Chronic heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle is no longer strong enough to pump enough blood to meet the body’s demands. This can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, inability to enjoy usual activities, and health complications, including increased risk of death.
For all of these reasons, preliminary trial results may be encouraging to the more than 20 million adults living with congestive heart failure worldwide. Coenzyme Q10 supplements reduced risk of death by half in those with the disease, and decreased the likelihood of negative health events and hospitalization over a two-year period.
CoQ10 and conventional care
CoQ10, an antioxidant produced naturally in the body, enables mitochondria—the power factories of our cells—to produce energy for cellular activity. Researchers randomly selected 420 adults with moderate to severe heart failure to receive their usual medication plus 100 mg of CoQ10 three times per day, or no CoQ10 (placebo).
Participants were followed for two years, and researchers recorded time to first occurrence of major adverse cardiovascular events, including unplanned hospitalization due to worsening heart failure, cardiovascular disease-related death, urgent cardiac transplantation, and need for mechanical support, such as use of a ventricular assist device (VAD), to replace failing heart function.
Compared with placebo, people receiving 100 mg of CoQ10 three times daily experienced improvement in heart failure severity, and were significantly less likely to:
die due to heart disease or any other cause,
experience negative health events, and
be hospitalized for heart failure-related health problems.
Crafting your care plan
These study results were presented in May at the Heart Failure 2013 conference in Lisbon, Portugal, and are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Still, lead researcher, Dr. Svend Aage Mortensen noted that, “CoQ10 is a natural substance that’s virtually without side effects.”
Our tips can help you integrate the new information into your existing care plan:
Communicate consistently. Small changes in diet, exercise, and medications can have big impacts on health. Always talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your heart failure management plan.
Supplement smartly. This study used 100 mg of CoQ10 three times daily. If you take less, you may not receive the same benefits. If you want to take more, ask your doctor first; CoQ10 is considered safe for most people, but very high doses may have downsides. Once your doctor gives the okay to try CoQ10, remember to add the supplement to your care plan. CoQ10 should never be used in place of medications, current dietary plans, or prescribed physical activity programs.
Prevent problems. CoQ10 may ease the burden for people who already have heart failure, but your best bet is to prevent the disease in the first place. To reduce risk of coronary artery disease, the leading cause of congestive heart failure, maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly, and eat a low-sodium (low-salt) diet based around vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains.
(Eur J Heart Failure 2013;15[S1], S20)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.