It’s a well-known fact that the way to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system is to stick to a diet low in saturated fat and get plenty of exercise, but many people swear by certain dietary supplements to help keep their heart in good shape.
According to statistics published by the NHS, 19% of the entire supplement market consists of products recommended to improve the health of the cardiovascular system, so let’s take a look at some of the most widely used supplements, and for anyone feeling a little sceptical, also check out clinical findings on their true value.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found primarily in oily fish, omega-3 can reduce inflammation throughout the body, including blood vessels. Many studies have taken place to establish whether taking omega-3 as a supplement may have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, but so far studies have proven inconclusive. In view of this lack of evidence, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines, published in September 2014 state: ‘People should not be recommended to take omega-3 fatty acid supplements for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease’. Research is ongoing but the jury is still out on this one.
Niacin, or nicotinic acid, is a member of the B vitamin complex, B3 to be precise, and it occurs naturally in plants and animals. It is used as a supplement to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and also to treat atherosclerosis — coronary artery disease.
In a large trial entitled ‘The Coronary Drug Project’, it was found that niacin was the only cholesterol lowering agent to reduce overall mortality. However, despite these results, doctors are still hesitant to prescribe it. The NHS line is that niacin may be offered to people with a high triglyceride level, but they warn that it should be monitored carefully and not be used by those with diabetes, liver disease, digestive problems, stomach ulcers, or those at risk of developing these conditions.
Apart from its well-recognised power to ward off vampires, garlic has a long history of various health benefits. Recent research investigated its effectiveness against high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol.
A study published by the Cochrane Library, reviewed whether 200mg of garlic powder taken three times daily could reduce blood pressure. The conclusion showed ‘insufficient evidence’. However, there are more positive findings from a study documented by PubMed, involving 1,794 participants. This research concluded that garlic powder produced ‘modest reductions’ in cholesterol levels. Further details at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Red Rice Yeast Extract
This is a very interesting supplement as it contains compounds that are chemically related to statins, the drugs widely prescribed for the reduction of cholesterol. Red yeast has been found to raise HDL (good cholesterol), and because a raised level of HDL helps to eliminate LDL (bad cholesterol), from the bloodstream, it is likely that taking this supplement could decrease the risk of heart disease.
NHS News has reported findings of a study involving 5,000 Chinese adults who had previously had heart attacks. The study was conducted by Dr Zongliang Lu from the Chinese Coronary Secondary Prevention Study Group and its conclusion was that red rice yeast extract did have beneficial effects.
It is believed that hawthorn has a relaxing effect on the arteries, which in turn improves circulation. Hawthorn berry extracts are used in traditional medicine to treat chronic heart failure and high blood pressure.
A recent scientific review of several double-blind controlled trials on the use of hawthorn for heart failure is published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. These findings prove significant benefits in symptom control. These are very encouraging results for a dietary supplement.
Original Article : 5 Top Supplements for a Healthy Heart