Living After a Heart Attack

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

If you experience and live through a heart attack, limiting further damage to your heart and recovery are your primary concerns. Thankfully, there are several substances you can add to your supplement regimen to help.

L-Carnitine

Adding L-carnitine supplements to your diet may very well be one of the best things you can do. It can improve the quality of your life and increase your life span as well.

In one study conducted at the Santa Chiara Hospital in Pisa, Italy, 160 heart attack patients, aged 39 to 86, were divided into two groups. Eighty-one received the standard treatment consisting of various pharmacological agents and 4 grams of L-carnitine daily. The others received the standard treatment and a placebo. The health of the patients was followed for 12 months.

Those taking L-carnitine showed very significant improvement in several areas including: improved heart rate; lower blood pressures, both systolic and diastolic; a decreased number of angina attacks; fewer rhythm disorders; improved blood fat levels; and better overall heart strength and pumping ability. After 12 months the mortality rate of those taking L-carnitine was only 1.2 percent compared to 12.5 percent of the patients on standard treatment and the placebo.

If you’ve already had a heart attack, I recommend you take between 2–4 grams of L-carnitine daily.

Magnesium

Besides L-carnitine, magnesium can increase the survival rates of heart attack patients. Magnesium calms the heart, reduces arrhythmia and spasm of blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure. Research links higher magnesium intake with increased protection against coronary artery disease.

Take 400 mg a day in addition to your normal multivitamin regimen.

Plenty of studies have examined the relationship between magnesium intake and atherosclerosis. I found the results of one large, long-term study that explored the relationship between dietary magnesium intake measures and future risk of coronary events particularly intriguing. The researchers found there was modest protection associated with magnesium intake, and that protection was proportional to the amount of dietary magnesium ingested.

Between 1965 and 1968, investigators in the famous Honolulu Heart Program enrolled over 8,000 men of Japanese ancestry who were living in Hawaii. At the time of the study entry, the participants, who ranged in age from 45 to 68, underwent complete physical exams and completed detailed questionnaires. The 2003 study findings are based on the dietary intakes of magnesium for the 7,172 men who completed this study.

In the 30 years of follow-up, there were 1,431 cases of fatal and non-fatal coronary events. In a complex statistical analysis, the lowest quartile—or 25 percent of subjects—were compared to the highest quartile in terms of magnesium intake. Investigators compared those with lowest magnesium intakes (50.3 to 186 mg/day) to those with the highest consumption (340 to 1,183 mg/day). The results showed that within 15 years of dietary assessment the age-adjusted incidence of acute coronary events decreased significantly from 7.3 per thousand person years to 4.0 per thousand person years.

In other words, when adjustments were made to control for age and other risk factors, those who consumed the least magnesium were almost twice as likely to develop heart disease when compared to those who consumed the most. The researchers concluded that increased intake of dietary magnesium is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

A long-term study like this, that encompasses a large number of people and controls for multiple variables according to complex health assessment questionnaires, is strong evidence for the heart benefits of magnesium. The investigators also cited other studies that had reported a protective effect for dietary magnesium in terms of developing heart disease.

Coenzyme Q10

I've written a little in the past about coenzyme Q10, but I doubt most people realize just how an important tool it can be for helping heart conditions improve.

Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to be most effective in cases of:

  • high blood pressure
  • myocardial ischemic disorder or decreased blood flow to the heart muscle itself, i.e. ,from heart attack damage or atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries feeding the heart muscle)
  • angina pectoris (i.e. , referred pain from the heart to the chest wall and arm)
  • congestive heart failure where the output of the heart is diminished and a congestion of blood occurs in the lungs or other organs or limbs

Coenzyme Q10 acts as a catalyst. It provides one of the vital links in the process of energy production that takes place in the mitochondria of each cell. It is essential for energy production in the body and without it, energy cannot be created. It should come as no surprise that your heart, which needs a never-ending supply of energy, contains higher concentrations of coenzyme Q10 than any other organ in the body.

Numerous studies involving hundreds of patients have been conducted in Japan and the U.S. In general it appears that roughly 75 percent of the patients suffering from the above conditions have lower than optimal levels of tissue coenzyme Q10. And about 75 percent of these exhibit a very significant, favorable response when given the supplement orally.

Studies have shown it helps normalize high blood pressure when given alone or in combination with conventional medications. It improves cardiac output, stops angina symptoms, and strengthens the heart. If you have any of these conditions, coenzyme Q10 can be a lifesaver as well as a life-extender.

Coenzyme Q10 is offered by numerous vitamin companies and can be found in most health food stores. The daily dosages given in most studies generally range anywhere from between 30 and 100 mg daily. However, according to the most recent science, a higher dose of 300 mg is recommended if you’re recovering from a heart attack or currently on cholesterol-lowering medication (statins such as Lipitor).

If you’ve suffered a heart attack, or know someone who has, I strongly recommend adding these supplements to an existing multivitamin regimen for extra heart support. These health-promoting nutrients could make the difference in heading off future trouble.

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