If you’ve recently been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol, or any other condition that can heighten your chances of developing heart disease, you’re likely wondering what natural supplements can help unclog your arteries and increase your overall heart health.
Heart health is dependent on sticking to the right diet, reducing your stress, and being physically active; however, adding the right natural supplements into your overall heart health plan can make it more effective.
17 Natural Supplements That Can Help Your Heart Health
While these natural supplements can provide great health benefits, there is always a possibility of interaction with each other or your prescription medications—before taking a new supplement, you should discuss it with your pharmacist or healthcare team.
Now, let’s talk about the best natural supplements to unclog arteries and boost your overall heart health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fatty fish, like sardines and salmon, are full of omega-3 acids, which can help lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and inflammation. These fatty acids have also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Other than fish, you can find omega-3 acids in chia seeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, and walnuts. Blood tests can check your body’s omega-3 levels, and if deficient, your healthcare provider might suggest taking a supplement.
Omega-3 fish oils are effective at increasing HDL cholesterol levels—that’s the good one—and reducing plaque buildup in arteries. This study shows that omega-3 acids not only reduce plaque buildup in arteries but also reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by up to 26% of those who are at risk of heart disease.
Garlic has a wide range of both culinary and medical uses, but the studies regarding heart health are mixed. In 2009, a study concluded that taking a garlic supplement doesn’t reduce cholesterol levels. However, a similar study in 2014 shows that taking garlic supplements could help prevent heart disease. Additionally, in 2012, a study showed that combining aged garlic extract with CoQ10 helps unclog arteries and slows the progress of atherosclerosis.
Your body can’t function properly without magnesium; however, as many as 50% of people in the US have a magnesium deficiency. Low levels of magnesium are associated with plaque buildup, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Low doses of magnesium can lower cortisol levels, which is your body’s primary stress hormone. It also plays a vital role in controlling inflammation and blood sugar levels.
Inositol is a carbohydrate found naturally in our bodies, and it primarily helps control blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. When combined with a healthy eating plan, inositol can help reduce insulin resistance.
One study found that women who took inositol supplements each day improved their overall blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity, which are all factors that help decrease your risk of heart disease.
Folate (or folic acid) is a B vitamin that helps lower stroke risk and heart attack chances in people with high blood pressure. People usually get their folate from foods like citrus fruits, beans, and vegetables, but many people with inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease can benefit from taking folate supplements. If you’re deficient in folic acid, there’s usually no downside related to taking a supplement. Plus, if taken daily, folic acid can reduce your risk of stroke.
Some medications, especially ones used to treat seizures and autoimmune disorders, can affect how your body absorbs folic acid—talk with your healthcare provider to determine the correct dosage of a folate supplement for you.
Grape Seed Extract
For those with prehypertension—the early stage of high blood pressure—research shows that grape seed extract can effectively lower blood pressure. It’s full of antioxidants, and the study shows that taking grape seed extract daily for 8-16 weeks significantly reduced the users’ blood pressure.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
While CoQ10 naturally occurs in your body, you can boost your intake by adding foods like salmon, broccoli, tuna, and cauliflower into your diet. For people who already take medication to lower their cholesterol, adding a CoQ10 supplement can help reduce joint pain and muscle aches associated with the side effects of cholesterol-lowering statin medications.
Not only can CoQ10 help lower blood pressure, another recent study shows that people taking CoQ10 supplements also saw an improvement in their HDL and LDL cholesterol levels when using it daily for 12 weeks.
CoQ10 can help heart failure, speed up recovery, and boost energy.
Vitamin D is beneficial for both your heart and overall health—it helps regulate insulin levels, protect bones, and increase energy. Also, according to this study, boosting vitamin D levels, either through your diet, sunlight exposure, or supplements, can also help lower blood pressure. Other studies show that vitamin D can help reduce the risk of diabetes and prevent strokes.
Multivitamins & Minerals
Multivitamins taken in appropriate doses can help lower overall heart disease risk. While ideally you would get nutrients from whole foods, many people fall short of the recommended nutrient intakes.
While supplements don’t make up for unhealthy diet habits, even people who eat healthily can find it challenging to get all of the nutrients they need—multivitamin supplements can help fill those gaps.
There’s a positive association between people taking vitamin and mineral supplements and a reduced risk of heart disease. These supplements can be a safe, inexpensive way to get a boost to your heart health.
The best way to get the right levels of fiber is through your diet, but if you don’t get enough, using a fiber supplement (either soluble or insoluble) can help. Psyllium fiber can help lower cholesterol, but it’s most effective when combined with a proper diet and exercise routine.
This amino acid transports fat into the mitochondria, where they get turned into energy for your body. Energy production from L-carnitine is essential for healthy heart function.
Several studies show that L-carnitine helps improve heart functions and reduces the symptoms of angina. People that have congestive heart failure, which results in insufficient oxygenation of the heart and damages the muscle, can reduce that damage with L-carnitine supplements.
