How to improve cardiovascular health is one of the most common questions we get asked. Managing the various aspects of cardiovascular disease is an important part of reducing your odds of a future heart attack or stroke. Here, we break down the science of how Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) helps support better cardiovascular health in four important and well-known areas: atherosclerosis, blood pressure, cholesterol, and circulation.
How does Aged Garlic Extract improve cardiovascular health?
Your cardiovascular system is only as healthy as the arteries that carry your blood throughout your body. Healthy arteries are flexible with a smooth, undamaged endothelium—that single layer of cells that line the inner surface of your arteries—that allows oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow freely to all of your organs and tissues. But over time, the effects of heredity, unhealthy habits, and age can cause the buildup of artery-damaging plaque and calcium deposits. When arteries become damaged—a condition called atherosclerosis—blood flow can eventually be hindered or even completely blocked. In extensive research, clinical trials have shown that Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) can halt and even reverse the buildup of plaque and coronary artery calcification, ultimately helping to minimize the progression of atherosclerosis.
High blood pressure—which is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher—is also called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms. Although this condition often flies under the radar, it can lead to serious health problems including atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Human studies suggest that AGE provides blood pressure benefits similar to first-line medications. During one recent study that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reported that Aged Garlic Extract produced a significant drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.
AGE can also help with cholesterol reduction too. While cholesterol is important for the formation of cell membranes – as well as for the production of hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D – too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol can encourage the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Clinical studies show that AGE can lower total cholesterol, as well as harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This was shown in a review of 39 human studies published in Nutrition Reviews. The researchers found that AGE reduced total cholesterol by 17 mg/dL and LDL by 9 gm/dL in people with slightly elevated cholesterol levels.
Better Blood Pressure with Aged Garlic Extract
High blood pressure—which is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher—is aptly called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms. Although this condition often flies under the radar, it can lead to serious health problems including atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Human studies suggest that AGE provides blood pressure benefits similar to first-line medications.
During one recent study that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia reported that Aged Garlic Extract produced a significant drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.3 Another study involving 88 people with high blood pressure found even better results with a reduction of 11.5 mmHg in systolic pressure and a 6.3 mmHg drop in diastolic pressure in 58% of those taking AGE.4 An earlier study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also showed that AGE produced similar results for lowering systolic pressure.5
But as good as AGE is alone, it may be even more effective when paired with the enzyme nattokinase—which acts as a natural ACE inhibitor—and L-theanine—which has also been shown to lower blood pressure.6,7 Independent studies of these three nutrients, support their potential to have a positive impact on blood pressure.
AGE Curtails High Cholesterol
While cholesterol is important for the formation of cell membranes—as well as for the production of hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D—too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol can encourage the buildup of plaque in your arteries. Clinical studies show that AGE can lower total cholesterol, as well as harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. This was clearly shown in a review of 39 human studies published in Nutrition Reviews. The researchers found that AGE reduced total cholesterol by 17 mg/dL and LDL by 9 gm/dL in people with slightly elevated cholesterol levels.8 A previous clinical trial reported that AGE lowered total cholesterol by 7% and LDL by 10% compared to a placebo.9 Adding plant sterols to AGE may also support healthy cholesterol levels. On their own, plant sterols were recently found to lower LDL by up to 10% in a trial of 221 people with high cholesterol levels.10
Improve Circulation with AGE
Your circulatory system is a complex superhighway made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. This blood delivers important nutrients to your organs and tissues and helps remove cellular waste. When the blood vessels that make up your circulatory system are healthy, blood flows freely throughout the body. But when they are damaged, the amount of blood that reaches your vital organs and extremities is reduced.
AGE has been shown to support healthy blood vessels and improve circulation in a number of ways. It promotes clear arteries by discouraging calcium deposits and plaque buildup. In addition, AGE lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Clinical research shows that AGE also reduces oxidation and inflammation, and increases the production of nitric oxide (a molecule that dilates blood vessels for better blood flow).11
AGE also works on the microcirculatory system—that network of tiny capillaries, arterioles, and venules that moves blood from larger blood vessels to your cells. This was shown in a recent study published in the International Wound Journal. Among 122 people who took part in the study, those who supplemented with AGE for a year had better microcirculation than those taking a placebo. This was especially true among the participants with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.12 These findings are good news for anyone with cardiovascular issues and especially for diabetics since microcirculation can be compromised in people with type 2 diabetes.
What is the best exercise for cardiovascular health?
