What Is CoQ10?
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is a vitamin-like substance that is synthesized by the body, although some food sources provide additional amounts of this substance. CoQ10 is a critical nutrient that is required for the production of energy in every cell in your body. In order to survive and carry out their specialized functions, each cell in the body must continually convert some of the food we eat (carbohydrate, fat, alcohol, and protein) into a usable source of energy, known as ATP-energy. CoQ10 is an essential nutrient that enables our cells to convert the food we eat into ATP-energy, within the energy factory of the cell, called the mitochondria. If our cells cannot produce sufficient amounts of ATP-energy due to a CoQ10 deficiency state, then a decline in cell function occurs that hastens the onset of accelerated aging, heart disease or a weakened heart pump, a decline in brain function, and/or a weakening of the immune system and heightened cancer risk. More recently we have seen that CoQ10 deficiency is a key underlying factor in the development of Parkinson’s disease, many cases of congestive heart failure and high blood pressure, and contributes to other common problems associated with aging.
CoQ10 Synthesis Declines As We Age
From the standpoint of slowing the aging process and preventing the onset of age-related degenerative diseases, it is critical to understand that your body can only make optimal amounts of CoQ10 up to about age 20. After that, there is a decline in CoQ10 synthesis that starts to become significant by about age 40. In the body, the synthesis of CoQ10 is a seventeen-step process that involves eight vitamins (mostly the B-vitamins) and several minerals. After age 20, some of the enzymes required in this seventeen-step process drop off, which impairs the ability of the body to make the amount of CoQ10 it needs for optimal health. Although some foods contain CoQ10, the intake of CoQ10-containing foods alone is not sufficient to compensate for the body’s declining CoQ10 nutritional status that occurs in aging. For example, you would have to consume half a pound of sardines or two and a half pounds of peanuts to yield 30 mg of CoQ10 intake. The average intake of CoQ10 from food each day is 5-10 mg. This is enough up to a certain age, as your body is making the majority of what it needs when you are young. However, studies suggest that 30-60 mg of CoQ10 supplementation per day is required after 40-50, and dosages in the range of 150-300 mg per day are required in order to favorably affect outcomes in patients with congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, irregular heart beats, failing memory, Parkinson’s disease and for cancer treatment support. This is why it becomes essential to take a CoQ10-containing supplement after age 40, or certainly by age 50. You should also know that certain medications interfere with the body’s ability to synthesize (or absorb) CoQ10, so if you are taking any of the following medications you should be ingesting 30-60 mg per day of CoQ10 to compensate for the lack of synthesis imposed by these drugs, regardless of how young or old you are:
CoQ10 is classified, by many experts, as a conditionally-essential nutrient, suggesting that our bodies make ample amounts for optimal health up to a certain age, and thereafter require supplementation of this nutrient in order to maintain optimal function of each cell in our body. The decline in CoQ10 synthesis that occurs during the course of normal aging may be one more example of how our genetic blueprints begin to work against us as we get older; part of nature’s plan to remove us from the planet once we have served nature’s purpose of procreation. If your intention is to maximize your lifespan, slow and/or reverse the aging process of your body, reduce the risk of many degenerative diseases, and live with the greatest degree of energy and vitality, then in my opinion, supplementation with CoQ10 is simply a necessity by age 40-50 years. In essence, supplementation with CoQ10 allows you put the CoQ10 back into your body to compensate for what your body can no longer provide for itself. It is a safe, effective, and essential, natural anti-aging intervention that counters the body’s aging clock, providing you with the opportunity to sustain more optimal functioning of every cell in your body as you age.
In addition to its crucial role of boosting energy production in each cell of the body, CoQ10 is also a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant, which helps protect the mitochondria of the cell from free radical damage. This is a key aspect in slowing the aging process and preventing degenerative diseases as the mitochondria, which is responsible for ATP energy production, is prone to damage from oxygen free radicals. When this occurs, the ability of the mitochondria to produce ATP energy for the cell can become severely compromised, leading to a decline in cellular function. CoQ10 is also known to enhance immune function, which may help to prevent cancer and infections. CoQ10 supplementation can be used to help slow aging and keep our bodies functioning at a more optimal level as we age, however, it has been shown to have significant therapeutic effects in the management of some cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson’s disease, and some other degenerative conditions. The information that follows summarizes the research status of CoQ10 in regards to its application in cardiovascular disease, with specific reference to congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and mitral valve prolapse involving arrhythmia.
