A study has found that men at high risk for heart attack had better blood vessel function after one year of taking a combination of aged garlic extract and coenzyme Q10, two supplements that have been found separately to have cardiovascular benefits.
Blood vessels are specially designed to respond to the ever-changing blood flow needs in different parts of the body. Healthy blood vessels are elastic, flexible, and strong, but many people unknowingly have low-level chronic inflammation in their blood vessel walls, causing the walls to become thicker and less flexible, and increasing heart attack risk. Supplements with anti-inflammatory properties, like aged garlic and CoQ10, are thought to help.
Signs of vessel disease in men with stressful work
Stress is well known to play a role in heart disease. The study, published in Nutrition, included 65 male urban firefighters. Firefighting is stressful work and firefighters have a much higher risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death than the overall population. Participants were assigned to receive either 1,200 mg of aged garlic extract plus 120 mg of CoQ10 per day or placebo for one year. Tests that reflect the degree of thickening and loss of elasticity in blood vessels, which may be signs of atherosclerosis, were done at the beginning of the study and every three months.
Supplements support blood vessels
Based on these test results, the blood vessels of the firefighters who took garlic and CoQ10 had more elasticity and better responsiveness at the end of the study than at the beginning. These improvements were significant when compared to the slight worsening of blood vessel function seen in the firefighters in the placebo group.
In addition, blood levels of CRP (C-reactive protein) dropped in the garlic plus CoQ10 group but increased in the placebo group. CRP is a marker of inflammation in the cardiovascular system and high levels are associated with increased cardiac risk.
The link between blood vessel function and heart health
Although these results don’t tell us for sure whether aged garlic extract plus CoQ10 can prevent heart attacks, improvement in blood vessel function is a good sign that vessel damage from atherosclerosis—a known risk factor for heart attack—is being repaired.
“This is the first study to demonstrate a benefit with a combination of aged garlic extract and CoQ10 on atherosclerotic progression in intermediate-risk firefighters with high occupational stress,” the study’s authors said. “The present study demonstrates that, after one year of aged garlic extract plus CoQ10, the vascular elasticity and endothelial function in firefighters improved significantly.”
Other ways to improve vascular health
Taking an aged garlic extract plus CoQ10 supplement might be a good idea if you have or are at high risk for developing atherosclerosis. Here are some other things you can do to protect your blood vessels:
- Learn to relax. Blood vessels are especially sensitive to stress, and studies show that having a daily relaxation practice can reduce your cardiac risk.
- Exercise. Your blood vessels need a healthy workout every day. Make aerobic physical activity part of your regular routine.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are essential for preventing inflammation that leads to damage and dysfunction in blood vessel walls.
Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.