Batteries feel like they are on empty?
When you have a heart condition, the first thing that hits you is the deep feeling of fatigue. Often this has to do with the repair process that is going on in the heart. Whether you’ve had a heart attack, stent or surgery your heart is undergoing so many cellular processes to repair wounds, heal damaged muscle and cope with the increased demands of the body. Combine this with a cocktail of new medications that may have side effects, the lack of sleep (even though you’re exhausted, you still can’t sleep!) and the increased oxygen demands of the heart, you feel…. knackered all the time. For many people, it takes several weeks for their energy levels to return. For others, their energy is never quite the same again.
Over the next couple of weeks, I want to share with you several different ways to boost your energy. The areas to focus on will be hydration (are you drinking enough water?), sleep, conquering medication side effects and useful supplements. This post focuses on the first of a few supplements that I recommend to my Healthy Hearties clients that helps to combat fatigue and increase energy levels.
First, it is important that you keep a diary and write down how you feel each day. This is the best way to judge if you are improving and can help to paint a picture of what is helping you and what is making you feel worse. Write in it every day and include the following:
- Number of hours you slept last night
- How you feel upon waking (eg groggy, refreshed, headache, pain, upbeat etc)
- Energy levels – give it a number out of 10 (1 being awful 10 being full of beans)
- Your blood pressure reading (you don’t have to do this forever but it’s good to track this especially at the beginning of your heart journey)
- How you felt generally throughout the day
- Any crashes in energy and the time it happened (eg straight after lunch, 2 hours after taking my medications etc)
When you start adding a supplement into your regular routine, it’s important to keep track of a few things, namely:
- Is it making a difference?
- Does it have any side effects (eg if you take it at night does it keep you awake?)
- What dosage are you taking and does increasing or decreasing this change anything?
So, where to start when it comes to heart healthy supplements? One of the number one supplement I recommend to my clients who have a heart condition is Coenzyme Q10 (shortened to CoQ10). CoQ10 is the ultimate energy booster, it helps to protects your cells’ mitochondria against free radicals, sparks energy production in cells, in particular the heart muscle cells. As the heart is one of the biggest ‘consumers’ of energy in your body, feeding the heart muscle cells with an energy booster makes sense. CoQ10 is found in the mitochondria, the energy producing part of the cell and is found in every cell of the body, so by boosting your levels it can help to give you more energy and reducing fatigue.
The heart functions continuously, without resting (thank goodness!). Therefore, the heart muscle (myocardium) requires a huge amount of energy to function, more than any other organ in the body. This energy demand increases when your heart muscle is under increased stress such as post heart attack, post surgery or in heart failure, where the heart muscle is not pumping as effectively as it needs to. Therefore the Mitochondria need to work harder to produce energy at a higher level and more CoQ10 is needed in the process.
So where do we get CoQ10 from?
CoQ10 is produced naturally in the body, however production decreases with age and in the presence of specific diseases such as heart disease and heart failure. Unfortunately some medications, in particular statins, also interfere with CoQ10 production. As your CoQ10 levels decline they can significantly affect how you feel, making you feel tired, lethargic and like your batteries are on ‘low’.
Natural sources of CoQ10 include beef heart, pork, chicken liver, salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
Why the worry about being deficient?
CoQ10 deficiency has been shown to be associated with cardiovascular disease (Kumar 2009), however, it is unclear whether the deficiency is the cause of heart disease or is the result of heart disease (Niklowitz 2007). People with heart disease and dilated cardiomyopathy have been found to have significantly lower levels of CoQ10 (Langsjoen 1990). In addition, the concentrations of CoQ10 in blood and myocardial tissue decline with increasing severity of heart disease (Littarru 1972). CoQ10 deficiency has also been shown in patients with hypertension with 39% of hypertensive patients found to be deficient compared with only 6% of healthy individuals (Kumar 2009).
Unfortunately, some doctors are not that interested in COQ10 and some may even tell you that it’s a waste of time. However anything that gives your body an increased chance of energy production is always worth a try. It is not harmful (even in high doses) and there have been many studies about the effectiveness of CoQ10. Hidaka et al (2008) reviewed studies of CoQ10 and found that CoQ10 has a low toxicity and does not induce serious adverse effects in humans. Risk assessment for CoQ10 based on various clinical trial data indicates that the safe level for CoQ10 is 1200 mg per day per person, which is much higher than is normally recommended anyway. Evidence from pharmacokinetic studies suggest that CoQ10 does not accumulate into plasma or tissues after stopping it (Hidaka, 2008). Overall, several studies indicate that CoQ10 is safe for use as a dietary supplement.