Congestive Heart Failure And CoQ10
A decline in CoQ10 status has been shown to contribute to the development of congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes too weak to effectively pump blood through arteries and blood vessels of the body. More specifically, a lack of CoQ10 inhibits the heart muscle from producing the ATP energy it requires for the heart muscle to contract with enough force to pump blood through the system. As a result, blood circulation backs up, fluid leaks out of the blood vessels into various tissues such as the lungs, the hands and the feet, which leads to shortness of breath, swelling of the hands, ankles and feet on both sides of the body, as well as high blood pressure. Congestive heart failure, a condition that occurs in aging, is a life-threatening condition. Biopsy results from the hearts of patients with various age-related cardiovascular diseases, especially congestive heart failure, show a deficiency in CoQ10 in 50-75% of cases. Low blood levels of CoQ10 are also a consistent finding in the majority of these patients. A number of well-designed clinical studies have shown that CoQ10 supplementation can reverse congestive heart failure in a large percentage of cases. Supplementation with CoQ10 simply enables the heart muscle to re-establish its ability to produce the ATP energy it requires for the heart muscle to become strong again, efficiently pumping blood through the circulatory system of the body. Proof of its therapeutic benefits in these cases is highlighted by the fact that discontinuation of CoQ10 supplementation has resulted in severe relapses of congestive heart failure in patients who were previously deriving benefits from its use for this condition. In cases such as these, CoQ10 supplementation must be a lifelong strategy, as the heart’s ability to efficiently pump blood through the system is directly related to the amount of CoQ10 that is available within the heart muscle to make ATP energy. Interestingly, the beneficial effects of CoQ10 supplementation may not be seen until after several months of treatment in some cases of congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions, such as angina and high blood pressure. So, patients with these problems need to allow enough time for CoQ10 concentrations to build up in the heart muscle before positive changes can occur. Generally speaking, CoQ10 supplementation can be taken with other drugs that are used to treat congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and other heart ailments and studies show that its use often enables doctors to reduce the number of other heart medications required to control these conditions. However, if a patient is currently suffering from congestive heart failure or any other heart condition or high blood pressure, they should not begin CoQ10 supplementation without first notifying their attending physician.
As surprising as it may seem, most doctors and cardiologists in the United States and Canada do not use CoQ10 supplementation in their usual treatment protocols for congestive heart failure and other heart conditions. This is largely due to the influence of drug companies who have not exposed medical practitioners to the studies involving CoQ10. CoQ10 cannot be patented as a drug and therefore, it does not represent a source of profitability to drug companies, who generally have a vested interest only in drugs in which they hold a patent. However, CoQ10 supplementation is widely prescribed for the treatment of congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions by doctors in Italy, Sweden, Israel and Japan, who report significant improvement in a high percentage of their heart patients. In fact, many citizens in these countries take CoQ10 supplementation for prevention, as well as for therapeutic purposes. One study showed that 15% of Swedes and 20% of Danes take CoQ10 supplements. As far back as 1987, there were already more than 10 million citizens in Japan using CoQ10 supplementation for the treatment of heart-related conditions
The point to be made is that congestive heart failure, in many cases, appears to be caused by the age-related decline in CoQ10 synthesis that is programmed into the aging clock in our genes. The gradual lack of CoQ10 concentrations in the heart muscle as we age eventually results in too little ATP energy production to enable the heart to beat or contract with enough force to maintain blood flow through the body’s intricate network of arteries and blood vessels. As such, many experts believe that it makes sense to supplement your diet with CoQ10 as a way to prevent congestive heart failure from developing in the first place. The way to help guard against this disease is to take at least 30 mg of CoQ10 per day beginning between the ages of 40-50 years. By age 60-65 it may be wise to increase the dosage to 60 mg per day. Patients with congestive heart failure usually require higher dosages to combat this ailment on a therapeutic level. In these cases it is not uncommon for doctors to recommend 150-300 mg per day, taken in divided doses (e.g. 50 mg, three times daily or 120 mg, twice daily). A significant blood level of CoQ10, usually greater than 3.5 micrograms per milliliter, is necessary to obtain a therapeutic effect, especially in cases of congestive heart failure, according to practitioners who regularly prescribe CoQ10 for these cardiovascular conditions
