The Heart Beat on Heart Disease
Your heart pumps blood throughout the body, providing oxygen and nutrients while removing waste. A healthy heart beats around 100,000 times every day (or about three billion beats in a lifetime), pumping about six quarts of blood throughout the body.
At least that’s how it should work.
- A heart attack, which occurs when a blood clot damages or destroys part of the heart muscle.
- Heart failure, when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs. About 5.7 million Americans have heart failure.
Underlying these and other complications is the pump that brings blood to and from the heart. This layer, called the myocardium, is the muscular tissue that drives your heart and keeps it beating.
Fueling that muscle — as well as nearly any function your body requires — are tiny organelles called mitochondria. Those little energy powerhouses convert energy from the carbohydrates and fats you eat into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your body’s energy currency.
To do that — to create that constant energy your heart, and most other organs, like your brain, liver, and lungs, demand to work optimally — those mitochondria need a steady nutrient supply.
One of those nutrients is called coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10. Alternately called ubiquinone (after ubiquitous, or found everywhere), nearly every cellular membrane requires this fat-soluble, vitamin-like molecule for energy.
In fact, researchers call CoQ10 a “super-vitamin” because it helps energize your body and increase energy production. CoQ10 isn’t actually a vitamin since your body can synthesize it. What organ demands the most energy in your body? Your heart.
CoQ10 and Heart Health
“Interestingly, the most important muscle in the body—the heart—- has the greatest concentration of CoQ10,” says Stephen Sinatra, MD, in The Great Cholesterol Myth, who adds that the heart “literally just gobbles the stuff up.”
Insufficient or poorly functioning mitochondria — which can occur when those little energy plants lack crucial nutrients including CoQ10 — means that your heart can’t optimally pump blood to critical organs that need it.
CoQ10 and Heart Conditions
Supplementing can benefit a variety of heart-related conditions. Systematic reviews conclude that CoQ10 could benefit patients with heart failure. CoQ10 can also decrease cardiovascular risk factors, including endothelial dysfunction, which is an early predictor of atherosclerosis and contributes to heart failure.
Your vascular endothelium helps blood vessels relax and inhibits blood clots from forming. Impaired vascular endothelial function — endothelial dysfunction — compromises normal blood flow and the ability for your blood vessels to relax. CoQ10 can improve those and other factors that, left unchecked, can lead to heart failure. Supplementing with CoQ10 also provides heart-protecting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Consider oxidative stress, a massive driver for heart disease. A certain amount of free radicals are normal and even healthy, but excessive amounts can damage mitochondria, making them perform less efficiently.
A vicious cycle ensues as damaged mitochondria create more free radicals. CoQ10 plays a vital role to help your mitochondria generate ATP and serves as an antioxidant to protect mitochondria from damage.
Heart failure and inflammation create a vicious cycle that is strongly interconnected and mutually reinforcing of each other. CoQ10 can help lower inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), a risk factor for heart disease.
Any type of heart disease (like many other conditions) is complex and multifactorial. Multiple factors — including dietary and lifestyle factors — contribute to and exacerbate this condition. Yet CoQ10 can benefit many of these factors, including inflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction.
If your doctor prescribed a statin, you should consider supplementing with CoQ10. That’s because statin drugs block a pathway that produces CoQ10, and therefore can deplete CoQ10 levels.
Please discuss modifying your nutrient intake and/or including other additional supplements with your healthcare practitioner. Never modify any medications or other medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.
In fact, researchers attribute the adverse side effects of statins (including muscle pain and cramping) to lower CoQ10 levels.
CoQ10 – Not Only For Your Heart
If heart health was CoQ10’s only claim to fame, it would be a bona fide rock star. Fortunately, this powerhouse nutrient can benefit nearly every condition that requires energy-producing mitochondria, which is to say nearly every function in your body.
“When CoQ10 levels fall, so does our general health,” says Sinatra and Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., in The Great Cholesterol Myth. “CoQ10 is used in the energy-producing metabolic pathways of every cell. It’s a very powerful antioxidant, combating oxidative damage from free radicals, protecting your cell membranes, proteins and DNA… Without CoQ10, our bodies simply can’t survive.”
Researchers find that people with neurodegenerative diseases; fibromyalgia; diabetes; cancer; mitochondrial diseases; and muscular diseases have low CoQ10 levels. Optimizing those levels could benefit those and other conditions.
A full list of conditions that CoQ10 supplementing could improve surpasses this article’s scope, but includes:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a female metabolic and hormonal disorder that includes heart risk factors, insulin resistance, obesity, and other symptoms. Treating PCOS requires the right dietary, lifestyle, and nutrient protocol. CoQ10 can help. This nutrient can improve fasting blood glucose, insulin levels, and total testosterone levels in women with PCOS.
