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CoQ10 Proven Benefits In Heart Failure Patients

April 2014

By Bradley Tompkins

What Causes Heart Failure?
What Causes Heart Failure?

Heart failure affects around 5.7 million Americans, and causes or contributes to more than 335,000 deaths each year. Half of those with heart failure die within 5 years of their diagnosis.3

There are many primary causes of heart failure.9,43 The most common include coronary artery disease and high blood pressure but can also include heart attacks, obesity, and diabetes, all of which place excessive demands on the heart muscle, making it work harder and harder just to produce enough blood flow to sustain life at rest. That extra demand for energy uses up CoQ10, resulting in a loss of fuel efficiency precisely when the heart needs every bit of energy it can generate.9

Eventually, the heart muscle simply tires out, becoming enlarged and flabby, squeezing more weakly with each contraction, and pumping smaller and smaller amounts of blood out to the body.

Symptoms of heart failure reflect the diminished blood flow to all of the organs in the body, especially the lungs, kidneys, and liver. Such symptoms commonly include shortness of breath even with normal daily activities, difficulty breathing when lying down, and swelling in the lower extremities or lower back. These symptoms are usually accompanied by substantial weight gain (“water weight”), and generalized fatigue and weakness.44

Eventually, symptoms worsen, requiring frequent hospitalization with increased risk of life-threatening heart arrhythmias and pulmonary edema.44 Even with the best conventional treatment, some people with heart failure, particularly those who in spite of conventional treatment fail to show evidence of clinical improvement, may die within two years.6

CoQ10 Improves Endothelial Function

Chronic oxidative stress is one of the main factors reducing the functioning of the endothelium, the thin layer of cells lining arteries that controls blood flow and pressure.21 Endothelial dysfunction is a major precursor to hypertension, coronary heart disease, and strokes. Since CoQ10 is a unique antioxidant, it makes sense that it would have beneficial effects on endothelial function.

That has proven to be the case. In patients with known coronary artery disease, who are at high risk for heart attack, and who need every bit of functioning endothelium, supplementation with 300 mg of CoQ10 a day significantly improved their natural endothelial antioxidant levels, improved their arterial relaxation, and improved their oxygen utilization.22

Similar improvements were seen in patients with New York Heart Association grade II to III heart failure, who experienced a 9% improvement in oxygen utilization and a 38% improvement in endothelial function when they used the same dose of CoQ10, with no side effects.23

CoQ10 has subsequently shown value in improving endothelial dysfunction caused by diabetes and by high LDL-cholesterol, two major contributors to cardiovascular disease.24,25 In addition, it reduces blood vessel stiffness, a consequence of endothelial dysfunction.26,27

CoQ10 Shows Promise In Cancer Prevention
CoQ10 Shows Promise In Cancer Prevention

Low levels of CoQ10 have been correlated with increased cancer risk in some populations.45 This is due in part to the fact that cancer cells are enormous users of energy, perturbing the bioenergetics of surrounding tissue and bathing host cells in free radicals and other destructive byproducts.

Though research is still in its early stages, CoQ10 supplementation is showing real promise in counteracting these effects to slow—and in some cases reverse—cancer’s progression. Here is a synopsis of scientific progress:

  • CoQ10 along with vitamin B6 boosted the function of cancer-fighting immune cells.46
  • CoQ10 alone or in combination with B vitamins enhanced the efficacy of the anti-breast cancer drug tamoxifen in animal studies, and decreased plasma markers of metastasis and new blood vessel growth in human breast cancer patients.47-50
  • CoQ10 suppressed development of pre-cancerous lesions in animal models of colon cancer.51,52
  • CoQ10 increased median actual survival by more than 40% in patients with a variety of end-stage cancers.53

It seems all but inevitable that further studies will highlight greater benefits in humans, especially at the level of prevention rather than treatment, an area in which mainstream medicine is sadly lacking.

CoQ10 Lowers Blood Pressure

Oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction are major causes of elevated blood pressure, which affects about 67 million US adults.28,29 CoQ10 supplementation is showing promise in reducing blood pressure in hypertensive patients, without producing dangerous abrupt drops in pressure.