High Blood Pressure and Angina and CoQ10
As mentioned above, a lack of CoQ10 synthesis contributes to compromised performance of the heart and cardiovascular system. This can hasten the onset of congestive heart failure, but some preliminary studies now indicate that it may also contribute to the development of high blood pressure, angina and irregular heartbeat problems. In these cases, daily dosages in the range of 100-200 mg have been shown to be successful in improving exercise performance in patients suffering from angina, reducing high blood pressure by 9-20% in patients with high blood pressure, and reducing the number of episodes of irregular heartbeats in patients with mitral valve prolapse due to its ability to stabilize the irritability of the heart muscle in these cases. What is clear from the available clinical and experimental studies that have been performed to date is that the heart and cardiovascular system depend on CoQ10 to generate the ATP energy they require to remain healthy and functional. The lack of CoQ10 synthesis that occurs as part of normal aging must be viewed as an important step that leads to the decline in cardiovascular health and death from cardiovascular diseases, which account for nearly 50% of all mortality in our society. The prudent anti-aging step to consider in order to counter this problem is simply to begin supplementing with a CoQ10-containing supplement between age 40-50 years.
Hawthorn Enhances The Effectiveness Of CoQ10
The final piece of anti-aging information to know in regards to CoQ10 supplementation is that the active ingredients from hawthorn berries and/or hawthorn leaves, helps to maximize the ATP energy-generating effect of CoQ10. This is because the production of ATP energy in our cells requires a three-step process. In short, our cells must first make AMP (adenosine monophosphate). It then converts AMP to ADP (adenosine diphosophate), and then, with the help of CoQ10, it converts ADP to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), as the body draws upon the energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fat to power these reactions. Once formed, the cells of the body use ATP energy to power all of their functions and metabolic reactions. So, our cells must always be synthesizing ATP, and that means that we must have enough AMP to begin with. This is where hawthorn comes in to play. The active ingredients in hawthorn, known as procyanidins (a specialized group of flavonoid compounds) have been shown to enhance cellular levels of AMP. In Japan, other Asian counties, as well as Germany and other parts of Europe, supplementation with a standardized grade of hawthorn, has been shown in various well-designed studies to reverse congestive heart failure, lower blood pressure and improve cases of angina. In short, hawthorn enables the cells of the body to make more ATP energy by first giving them greater access to more AMP. This is why CoQ10 and hawthorn may be best taken together as part of an effective anti-aging strategy to maximize cell levels of ATP energy as we age. Hawthorn (crataegus oxyacantha) is a spiny tree or shrub that is native to Europe. Its leaves and berries contain the flavonoids or procyanidins that provide its medicinal effects. When taken together, CoQ10 and hawthorn provide a synergistic effect in the production of ATP energy in many body tissues. They are the perfect one-two combination to help counter the decline in ATP energy we encounter as we age.
It is important to use a standardized grade of hawthorn, which contains 3-5% flavonoid or procyanidin content), in order to yield enough of its active ingredients to be effective. My preference is to take a CoQ10 supplement that also contains hawthorn, to simplify the supplementation process. In general, there should about 37.5 mg of hawthorn for every 30 mg of CoQ10 present in the supplement. This provides an ideal anti-aging synergistic effect to maximize ATP energy production in the body.
Note that patients on digitalis or digoxin should not take hawthorn without their physician’s consent, as it provides similar metabolic effects on cellular AMP concentrations, as do these drugs.
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