When you supplement with the right dosage, it means that the CoQ10 can increase the production of the body’s cellular energy, called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As your heart muscle consumes huge amounts of oxygen and energy, CoQ10 essentially recharges the energy system in the heart, enabling the heart muscle to pump blood more efficiently. CoQ10 also helps to clean up destructive free radicals that are by-products of the energy production process.
When your body is low on CoQ10, it’s like running on weak batteries, which is a sign that your Mitochondria (the part of your cells that produces energy), simply isn’t getting the fuel it needs to keep up with the energy demands. Similar to a phone battery that seems to run down to 2% really quickly despite not using it much not matter how many times you charge it. Unfortunately, many people blame their low energy levels on getting old or blame their heart condition (and to a certain extent that’s true). They don’t realise that there is a way of improving things and it’s really simple.
How Much CoQ10 Does Your Body Need?
Here’s how to determine how much CoQ10 your body needs:
- Are you aged 40 to 60?
Your body’s natural production of CoQ10 begins to decline after age 40. So, for healthy people between the ages of 40 and 60, the minimum daily dose is 50 to 100 mg of CoQ10 daily. If you take 100mg, split it into 2 doses of 50mg, morning and night.
- Are you aged over 60 or taking a statin?
The usual recommended dosage is 100 to 200 mg daily. The reason is that coenzyme Q10 production continues to decline with age, so after age 60 it’s important to replenish your body’s CoQ10 supply. Plus, statin drugs block the production of CoQ10, so if you’re taking one then it’s even more important to supplement with CoQ10.
- If you’ve had heart surgery, a heart attack, or if you have congestive heart failure:
It’s recommended to take 200 to 300 mg of CoQ10 daily.
What Is the Best Way to Take CoQ10?
You usually need to take CoQ10 supplements in divided doses with your meals, since it’s more readily absorbed with food (especially fat). Sometimes you may have too much energy after taking it (a good problem to have?) so just adjust the dosage and timings to suit you.
There are two types of CoQ10 – Ubiquinol and Ubiquinone. Many manufacturers promote the ubiquinol form as it’s what your body makes naturally, however there isn’t solid evidence to back up that it is superior to Ubiquinone. Plus, inside your body coenzyme Q10 is naturally converted from ubiquinol to ubiquinone and back again as is used in the mitochondria for energy production, therefore whether you take ubiquinone or ubiquinol doesn’t make a difference. What does seem to matter is how much CoQ10 your body needs (the sicker you are generally the more you need) and how much your body absorbs from whatever supplement you take.
What brands do I recommend?
There are so many brands out there and each have their pros and cons. Ask at your local health food shop to find you a brand with minimal fillers or additives, check the right dosage for you (see above and ask your pharmacist/doctor) which is price friendly (the cheaper brands will most likely have a lower dose so it doesn’t always work out cheaper.
Solger is one company that does 100mg in 100 capsule bottle so this would last you a while and is good value for money.
Cytoplan do a supplement called ‘Cyto-Renew’ which contains several of the nutrients that I’m going to be talking about over the coming weeks including Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine. Only drawback is that 1 capsule only contains 25mg of CoQ10 so it does get expensive. They normally do regular 3 for 2 style sales. Use code HA10 for a 10%discount.
Please note that the information provided is a guide only and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Please seek advice from a medical professional before commencing any exercise programme or new diet. Please seek advice from your doctor AND your pharmacist before starting any supplements.
Hidaka, T., Fujii, K., Funahashi, I., Fukutomi, N. and Hosoe, K., 2008. Safety assessment of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).Biofactors, 32(1‐4), pp.199-208.
Role of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in cardiac disease, hypertension and Meniere-like syndrome. Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2009;124(3):259–68., , , .
A six-year clinical study of therapy of cardiomyopathy with coenzyme Q10. International Journal of Tissue Reactions 1990;12(3):169–71..
Deficiency of coenzyme Q10 in human heart disease. Part I. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research 1972;42:291–305., , .
Enrichment of coenzyme Q10 in plasma and blood cells: defense against oxidative damage. International Journal of Biological Sciences 2007;3(4):257–62., , , , .