Micronutrients That Improve Heart Health
Do you know how energy is produced in your body? 90% of people answering this question will say that energy is produced form carbohydrates and fats.
While there has been an emphasis on knowing the effects of macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, protein and fat) on our health, very few people actually know how the loss of micronutrients can affect our health.
Even fewer are the people that know how important micronutrients are to our overall well being. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and other substances that are necessary for optimal function of the body.
While our bodies can make some of these from precursor compounds, others must be gotten on a daily basis from food, supplements and sometimes medication.
The micronutrients below are essential for heart health and also help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Omega 3 fatty acids:
Omega 3 fatty acids are specifically able to reduce inflammation. In addition to this, they reduce the risk of clotting, decrease triglycerides, reduce blood pressure and strengthen the heart.
These amazing fatty acids also reduce the risk of heart failure and can help to prevent the development of heart arrhythmias ( irregular heartbeats).
While omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial to our health, our bodies cannot make them. Omega 3 fatty acids can be gotten from oily fish, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, fish roe (eggs), fatty fish, seafood, soybeans, and spinach.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. Researchers over time have found more than 375 magnesium binding sites in the human body.
However, magnesium deficiency is extremely common.
The heart requires the most magnesium of any organ in the human body.
The left ventricle especially, requires adequate amounts of magnesium to function properly.
About 70% of Americans suffer from a magnesium deficiency.
This deficiency is most commonly a result of poor dietary choices especially the consumption of large amounts of processed foods.
Apart from its action in the left ventricle, magnesium also functions as
- A part of the pathway necessary to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate)
- Ensures relaxation of blood vessels
- Mediates muscle and nerve function
- Promotes proper formation of bones and teeth
- Regulates blood sugar and insulin sensitivity
While magnesium is not particularly eulogized as an essential nutrient, its functions are especially important for the health of our bodies.
A lack of cellular magnesium can lead to a reduction in the metabolic activities in the cell and even cause a breakdown of it.
In the same vein, our bodies need to maintain a balance between calcium and magnesium. However, many foods are fortified with calcium while magnesium is rarely a part of processed foods.
A deficiency of magnesium can lead to muscle spasms all over the body (in the heart as well).
In addition to these, magnesium functions as an electrolyte and is particularly important in relaying messages across nerve cells. A deficiency of magnesium can compromise the function of your heart, nerves and even blood vessels.
In fact, high blood pressure, arrhythmia (irregular heartbears), cardiovascular disease (CVD) and sudden cardiac death are possible effects of magnesium to calcium imbalance and/or a magnesium deficiency.
To optimize your magnesium levels, you will need to eat foods rich in magnesium. Some of these foods are Swiss chard, raw cocoa, avocado, fish, broccoli, beet greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.
Apart from reducing the incidence of arterial plaque and coronary disease, magnesium can also serve in the reduction of inflammation and aid the growth of bones and teeth by keeping calcium in cells.
The dietary reference intake for magnesium daily is as follows:
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for young adults is around 400 mg/day for men and 310 mg/day for women.
For adults over 30, the RDA is 420 mg/day for men and 320mg/day for women.
Children between 4 and 8 years of age need 130mg of magnesium per day while those between 9 and 13 years will need 240mg per day
Vitamin C plays some very important roles in growth and development of the body.
- It is required for the synthesis of collagen, carnithine and neurotransmitters.
- It is responsible for promoting wound healing and tissue repair
- It is able to double or triple the absorbance of iron
- It is responsible for maintaining immune function
- It acts as an antioxidant
- It has anti aging properties
- It can be used to treat sunburns
- It aids the resolution of allergic reactions, etc.
The RDA for children ages 4 to 8 years is 25 mg/day, and the RDA for boys and girls ages 9 to 13 years is 45 mg/day.
The DRI for adults is 60mg a day.
A daily dose of vitamin C may have a similar effect as walking on a protein called endothelin-1, which promotes the constriction of small blood vessels.
Vitamin C is particularly beneficial to your heart because it also acts as a vasodilator. It relaxes your blood vessels and can consequently help to reduce your blood pressure and the stress placed on your heart.
In addition to this, several studies have found that people with higher plasma levels of vitamin C have the lowest rates of heart disease.
Furthermore, vitamin C is also known to slow down the hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) and preserve the levels of good cholesterol in our systems.
Vitamin D unlike other vitamins is actually a hormone and not a vitamin. It is responsible for the activation and deactivation of over 200 genes and also acts as a potent factor in growing bones, teeth and regulating deposition of calcium.
In children, a deficiency of this vitamin will cause rickets. In adults, this deficiency will cause osteomalacia.
