Do heart health supplements really help?
There are many over-the-counter supplements that claim to be good for your heart. But are they truly helpful? Jennifer Lee, FNP, discussed three of the most common heart health supplements: CoQ10, magnesium and fish oil.
What is CoQ10?
Also known as ubiquinol, CoQ10 is a chemical compound your body naturally produces that helps with cellular energy production. Cardiac medicines, such as statins, can lower a patient’s natural level of CoQ10, causing them to experience muscle aches and pains.
“A CoQ10 supplement can sometimes help raise those levels so patients can tolerate their statins,” Lee said. “The data is sort of mixed, but if it helps patients tolerate the statin, which is key in treating and preventing coronary disease, the harm is really not there.”
CoQ10 is also being studied for its effect on heart failure, but results have been inconclusive.
Magnesium is a nutrient found in foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. It’s also a common over-the-counter heart health supplement.
“We prescribe it sometimes for patients who are on diuretics or fluid pills that wash out their magnesium and we need to replace it,” Lee said.
It might also be prescribed for people with arrhythmias who need to keep their magnesium level and potassium levels up.
“But it’s not something we recommend people routinely take,” she added. “Only take it if your cardiologist recommends it.”
Fish oil is safe, but there’s limited data that it reduces cardiovascular risk.
It’s not recommended for anyone on blood thinners, such as aspirin or Plavix, or anyone who is having surgery because it can increase your risk for bleeding.
“I would certainly talk to your primary care doctor or your cardiologist before using fish oil,” Lee said.
The bottom line – there’s a lot we don’t know about heart health supplements
The FDA thoroughly researches medicines and how they interact with other studied medicines, but that’s not true in the supplement world. It’s important to treat these supplements like the health products they claim to be and have a discussion with your doctor before starting on any new supplement routine.
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