Health Articles

Mitochondria’s Effect on Your Heart Health

Mitochondria's Effect on Your Heart Health

Do you drag throughout the day, nod off in the afternoon, or struggle to get out of bed in the morning, even though you slept eight hours? Or have you been diagnosed with a heart condition or high blood pressure that requires you to take medication like beta-blockers that sap your energy?

You’re not alone! Many of my patients are energy-starved and barely managing to get through the day, even with caffeine, sugar, and similar unhealthy quick fixes. And a number of others are dealing with the side effects of medications for high blood pressure or heart disease. Fortunately, there’s a better way to overcome fatigue, exhaustion, and concerns about your heart: by taking proper care of your mitochondria.

If you’re not familiar with the word “mitochondria” (pronounced my-tuh-KON-dree-uh), don’t worry. These tiny organelles may not be well known outside medical circles, but they are so important to your health and well-being that I do hope you’ll spend a few minutes learning more about them.

There are billions of mitochondria in the cells of your body. Mitochondria are microscopic, but they have enormous power, controlling the growth and lifespan of your cells, as well as enabling communications among them.

The largest concentration of mitochondria is in your heart, which explains why aging affects energy levels. (For comparison, a bicep muscle cell has about 40 mitochondria, while a heart muscle cell has 4,000!) As you age, your mitochondria wear out. Not surprisingly, this loss of mitochondrial function is connected to heart disease and related disorders, including some of the most dreaded neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – and of course, aging in general.

How To Make Your Mitochondria Happy

So how do you keep your mitochondria strong and healthy? It’s easier than you might think. For example, just eating lots of delicious greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc.), and veggies rich in sulfur (like onions, mushrooms, and garlic) can provide your mitochondria with the nutrients they need to stay in top form. I’ll have more to say on this topic in a few weeks, because it can literally turn your health around.

Including more vegetables in your diet is a great first step to making your mitochondria happy, but there’s still much more you can do. The information that I’m about to share is especially important for anyone who is taking statin drugs to manage cholesterol. You see, statins inhibit production of both cholesterol and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a vitamin-like substance found throughout the body. CoQ10 has a profound connection to the mitochondria because it supports their energy production. In a sense, CoQ10 works like a spark plug, providing the “spark” that gets the engines in your mitochondria up and running.

In addition, CoQ10 plays a huge role in heart health. It is used to treat angina, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Furthermore, if your physician has recommended you take statins, then he or she should also always advise you to take CoQ10 supplements. If they have not, you should definitely take them anyway.

Here is a partial list of benefits provided by CoQ10:

  • Assists the mitochondria with energy production (which helps you overcome that tired feeling)
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Fights periodontal (gum) disease
  • Reduces histamine production, benefitting those with allergies, asthma, and lung difficulties
  • Increases circulation
  • Provides oxygen to tissues throughout the body
  • Counteracts damage due to aging
  • Assists in the treatment and prevention of heart disease
  • May ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease, as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Helps with weight management, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure

When you were younger, your body produced plenty of CoQ10, but aging slows production – and taking statins reduces it even more. No wonder so many people complain of fatigue after middle age. In my opinion, CoQ10 is an outstanding supplement for anyone who has heart disease, is taking statins, who is concerned about diseases related to aging, or is over the age of 40. In other words, CoQ10 can help you maintain overall good health as you age.

Just how important is CoQ10? Here’s what I tell my patients: CoQ10 is one of the top five supplements I recommend to nearly everyone. (The others are a food-based multivitamin, curcumin, omega-3 essential fatty acids, and vitamin D3.). My patient, David, is a good example of how dramatically CoQ10 can affect an individual’s health, even after a doctor has given up.

How CoQ10 Keeps You Healthy

Of all the benefits linked to CoQ10, I consider mitochondrial support one of the most important. As I mentioned above, a growing body of research shows that healthy mitochondria appear to protect against serious ailments caused by mitochondrial disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Here’s another reason to take good care of your mitochondria: neuropathy, the tingling, burning pain many people feel in their feet and hands. That’s due to aging mitochondria that have become dysfunctional. But research has repeatedly shown that CoQ10 protects against this type of damage by inhibiting harmful free radicals. To my knowledge, there is no safe, effective drug that can provide these same crucial benefits – let alone do it without unwanted side effects.

In addition, a brand new study shows that supplementing with CoQ10 can ease factors responsible for high blood pressure, thereby providing protection against heart disease and stroke.

There are hundreds of other studies examining CoQ10’s effect on mitochondria and various health conditions – too many to cover here. But there is one very recent report you should know about if you are taking statins. As you might know, there is concern about a link between statins and new-onset diabetes. Although the link is still being explored, a new study shows that taking CoQ10 supplements protects patients on statins from a chemical reaction that may be responsible for the development of diabetes. So until more is known about the statin-diabetes connection, I am urging all of my patients – especially those with pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) or other blood sugar difficulties – to take CoQ10.

Individuals who are in good health and simply want to take CoQ10 so they can stay healthy should start with 100 mg daily. For those taking statins or anyone with a heart condition or cancer, I would recommend at least 250 mg daily. I test all my patients’ CoQ10 levels with a simple blood test and have found that the vast majority of them are very low in this important nutrient. Unfortunately, you might have to request this test specifically, since few doctors measure CoQ10 on a regular basis.

As you can see, healthy mitochondria play a major role throughout the body. So I encourage you to consider adding CoQ10 supplements to your daily regimen. This is one nutrient that has a tremendous payoff in terms of good health – for you and your mitochondria.

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