Vitamin D can be synthesized by our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. In fact, 30 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily can help you produce as much vitamin D as you need for the day.
In spite of this, the majority of adults in the United States suffer from a deficiency of vitamin D due to avoiding sun exposure and using sunscreen.
Furthermore, the amount of vitamin D any person is able to synthesize may be affected by race, gender, diet and lifestyle.
With respect to heart health, vitamin D levels have a direct effect on the flexibility of the arteries and the extent of atherosclerosis.
In the same vein, a study carried out at the Copenhagen university hospital has found that people who have worse vitamin D levels had a higher risk of developing heart disease by almost 81%.
Several studies have been conducted on the effects of B-vitamins in heart health. The majority of these studies have concluded that a diet rich in B-vitamins is essential for a healthy heart.
Vitamins B6 and folate are especially beneficial to heart health.
Most B-vitamins are found in vegetables like spinach and most green vegetables. They are also found in fruit, fish, liver, whole grains and fortified cereals.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), the health arm in the U.S. of the National Academy of Sciences, recommends 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams of vitamin B6 per day, depending on age and sex.
The IOM says extremely high-dose folate supplements should be avoided and recommends adult intake of 400 micrograms daily.
Most of the research conducted has concluded that B-vitamins affect heart health by reducing levels of homocysteine which is an amino acid.
Homocysteine is believed to be detrimental to the health of the inner linings of the arteries, thus promoting blood clotting.
Coenzyme Q10 is a substance that helps convert food into energy in the body. This coenzyme is present in almost all the cells present in the human body.
Some researchers believe that CoQ10 may help with heart-related conditions, because it can improve energy production in cells, prevent blood clot formation, and act as an antioxidant.
In fact, people who use coQ10 supplements after a heart attack are less likely to suffer from a recurrence of the condition.
There is a lot of evidence that suggests that this micronutrient may be beneficial in addition to the more conventional medicines used to treat heart failure.
Furthermore, coQ10 can be very useful in the management of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Vitamin E is one of the more controversial vitamins on our list. While some research has shown it o be beneficial to heart health, others have shown that vitamin E can increase the risk of heart failure and coronary disease.
For your own safety, you should discuss with your doctor before you start a new course of supplements.
Vitamin K is and other very important vitamin that is often overlooked.
Ordinarily, vitamin K is the mediator of your body’s clotting function.
There are two types of vitamin k namely K1 and K2. K1 is majorly from vegetables and fruit while K2 is from organ meats and other sources.
Vitamin K2 is absorbed better than K1 and is therefore more efficient.
With respect to the health of the heart, vitamin k helps to prevent the calcification of blood vessels. A study carried out on 277 women over a 3year period has proven this.
Selenium has a long history with the treatment of heart disease. From ancient Chinese medicine to more recent studies in the United States and Europe, selenium has been identified as a contributing factor to the maintenance of good heart conditions.
While the mechanism of its action is not exactly known, many scientists believe that selenium is beneficial to heart health. A few others believe otherwise.
We know for a fact that higher levels of selenium correlate positively with cardiac health. What we do not know is how it does so.
Apart from its effect on the health of the heart, selenium is necessary for improving immunity, acting as an antioxidant and preventing inflammation.
Copper is an important micronutrient. It forms an essential part of all the enzymes used in the majority of redox processes in the body.
They regulate several processes including energy production, tissue development, iron metabolism and even neurotransmission.
Deficiencies in copper can result form malnutrition, an inability to absorb copper or excessive consumption of zinc. Symptoms of copper deficiency include deficiencies in blood cells, bones and connective tissues.
It is obvious that severe copper deficiency can lead to a disruption in the heart’s processes and could be responsible for the death of some of the heart muscle.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient for overall health. It is also the second most common mineral in the human body after iron.
Zinc is a potent antioxidant that is able to fight aging and the effect of free radicals on the heart and even prevent cancer.
Zinc is essential for heart health in a remarkable manner by controlling the opening and closing of calcium channels that regulate the beating of the heart.
In essence, zinc prevents arrhythmias and possible heart failure.
In addition to these, zinc is also responsible for the production and control of over 200 enzymes and the processes they are responsible for.
Causes of Micronutrient Deficiency
The most common causes of micronutrient deficiency are;
- Blood loss
In conclusion, several MNs are necessary for maintaining proper function of our hearts.
To ensure that you get all of the micronutrients your body needs, you should always eat a balanced diet of whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean meats and healthy oils.
The most important factor to maintaining heart health is sustaining a balanced diet and a healthy active lifestyle.