L-carnitine can also help reduce complications and lasting damage following a heart attack.
Green tea is enjoyed all over the globe and is an effective aid that treats high cholesterol. According to controlled trials, green tea can help lower LDL and total cholesterol levels. Because contamination can be a concern, the ideal way to use green tea to boost heart health is by drinking it instead of taking an extract.
Related: Treating SIBO Naturally
Also called artichoke leaf extract (ALE), studies show that this supplement can help raise and lower your good and bad cholesterol levels, respectively. You can find artichoke extract in various forms, including tablets, capsules, and tinctures.
Policosanol, which is an extract made from plants like yams and sugar canes, may help reduce cholesterol levels. The studies are a bit convoluted; the most recent findings suggest that policosanol is an efficient supplement for reducing cholesterol and improving heart health, but more research is still needed. You can find policosanol supplements in both capsules and tablets.
Niacin (vitamin B-3) is found in foods like chicken, tuna, salmon, and liver, but it’s also readily available as a supplement. Many doctors recommend niacin supplements to help with cholesterol—they can raise good cholesterol by over 30%. It can also help lower triglycerides, which are a fat that increases the risk of heart disease.
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice, which is commonly used in Chinese medicine practices, is made by fermenting white rice and yeast. This study shows that red yeast rice can significantly lower bad cholesterol levels. The effectiveness of red yeast rice lies in monacolin K—a substance with the same makeup as lovastatin, which is a prescription drug commonly used to lower cholesterol.
Red yeast rice has also been in studies to research the supplement’s effectiveness for treating liver, kidney, and muscle damage.
Hawthorn is a shrub commonly grown throughout the world. It’s particularly common in Germany, where they make an extract from the leaves and berries to use as heart disease medicine.
Research from this study shows that hawthorn is safe and effective when used as a supplement to treat heart disease. It contains a chemical called quercetin, which reduces cholesterol levels.
Hawthorn extract is usually sold as capsules.
4 Supplements to Avoid for Heart Health
While the above supplements have all been shown to benefit heart health, there are a few to watch out for, like:
It’s true that a diet rich in calcium helps promote a healthy heart and strong bones, but too much calcium can cause problems. This study found that using calcium supplements can increase plaque buildup in arteries, including the aorta. The researchers recommend eating a diet with calcium-rich foods rather than taking a supplement.
However, if you’re deficient in calcium, your doctor might recommend taking a calcium supplement. Doses typically range from 500-700 mg, which should be more than enough, unless your healthcare provider specifically informs you to take more than that.
Drinking some grapefruit juice might sound like a tasty, healthy idea, but it can be dangerous when combined with certain cholesterol and high blood pressure medications. If you enjoy grapefruit juice, it’s crucial to check with your healthcare provider to ensure that it won’t interact with any of your specific medications.
Some Herbal Supplements
Some herbal supplements, like bitter orange, St John’s Wort, ginseng, licorice, and ginkgo, can potentially raise your blood pressure. They may also interfere with your blood pressure medications.
When we consume too much choline, which is plentiful in eggs, milk, and meat, there’s a higher chance of platelets clumping together to form clots. This excessive clotting can limit or block blood flow, causing problems like strokes, heart attacks, and organ damage.
Many studies have shown that high levels of TMAO—the compound that causes those clots—are associated with risks of heart disease.
Final Thoughts on Herbs for Atherosclerosis
When choosing a heart health supplement, whether it’s to unclog arteries, regulate blood pressure, or help your cholesterol levels, it’s important to choose products that don’t contain filler ingredients or other unwanted things like artificial colors.
It’s also crucial to discuss the supplements you wish to take with your healthcare provider and get tested for nutrient deficiencies.
Also, keep in mind that:
- Natural doesn’t always mean safe. When it comes to taking supplements for your heart health, if you’re ever unsure about what the supplement is or how it will affect you, talk to your pharmacist or doctor first.
- Always talk to your doctor. If you’re using supplements or thinking about adding one into your routine, ensure that it’s safe by discussing it with your healthcare provider. Having this conversation is especially important for people who are currently undergoing medical treatments, take prescription medications, or women who are pregnant.
- Supplements can have negative effects. Like all medicines, there can be side effects, allergic reactions, or interactions with other medications. Interactions and side effects can make your current health conditions worse.
- Supplement manufacturing is not standardized. So, a supplement’s effectiveness can differ from brand to brand, and even in different distributions from the same manufacturer.
Start Feeling Better Naturally
At Original Breath, we offer supplements for heart health and many other conditions. We’re trained in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, massage, and much more to help our patients feel better naturally. From supplements and therapies to herbs and diet changes, our practitioners are here to help.
Related: How Acupuncture Works
Get in touch with us at Original Breath, and see how our staff of professional healthcare providers can help you start feeling better the natural way.