By: Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Heart disease remains a leading cause of death for people around the world. As a result, protecting your heart health may understandably be on your mind when it comes to your everyday habits. To support your heart, it’s a great idea to examine and improve your diet and physical activity, as well as consider adding astaxanthin to your health routine.
Let’s take a closer look at what influences your heart health, and then examine astaxanthin cardiovascular benefits and other lifestyle habits to help keep your heart in its best possible shape.
Heart Health and Your Endothelium
The first thing to consider when talking about heart health is the endothelium. The endothelium is the lining of your blood vessels and it’s responsible for producing most of the hormones in the body, as well as regulating blood pressure and blood clotting. The endothelium is the largest endocrine organ in your body.
Unhealthy lifestyle habits — like smoking, drinking alcohol, eating ultra-processed foods high in saturated and trans fats, or being physically sedentary — can lead to blockages or the slowing of blood flow along the endothelium.
If the endothelium is blocked by plaque or a fatty deposit, it can’t release the necessary hormones and other substances that regulate blood flow, circulation, and clotting. Having an unhealthy endothelium increases your risk for cardiovascular disease, which includes things like having a heart attack or a stroke.
Overall, your health and your life span depend on having a healthy endothelium, so it’s important to eat right, stay physically active, and increase your antioxidant intake with astaxanthin.
Let’s take a look at how these three lifestyle components work to support the health of your heart.
Eat a Well Balanced Diet
We’ve long been told to eat our fruits and vegetables and for a good reason. Balanced nutrition is key to optimal heart health and lowering your risk for chronic disease. Foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are full of nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
These nutrients help repair cellular damage and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This includes experiencing things like heart attacks or strokes.
Research shows that fiber is critical for reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, only an estimated 5% of the population gets enough fiber in their diet.1,2
The good news is that it’s easy to add more fiber if you think you’re lacking in that department. Fiber is only found in plant foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Aim for at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day by adding more of these foods to your plate. It could be as simple as swapping out refined white bread for whole wheat bread, tossing some blueberries onto your cereal, or adding a side of raw or cooked veggies to your dinner and lunch plate.
Omega-3 fats — including ALA, EPA, and DHA — are unsaturated fats that have been shown to support heart health.3
Some of the best sources of omega-3s in your diet are fatty fish, like salmon, trout, or albacore tuna. For the best nutritional bang for your buck, we recommend eating wild-caught salmon, as it also contains the super antioxidant astaxanthin.
Other foods that are good sources of omega-3 fats are nuts like almonds or walnuts, seeds such as ground flaxseed and chia seeds, and oil such as extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, or canola oil.
If you don’t eat fish, you can also get omega-3s from DHA supplements derived from algae.
Antioxidants help protect our cells from oxidative stress and damage that can lead to diseases, like heart disease. The best places to find antioxidants are in colorful fruits and vegetables.
Berries, like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are packed with heart-healthy phytonutrients — a fancy word for powerful plant compounds.4 If possible, consider buying USDA Organic certified berries as conventional varieties can be heavily sprayed with pesticides.
Vegetables in shades of red, yellow, green, orange, and even white contain compounds like carotenoids and vitamins that benefit your heart.5 Aim to eat a variety, like carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, squash, leafy greens, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower.
And after you eat your fruits and veggies, if you like dark chocolate, you’re in luck. Studies have shown that dark chocolate may improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.6 Shoot for varieties that are at least 70% cacao for the most health benefit, as the cacao is where the antioxidants are most concentrated.
Cardiovascular exercise is key to strengthening the heart and creating an optimally flowing bloodstream. You don’t need to be an everyday intense workout warrior to obtain the health benefits of exercise for your heart. Simply exercising to maintain an elevated heart rate for 30 minutes a day can be incredibly beneficial to your body.
Some good cardiovascular exercises include:
Gyms offer many options for cardiovascular exercise. Some of these include the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, stair stepper, circuit training, aerobics classes, plyometric exercises, jumping rope, interval training, and more. Gyms often have personal trainers available to offer direction and help when you're looking to expand your cardiovascular repertoire. Keep your exercises on rotation to enjoy a whole range of different benefits.
Competitive and recreational team sports are other great options for you to enjoy exercise for your heart. Sports like basketball, soccer, football, swimming, water polo, hockey, and tennis are good examples. Plus, they allow for fun, friendship, and socialization, which are other important factors for heart health and quality of life.
