Find a “squishy” object like a stress ball, an orange, or even a rolled up sock. As you read this, firmly squeeze the object in your hand about once every second (60 beats per minute).
See how long it takes before you notice a slight burning and increasing weakness in your hand and forearm as your muscles begin to fatigue.
Now imagine your hand is your heart, and consider how hard your heart is working every day of your life. If you had a constant heart rate of 75 beats per minute (average for adults) and you lived to be 80 years old, your heart will have beat more than 3.1 billion times. It works constantly to pump about 1.5 gallons of blood through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels that make up your circulatory system.
Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?!
When you consider all the work that the heart is doing, it is easy to understand how important it is to maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system. This is especially true for people with diabetes because they have 2 to 4 times the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to somebody without diabetes.
In fact, heart disease is the primary cause of death in over 65% of people with diabetes according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The increased risk of heart disease is in people with diabetes is due to a variety of factors including:
People with heart disease, or at risk of heart disease, are tasked with controlling these risk factors primarily through lifestyle changes and sometimes prescription medications. While there is no doubt that these things offer significant benefits, healthcare providers and people at risk for heart disease have been looking for more safe and easy ways to lower their risk.
Research is continually identifying key nutrients that can play an important role both in the treatment and prevention of heart disease and major risk factors like Type-II diabetes. Some of the promising foods and nutrients include:
Hydroxytyrosol from olives has been shown to reverse chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that can put people at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome from a high-carbohydrate and high-fat diet.1
Olive leaf extract was shown in studies to help improve vascular function and reduce inflammation and fibrosis in heart tissues, reduce left ventricle stiffness, and improve aortic reactivity, while also improving abdominal fat deposition, plasma triglycerides, total cholesterol, glucose tolerance, and insulin sensitivity.1,2
The combination of acetylcysteine (NAC) and taurine has been shown to prevent hyperglycemia-induced insulin resistance – one of the primary mechanisms behind type-II diabetes and a major risk factor of heart disease.3
CoQ10 is one of the most important molecules for healthy metabolism because it has a key role in the processes that convert sugar into usable energy.4 The highest concentrations of CoQ10 are found in vital organs with high metabolic demands including the heart, liver, brain, kidneys, retinas, and skeletal muscle.4 You might notice these are the same tissues most affected by complications of diabetes.
There are several drugs that can deplete your body’s naturally produced CoQ10, and some that even inhibit your ability to produce it such as the cholesterol lowering “statin drugs” that are recommended for use in individuals with high cholesterol and/or diabetes.5 Depletion of CoQ10 results in oxidative stress and malfunctioning mitochondria, causing cell death and significant damage to the organs that require CoQ10 the most.4,6
Carnitine has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in people with diabetes by reducing arterial blood pressure, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, and hypoadiponectinemia.7
Magnesium is known to reduce blood pressure by helping blood vessels to relax and dilate. It is also essential for regulating the heart rhythm. For these reasons, magnesium can play an important role in preventing certain heart conditions and stroke, while preventing other effects from elevated blood pressure such as kidney disease and retinopathy.8–10
Broccoli contains a potent antioxidant called sulforaphane that has been shown to improve cardiac health by preventing and even reversing diabetes-induced aortic fibrosis, inflammation, and oxidative stress.11 Studies have also shown that sulforaphane may also prevent diabetes-induced hypertension, heart dysfunction, cardiac hypertrophy, fibrosis, and cardiomyopathy.12
Omega-3 essential fatty acids have been shown to have favorable effects on blood lipids, especially triglycerides.13 The American Heart Association recommends consuming foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids and supports the use of omega-3 supplementation to increase the daily intake, however it is not recommended to exceed 3 grams of fish oil per day without proper medical supervision as it can slow blood clotting time, especially if you are taking blood thinning medications.14
Taurine is an amino acid that has been shown to protect the heart from elevated levels of homocysteine.15,16 Homocysteine is a molecule found in the blood that is associated with increased risk of heart disease.
Elevated levels are caused by increased oxidative stress and malfunctions in certain metabolic pathways that rely on nutrients like Vitamin B12, folate, Vitamin B3 (niacin), and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine).
Supplementation with these vitamins has been shown to lower levels of homocysteine, reducing the risk of cardiovascular death.17–19
High fiber diets in general have a strong correlation with improved heart health.23,24 Pinnaclife Prebiotic Fiber uses a form of fiber shown to help lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels following meals while also promoting beneficial bacteria that can help reduce inflammation and reduce some of the risk factors for obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes.25–27 Maintaining healthy blood levels of glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol are all associated with improved cardiovascular health and lower risk of heart disease.
Fiber and magnesium have been shown to help reduce levels of an indicator of excess inflammation throughout the body called C-Reactive Protein (CRP).21,22 Elevated CRP levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease.20
The kidneys work very closely with the heart and it turns out that most of the things you do to protect your heart will also help protect your kidneys. The kidneys are filled with blood vessels because they function as a filter to keep an even balance of water and electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride in the blood.
The same nutrients that protect your blood vessels and heart from damage will help to protect the kidneys and the blood vessels within the kidneys. Keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and inflammation markers like homocysteine and CRP under control are all important ways to help protect your kidneys from disease.
Kidney failure is a major complication of diabetes and about 44% of all new cases of kidney failure are caused by diabetes.28 Every year, almost 50,000 Americans will start treatment for kidney disease as a result of their diabetes.28
Kyle Hilsabeck, PharmD., is the Vice President of Pharmaceutical Affairs at McCord Holdings and licensed by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. He completed bachelors degrees in biology and biochemistry at Wartburg College before earning his Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. Upon graduation, he completed a community pharmacy practice residency through the University of Iowa where he focused primarily on nutritional aspects of care including the use of vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. He has taught courses for the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy on vitamins, minerals, herbs, and nutritional supplements and given many presentations on the subject as well. He has a passion for improving patient care specifically with regards to the safety and quality of the nutritional supplements and health information people use.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed by the FDA. These products are dietary supplements and are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The decision to use these products should be discussed with a trusted healthcare provider. The authors and the publisher of this work have made every effort to use sources believed to be reliable to provide information that is accurate and compatible with the standards generally accepted at the time of publication. The authors and the publisher shall not be liable for any special, consequential, or exemplary damages resulting, in whole or in part, from the readers’ use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this article. The publisher has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.