A multitude of studies have shown that doses of CoQ10 as low as 60 mg twice daily can lower blood pressure by up to 17.8 points systolic (top number) and 7 points diastolic (bottom number).30-32 None of these studies reported significant side effects, and CoQ10 is now recommended by some researchers for use in addition to standard drug treatment for hypertension, especially in elderly patients.33

CoQ10 Protects Your Brain
CoQ10 Protects Your Brain

Your brain receives the largest proportion of total blood flow from your heart; as a result, it has some of the most volatile fluctuations in bioenergetic demands.54 Because of this, CoQ10 is of tremendous importance in maintaining brain health and preventing neuronal damage.

Unfortunately, studies have clearly shown a loss of CoQ10 functioning in the aging brain—with severe deficiencies in those with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and following strokes.55,56

Fortunately, laboratory studies have shown that supplementing with CoQ10 has multiple brain-protective effects, especially in aging animals. Take a look:

  • CoQ10 has been shown to decelerate the aging process in a strain of mice with abnormally accelerated aging.57
  • When aging, stroke-prone mice were supplemented long-term with CoQ10, they had smaller volumes of damaged brain, and larger volumes of healthy, functioning brain.58
  • In culture dishes, CoQ10 kept brain stem cells alive following periods of oxygen deprivation (as seen in strokes), setting the stage for possible recovery through new cell development.59
  • In a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, CoQ10 decreased the amount of destructive amyloid beta plaque in brain tissue, while improving the animals’ behaviors.60
  • In aging mice at risk for Parkinson’s disease, supplementation reduced the loss of dopamine-producing neurons and raised brain dopamine levels (dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is diminished in human Parkinson’s).61

Preliminary human studies show good results as well—especially in patients with early and mild Parkinson’s disease. CoQ10 at 360 mg/day produced moderate reduction in symptom scores, while 1,200 mg/day appeared to slow functional decline in those with early disease.62,63 Studies have shown that up to 3,000 mg/day is well tolerated, with 2,400 mg/day being the highest dose used in studies involving Parkinson’s patients.64

The superior absorption of the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 would allow lower doses to be used. Those with congestive heart failure or neurological conditions should ideally strive for a coenzyme Q10 blood level of over 3.5 micrograms per milliliter (mcg/mL).66

CoQ10 Reduces Heart Attack Damage

CoQ10 is especially valuable in reducing the damage caused by a heart attack. Never is your heart in greater need of efficient bioenergetics than during and immediately after a heart attack. CoQ10 is sharply diminished in heart attack victims. In fact, low CoQ10 levels are associated with an increased risk of dying in post-cardiac arrest patients.34

The main damage in survivors of a heart attack doesn’t come from the loss of blood flow itself (ischemia), but rather from the restoration of oxygen-rich blood to tissues that have lacked oxygen for the critical minutes before circulation is restored (reperfusion).35

CoQ10 reduces the impact of ischemia-reperfusion injury by optimizing the heart muscle’s bioenergetics and providing antioxidant support during this crucial period.36 Supplementation reduces markers of extreme oxidative stress and poor mitochondrial function, while reducing the rates of post-reperfusion arrhythmias and improving heart musclefunctioning.37,38

Studies show that CoQ10 at doses of 100 to 120 mg/day reduced total arrhythmias and other cardiac events, increased left ventricular (main pumping chamber) function, and reduced the death rate from repeat heart attacks.39,40

CoQ10 is powerful enough that it has been given intravenously during bypass grafting procedures, where it improved left ventricular functioning 6 to 10 hours after the operation, compared with control patients, and reduced blood markers of heart muscle damage.37 Similar beneficial effects have now been shown in patients who take 150 to 180 mg of CoQ10 per day for 7 to 10 days prior to elective bypass surgery.41


Your mitochondria pump out a steady supply of energy derived from the food you supply them with. Like any finely-tuned machine, however, they need help maintaining top-level efficiency and performance.

CoQ10 is the main molecule your body requires to keep mitochondrial energy production, or bioenergetics, running smoothly. Declining CoQ10 levels cause tissues to burn fuel inefficiently, eventually producing oxidative damage and ultimately losing their function.

CoQ10 deficiency and the resulting bioenergetic collapse is the underlying cause of heart failure, one of the largest causes of death and disability in Americans today. Studies show that CoQ10 supplementation at 300 mg/day not only restores normal CoQ10 levels, but prevents progression of heart failure and in fact can reverse that progression and extend survival and improve quality of life.

Similar beneficial effects have now been shown in patients with endothelial dysfunction, hypertension, and coronary artery disease, the precursors of heart attacks and ultimately heart failure.

Since we all require efficient and uninterrupted energy supplies, we all need to be thinking about optimizing our bioenergetic status with CoQ10 supplementation.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.