Carolyn Mercer, B.Sc., N.D.
04 Feb 2021
In an ideal situation, cardiac nerve impulse conduction begins when calcium is shunted into the heart. This triggers the potassium to rush out of the cell and then sodium to rush in causing the heart to contract, otherwise known as systole. As calcium moves out of the heart, magnesium then triggers potassium to rush back into the cells and pushes sodium out of the cell, otherwise known as diastole or relaxation. This is the sequence that needs to happen continuously in order for the electrical activity of the heart to function optimally.
(See Figure 1)
Problems begin when there is an increase in intracellular sodium which leads to an increase in cellular calcium in the cell. This results in further complications of electrolyte imbalance, which causes the heart muscle to be in a state of increased contraction.
This can explain why there has been so much research around the use of nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, taurine and CoQ10 and those with hypertension are told to reduce sodium in their diets.
With this increased calcification there can be deficiencies of magnesium which has been found to increase the risk of heart attack. Increased levels of magnesium are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, ischemic heart disease and coronary heart diseases. One study has actually shown an inverse relationship between serum magnesium concentration and the incidence of cardiovascular events.
Taurine is one of the nutrients that has been found to be one of the most concentrated amino acids in the heart. Taurine, at doses of 500 mg 3x/day for 2 weeks, has been found to spare the loss of potassium in the heart muscle, which can help to lower blood pressure. Taurine has also been useful to help regulate blood pressure by increasing ACE2 expression and inhibiting Ang2 receptors causing dilation of the blood vessels and reducing blood pressure. It has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels and prevent the progression of atherosclerosis.
CoQ10 has been studied in relation to congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, hypertension and heart disease. CoQ10 has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and improve functional capacity and reduce cardiovascular events and mortality
In recent years Vitamin K2 has become of interest because of its ability to "clean up" calcium deposits stored in arteries and bind them to bone. Vascular calcification is a strong factor for cardiovascular death. Calcification can lead to arterial stiffening, elevated systolic pressure and increased cardiac workload. There is no effective treatment for treating vascular calcification; however, Vitamin K activates matrix Gla-protein (MGP), which helps direct calcium to bind to bones as opposed to deposits in the arteries. This can help arteries to remain flexible and protect against atherosclerosis and allow the vasculature to relax. Ideally, the supplementation with Vitamin K2-MK7 should be considered as a preventative measure before significant sclerosis has formed.
February is heart month. Consider looking at some of the nutrients listed above in helping to optimize cardiovascular health and "give your heart a little care".
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