- Migraines. Migraines are one type of headache, and their symptoms can feel debilitating. CoQ10 can decrease frequency among adult migraine sufferers.
- Metabolic syndrome. This cluster of symptoms that include insulin resistance and obesity largely overlap with heart health: Chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, high blood pressure, and mitochondrial dysfunction fuel both problems. Supplementing with CoQ10 can benefit metabolic syndrome.
- Chronic inflammation. Inflammation plays a role in nearly every disease on the planet including heart disease. Supplementing with CoQ10 can improve circulating inflammatory markers including CRP.
- Oxidative stress. Like inflammation, excessive amounts of free radicals that overtake your body’s antioxidant defense contribute to numerous diseases including aging. CoQ10 can help quench that oxidative stress by boosting key antioxidants and regenerating other antioxidants including vitamins C and E.
- Immune support. CoQ10 helps support the immune system. Tissues and cells involved with immune function require optimal amounts of energy (and therefore sufficient CoQ10) to perform consistently.
- Weight loss. While this probably won’t become the latest “magic” fat burner, supplementing with CoQ10 can help nudge your weight in a healthy direction. Among this supplement’s benefits for weight loss include lowering oxidative stress, improving fat metabolism, and optimizing blood glucose and insulin levels.
Your body makes a little bit of CoQ10, and you can also get some from food. The average person gets about three to six milligrams (mg) of CoQ10 a day from foods like meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds. To get the aforementioned therapeutic benefits, however, you’ll need to supplement.
Most people feel more fatigue, for instance, as they get older. One small randomized controlled trial gave people aged 70 or older 200 mg of CoQ10 along with 100 mg of selenium daily for four years. Participants who supplemented consistently reported increased vitality, physical performance, and quality of life.
If you and your healthcare practitioner agree that CoQ10 supplements are ideal for your condition, consider a few caveats. CoQ10 absorbs poorly. In fact, we only absorb about five percent of many CoQ10 supplements.
Look For a Quality Supplement
Quality matters with all supplements, but especially with CoQ10. In one study, researchers tested seven supplements each containing 100 mg of CoQ10. The difference in absorption among the seven products was statistically significant. The right CoQ10 supplement, however, can benefit numerous conditions. One study found 50 mg twice daily can decrease those statin-related problems and improve the ability to perform daily activities.
Most studies use around 100 – 200 mg of CoQ10 daily. Side effects are rare with this supplement, but higher doses could create symptoms like stomach upset, nausea, irritability, and mild insomnia.
CoQ10 Works Synergistically with Other Nutrients
As the aforementioned study with selenium showed, CoQ10 plays very well with other nutrients, working synergistically to optimize energy production and overall health. Another nutrient that works with CoQ10 is alpha-lipoic acid (or lipoic acid), a naturally occurring short-chain fatty acid that plays a vital role in many mitochondrial enzyme complexes.
As a powerful antioxidant, lipoic acid can hold its own. In fact, researchers call it the “universal antioxidant.” But lipoic acid also helps recycle other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, as well as your master antioxidant glutathione. This workhorse nutrient helps lower inflammation and manage blood glucose levels.
Lipoic acid makes a great team with CoQ10 to lower inflammation, boost antioxidant levels, and protect your hardworking mitochondria from energy-sapping damage. Combining lipoic acid with other mitochondrial nutrients, including CoQ10, can also improve mitochondrial and cognitive dysfunction, particularly for age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
Overall, CoQ10 supplements are usually well-tolerated, even at high doses of up to 1,200 mg a day (far more than you’ll actually take).
While CoQ10 (along with other antioxidants like lipoic acid), is safe for most individuals, please talk with your healthcare practitioner if you have these or other adverse side effects. CoQ10 could impact certain medications including warfarin (Coumadin).
There are some demographics where CoQ10 is contraindicated:
- If you have kidney or liver disease
- If you’re using chemotherapeutic drugs
- If you have hypoglycemia (CoQ10 can lower fasting blood glucose)
- For nursing mothers, children, and infants
As with any nutrient, dietary, and lifestyle factors matter. To maximize the heart-health and other benefits of CoQ10 (along with other antioxidants like lipoic acid), you’ll need to incorporate our Advanced Plan, which includes sufficient amounts of healthy fat, moderate protein, and the right carbohydrates.
You’ll also want to get great sleep (take a supplement if you have trouble falling or staying asleep), manage stress levels, get the right exercise, and incorporate other factors that optimize heart health.
When you’re doing all that, using a professional-quality CoQ10 supplement in the correct dosage — especially as a synergistic blend with other nutrients — can provide powerful support for heart health and so much more.
Discuss including these and/or any other additional supplements with your healthcare practitioner. Never modify any medications or other medical advice without your healthcare practitioner’s consent.