Nutrient Heroes for Heart Failure

It is a shocker when you or a loved one are told by your cardiologist that you have heart failure. It sounds like an immediate death sentence…but it does not have to be with the right natural therapies that I will give you the inside scoop on.

Heart failure refers to the inability of the heart to pump blood to other organs in the body. This prevents oxygen and nutrients from getting to the cells of your body. As a result, a number of symptoms can occur, including:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • shortness of breath during activity
  • trouble breathing when lying down
  • weight gain and water retention with swelling in the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
  • increased urination
  • wheezing
  • fast heart rate
  • protrusion of eyes
  • distention of neck veins

Common diseases that damage your heart and increase your risk for heart failure include coronary heart disease (plaque obstruction in your heart arteries), obesity, high blood pressure (which stresses and damages the heart muscle), and diabetes (which accelerates plaque in your heart arteries).

Other causes of heart failure include structural abnormalities of the heart, arrhythmias that are not controlled, infections, hyperthyroidism, pregnancy, polycythemia vera (thick blood), hormone deficiencies, kidney disease, anemia, nutritional deficiencies (B1 and vitamin D), sleep apnea, and pharmaceutical medications (such as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers used for high blood pressure).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.1 million people in the United States have heart failure. And unfortunately, about half of these people die within 5 years of diagnosis. This dreaded condition costs the health care services an estimated $32 billion each year.[1]

Your cardiologist will likely prescribe medications to reduce symptoms such as swelling and shortness of breath. This often involves diuretic medications that cause your body to excrete water, blood pressure medications, and other medications that help to increase heart output.

However, there is so much more you can do with modern naturopathic therapies to help your heart work to pump blood more effectively.

For many people with heart failure, it is essential that they lose weight and increase their physical activity. Research shows that gradual weight loss over time will help improve heart function. The simple reason is that your heart has to work harder when you’re overweight.

Regular exercise can drastically reduce your risk for getting heart failure. For example, a study published in the journal Circulation found that older adults who got a daily hour of moderate exercise, or a half hour of vigorous exercise, slashed their risk of heart failure by almost half. And remember, exercise doesn’t have to include fancy equipment or an expensive gym. For example, walking, swimming and biking are all great choices.

There are two diets that have good research for helping people with heart failure. This includes the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet. Research by the American Heart Association found women with heart failure that followed a stricter DASH diet had lower mortality rates. The DASH diet is high in fruits and vegetables and low in dairy and salt.

Studies have also confirmed the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet which emphasizes lots of healthy fruits and vegetables as well. In a study published in 2014 in the European Journal of Heart Failure, heart failure biomarkers were slashed in a group of high-risk volunteers who ate a Mediterranean diet, which included extra virgin olive oil or nuts. And a French study on cardiac patients who were at high risk for death researchers concluded that the “Mediterranean diet results in a striking effect on survival.”[2]

You should also know that omega 3 fatty acids are important. Population studies reveal that those who eat more fish have around a 15 percent reduced risk of ever developing the condition.[3] Omega 3 fatty acids help the electricity of the heart cells to function properly and they improve blood flow so that the heart does not have to work as hard. Good, clean sources of omega 3 rich fish include wild salmon, sardines, and trout. Walnuts and other nuts are also sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

Your cardiologist will most likely recommend you keep an eye on your salt intake, as it causes fluid retention, which stresses the heart. Most Americans consume three to four times the recommended amount of sodium. It is normally recommended one consume less than 1500 mg of sodium daily. The best way to do this is to avoid packaged foods such as soups and eating out at fast food restaurants.

In my opinion, everyone with heart failure should be taking the well studies supplements I am about to discuss. I am always amazed how many of my patients with heart failure have cardiologists that do not recommend these nutrients proven to help this disease on numerous studies.

The star of natural treatment is Coenzyme Q10. Research has found that heart failure is associated with low CoQ10 levels. And population studies suggest that low blood levels of CoQ10 may be a predictor of mortality in people with heart failure.[4]

CoQ10 is a super nutrient found in all of your cells, and is critical for healthy heart function. There are two different types of CoQ10 on the market: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Studies show that both forms improve heart ejection fraction. A typical daily dose would be 400 to 600 mg of either form of CoQ10 (or a combination of the two). CoQ10 has a mild blood-thinning effect, but those already taking blood thinning meds can typically tolerate CoQ10 without any problems. Your doctor can monitor your progress.

There are numerous studies to cite, but let’s look at some of the key ones.[5] [6]A published study found that CoQ10 supplementation can extend the lifespan of those with CHF. In another two-year double-blind study, 420 volunteers with CHF were given either a placebo or 300 mg of CoQ10. Those who received the CoQ10 slashed their risk of dying by an astounding 50 percent compared to those who received a placebo. In addition, the CoQ10 takers had about half the number of serious adverse cardiovascular events and one of the main blood markers doctors use to measure heart function was improved. As the lead author of the study pointed out, CoQ10 was able to do what drugs don’t do. It improved energy production in heart cells while drugs often do just the opposite.

The most impressive was a ten year study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure. CoQ10 supplementation was shown to improve survival for even those with severe heart failure. It also reduced the incidence of hospitalization.

Other supplements I use with patients to help heart failure include magnesium, L-carnitine, taurine, and ribose. There are a number of nutrients that can help improve the efficiency of heart function for those with heart failure.

For heart health testing and treatments, contact the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine today!


[1] CDC Website. Heart Failure Fact Sheet. Accessed January 19, 2016 at

[2] Fitó M1, Estruch R, Salas-Salvadó J, Martínez-Gonzalez MA, Arós F, et. al, Effect of the Mediterranean diet on heart failure biomarkers: a randomized sample from the PREDIMED trial.Eur J Heart Fail. 2014 May;16(5):543-50.

[3] Djoussé L, Akinkuolie AO, Wu JH, et al. Fish consumption, omega-3 fatty acids and risk of heart failure: A meta-analysis. Clin Nutr 2012 Jun 6.


[4] Molyneux, S. L., Florkowski, C. M., George, P. M., Pilbrow, A. P., Frampton, C. M., Lever, M., and Richards, A. M. Coenzyme Q10: an independent predictor of mortality in chronic heart failure. J Am Coll.Cardiol. 10-28-2008;52(18):1435-1441.

[5] Mortensen, S. A., Vadhanavikit, S., Muratsu, K., and Folkers, K. Coenzyme Q10: clinical benefits with biochemical correlates suggesting a scientific breakthrough in the management of chronic heart failure. Int J Tissue React. 1990;12(3):155-162.

[6] Mortensen S, Kumar A, Filipiak K, et al. The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure. Results from the Q-SYMBIO study. European Journal of Heart Failure. 2013;15(S1):S20.