a copper deficiency. If you do take a zinc supplement, make sure you also take 2 mg of copper to ensure you have enough of both minerals.
The bottom line
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. But because atherosclerosis takes so many years to develop, it can be easy to ignore. Instead of waiting until you’re diagnosed with atherosclerosis, get ahead of the curve with these artery-smart strategies. If you already have one or more risk factors for atherosclerosis, work with your integrative healthcare provider to develop a plan that supports your overall cardiovascular health.