The great outdoors provides a blank canvas for a wide range of other activities that boost cardiovascular health. Walking, hiking, trail running, cycling, mountain biking, skiing, rock climbing, and surfing are all great options for getting your heart rate elevated over extended periods of time.
Supplement with Astaxanthin
Finally, adding an astaxanthin supplement is an easy thing you can do for your heart health. Astaxanthin is a compound derived from microalgae or certain red-colored seafood like salmon. It’s a powerful antioxidant that, among its many benefits, can help keep your heart strong.
Helps support normal blood fat levels*
What about astaxanthin and cholesterol? A 2000 Japanese study published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis examined the ability of astaxanthin to control blood fats. The study found a very promising effect on the oxidation lag time of LDL “bad” cholesterol, suggesting that astaxanthin may have a preventive effect on atherosclerosis.7
Another randomized controlled trial done in 2011 involved 27 overweight or obese adults given astaxanthin or a placebo for 12 weeks. The authors found that astaxanthin was very effective for improving the participants’ LDL cholesterol, ApoB, and oxidative stress biomarkers compared to placebo.8
And a 2020 meta-analysis including 14 studies concluded that astaxanthin was beneficial for improving HDL “good” cholesterol levels.9
Helps reduce potentially harmful fatty acids in the blood*
Participants in a 2007 randomized controlled trial were given 8 mg of astaxanthin per day for three months to see what effect it had on plasma 12- and 15-hydroxy fatty acids. These are created by the process of lipid peroxidation, which is a chain reaction where fats in the blood are oxidized and broken down. In this process, harmful free radicals take electrons from the fats and cause damage to your cells.
The authors of this study concluded that astaxanthin significantly reduced the levels of the two hydroxyl fatty acids that were measured in the subjects’ blood plasma.10
Supports normal inflammation*
Doctors commonly use the blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) to detect stress in the body. When the body is experiencing pain caused by excess oxidation, CRP is released into the bloodstream by the liver to help combat the stress.
A 2020 meta-analysis found that astaxanthin is indeed beneficial for the lowering of CRP.9
The Takeaway for Heart Health
To enjoy optimal heart health, it’s important to adopt a nutritious diet rich in omega-3s, fiber, and antioxidants, engage in regular exercise, and consider adding a powerful antioxidant supplement like astaxanthin to your routine. These are just a few tips to help keep your heart healthy, but following them along with your doctor’s recommendations can help add quality and years to your life.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read in this article or on the internet.
- Soliman GA. Dietary Fiber, Atherosclerosis, and Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1155. doi:10.3390/nu11051155
- Quagliani D, Felt-Gunderson P. Closing America's Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016;11(1):80-85.. doi:10.1177/1559827615588079
- Jain AP, Aggarwal KK, Zhang PY. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(3):441-445. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25720716/
- Wood E , Hein S , Heiss C , Williams C , Rodriguez-Mateos A . Blueberries and cardiovascular disease prevention. Food Funct. 2019;10(12):7621-7633. doi:10.1039/c9fo02291k
- Eggersdorfer M, Wyss A. Carotenoids in human nutrition and health. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2018;652:18-26. doi:10.1016/j.abb.2018.06.001
- Lee Y, Berryman CE, West SG, et al. Effects of Dark Chocolate and Almonds on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Overweight and Obese Individuals: A Randomized Controlled-Feeding Trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(12):e005162. doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.005162
- Iwamoto T, Hosoda K, Hirano R, Kurata H, Matsumoto A, Miki W, Kamiyama M, at al. oInhibition of Low-Density Lipoprotein Oxidation by Astaxanthin. J Athero Throm. 2000;7(4): 216-222. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jat1994/7/4/7_4_216/_article
- Choi HD, Youn YK, Shin WG. Positive effects of astaxanthin on lipid profiles and oxidative stress in overweight subjects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2011;66(4):363-369. doi:10.1007/s11130-011-0258-9
- Xia W, Tang N, Kord-Varkaneh H, et al. The effects of astaxanthin supplementation on obesity, blood pressure, CRP, glycemic biomarkers, and lipid profile: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pharmacol Res. 2020;161:105113. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2020.105113
- Karppi J, Rissanen TH, Nyyssönen K, et al. Effects of astaxanthin supplementation on lipid peroxidation. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007;77(1):3-11. doi:10.1024/0300-98188.8.131.52