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Shopping List for a Healthy Heart

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Shopping for a healthy heart? Your local health food store is your best source for the foods, herbs, and nutritional supplements that help keep your heart healthy. Here's a convenient healthy heart shopping list to take with you. It'll do your heart good.

Vitamin E (100 percent natural source mixed tocopherols with tocotrienols) is the original healthy heart nutrient. The natural form of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) is far superior to the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol) because the body absorbs and retains it twice as well. Until recently, most vitamin E supplements provided only the alpha form, but researchers are beginning to find the greatest benefits from the complete vitamin E complex with tocotrienols. Several studies have reported that 400 to 800 IU of natural vitamin E per day reduces the risk of heart attacks. Food sources of vitamin E include raw nuts and seeds, whole grains, egg yolks, wheat germ oil, flaxseed oil, soybeans, and leafy green vegetables.

Fish oils from oily fleshed, cold water fish are the best sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the omega-3 fatty acids. Evidence shows they play a critical role in decreasing the risk of heart disease. They help regulate the rhythm of the heart, prevent cardiac arrhythmias, control blood triglycerides, increase high-density lipoproteins (HDL, the good cholesterol), help minimize inflammation and blood clotting, and keep blood vessels healthy. Research studies suggest a daily minimum of 3,000 mg of fish oil for heart protective benefits, but choose only fish oil supplements that are certified free from heavy metals and toxic contaminants. Food sources include mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, sablefish (black cod), anchovies, and albacore tuna. Eat at least one serving per week.

Coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant shown to be beneficial for heart health, re-energizes the heart cell's mitochondria where energy metabolism occurs. CoQ10 is particularly important
for patients with heart failure. Improvements in heart rate, blood pressure and water retention have been recorded within four weeks of taking 50 mg daily.

L-Carnitine, an amino acid essential for energy metabolism, has been shown to help normalize irregular heartbeat and abnormal heart functioning in patients with diabetes and high blood pressure. Researchers found that taking 2,000 to 3,000 mg daily helped repair damage and strengthen the heart muscle in individuals who had suffered a heart attack.

Calcium and magnesium are companion minerals that play important roles in heart health. Calcium supports the lowering of blood pressure and has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. Calcium also appears to partially bind some fats and cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract and may lead to lower cholesterol levels. Magnesium is clearly linked to heart health in several studies, and lower blood serum concentrations of magnesium were found to be associated with a higher incidence of irregular heartbeat. Choose an easily absorbed source of calcium and magnesium such as citrate or chelate. Taking 1,000 to 1,500 mg of calcium with a minimum of 750 to 1,000 mg of magnesium daily is recommended.

Folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, taken in combination, help to reduce the heart-damaging effects of elevated homocysteine levels. Dr. Michael Colgan, a renowned nutritional science researcher, recommends 800 mcg folic acid, 50 mg vitamin B6, and 100 mcg vitamin B12. Even people with normal homocysteine levels had a discernible reversal of atherosclerosis when supplementing daily with these B vitamins. Preformulated anti-homocysteine supplements are available.

Hawthorn is a traditional European herb used to improve coronary artery blood flow and strengthen contractions of the heart muscle. Clinical trials have confirmed that hawthorn leaf and flower extracts are beneficial for people with early-stage congestive heart failure. It is generally recommended to take an average 650 mg of the dried hawthorn berries three times daily.

Garlic is one of the most popular heart health remedies for people of all ages. The German Commission E Monographs (a respected international source of therapeutic botanical information) recommends four grams of fresh, raw garlic per day to lower blood lipids. The active ingredients yielded in this amount of garlic are approximately 18 mg of alliin, nine mg of allicin, and 500 mcg of S-allyl cysteine. Daily dosages of 800 mg of supplemental garlic powder for 12 weeks reportedly improve the symptoms of coronary artery disease and improve the elasticity of the arteries. Garlic has also been shown to inhibit platelet stickiness and blood clotting.

Fibre from whole grains, fruit, psyllium, flaxseed, and beans are associated with a 26-percent reduction in the risk of heart disease. Eat an optimal 40 grams of fibre from these sources every day.

Green tea is a refreshing beverage, either hot or cold. It lowers cholesterol levels mildly, leading to a more positive cholesterol profile (decreasing LDL "bad" cholesterol and increasing HDL "good" cholesterol). Green tea may also promote heart health by making platelets in the blood less sticky and by increasing antioxidant activity in the blood. Drink at least two cups of green tea daily.

These science-based nutritional and herbal supplements are an important complement to a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, weight control, and stress reduction. Use this shopping list to help select combined formulations or design your own heartfelt supplement program.

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