Strengthening your heart is one of the best things you can do to improve your cardiovascular health. And a great way to do this is through exercise! Experts recommend spending at least 150 minutes per week doing moderate physical activity. Aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio” uses repetitive contraction of large muscle groups to get your heart beating faster and is the most beneficial type of exercise for your cardiovascular health. Regular cardio workouts can help to strengthen your heart and blood vessels, improve the flow of oxygen throughout your body, lower your blood pressure, and more. Walking is another great form of cardio, you just want to make sure to stay at a nice quick pace (think power walking). Walking fast will get your heart rate up and is easier on your joints than most other types of exercise. You can listen to a podcast, music, or talk to a friend on the phone and the time will fly by! Swimming is another good cardio option, one that is also easy on the joints. Taking a water aerobics class is a great idea. It can be a great full-body workout that not only strengthens your body but your heart too. Lastly, cycling is another good option in terms of cardio. Cycling uses the large muscles in the legs, which helps to elevate the heart rate and work up a sweat.
How else can you improve your cardiovascular health?
There are many ways to improve your cardiovascular health. One of the most popular ways is through exercise, which we mentioned above. And here are a few additional ways you can support a healthy heart:
Watch your portions: Eating fruits and veggies are great, but if you’re eating two times the proper portion size, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. One easy way to downsize your portions is to eat off a smaller plate. The average dinner plate today is around 12 inches, so switch to a slightly smaller plate, maybe about 8 inches. This will help you to keep better track of the food you’re eating. Plus it will make your portions actually look larger since the plate is smaller.
Get enough sleep: Sleep is so important for a healthy heart. In fact, people who don’t get enough quality sleep are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease.13 The quality and quantity of sleep you get also affects your energy levels the next day. Adopt a regular bedtime and stick to it. This will help you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Be mindful of your diet: A diet rich in a variety (the more colorful the better) of fruits and veggies is linked to healthier hearts and a lower risk of heart disease.14 In addition, we recommend switching to wholegrain foods, which means they will have more nutrients like dietary fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Also, take time to read nutrition labels. This can help you avoid foods high in sodium and unhealthy trans fats.
Manage stress: Stress can raise your blood pressure, so it is crucial to find ways to unwind. Exercising and getting enough sleep can help relieve tension. Or try taking 15 minutes of quiet time every day to relax.
What foods do cardiologists say to avoid?
How to improve cardiovascular health? Through your food! Cardiologists see firsthand what a bad diet can do to your heart. Here are some foods that they say to limit, for optimal heart health.
Bacon, sausage, and other processed meats: Processed meats like these are high in calories, saturated fat, salt, and sometimes have added ingredients like nitrates.
Potato chips and other processed/packaged snacks: Stay away from bags of crunchy, salty carbs. They taste good but can be addicting, and these simple carbs are not the best for a healthy heart. Cardiologists recommend reaching for apples, carrots, and whole-grain snacks instead.
Too much protein: Who knew this was such a thing? But yes, there is such a thing as too much protein. Some people are getting more than the recommended amount of protein per day (0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight). Too much protein taxes the kidneys and may cause problems down the road. What’s more, a high-protein diet has been shown to accelerate kidney damage in people who have kidney disease.
Alcohol: Moderate drinking won’t harm your heart unless you have high blood pressure or high triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood that can boost your odds of heart disease). Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, strokes, and weight gain.15
Disclaimer: The scientific studies described here were conducted by independent researchers and presented for educational purposes only. The products of the studies may be classified as dietary supplements in the United States. Those dietary supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Budoff M, Zeb I, et al. Aged garlic extract and coenzyme Q10 have a favorable effect on inflammatory markers and coronary atherosclerosis progression: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Cardiovascular Research. 2012; 3(3): 185-190.
Ried K, Travica N, Sali A. The effect of aged garlic extract on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors in uncontrolled hypertensives: the AGE at heart trial. Integrated Blood Pressure Control. 2016; 9: 9-21.
Ried K. The effects of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract on gut microbiota, inflammation, and cardiovascular markers in hypertensives: The GarGIC Trial. Frontiers in Nutr. 2018;5:122.
Ried K. The effect of aged garlic extract on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors in uncontrolled hypertensives: the AGE at Heart trial. Integr Blood Press Control. 2016;9:9-21.
Ried K. Aged garlic extract reduces blood pressure in hypertensives: a dose-response trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(1):64-70.
Kim JY. Effects of nattokinase on blood pressure: a randomized, controlled trial. Hypertens Res. 2008;31(8):1583-8.
Yoto A. Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intakes on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31:28.
Ried K. Effect of garlic on serum lipids: an updated meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2013;71(5):282-99.
Yeh YY. Cholesterol-lowering effect of garlic extracts and organosulfur compounds: human and animal studies. J Nutr. 2001;131(3s):989S-93S.
Cheung, C.Randomized controlled trial of the effect of phytosterols-enriched low-fat milk on lipid profile in Chinese. Sci Rep. 2017;7:41084.
Williams MJ. Aged garlic extract improves endothelial function in men with coronary artery disease. Phytother Res. 2005;19(4):314-9.
Wlosinska M. Aged garlic extract preserves cutaneous microcirculation in patients with increased risk for cardiovascular disease: A double-blind placebo-controlled study. Int Wound. 2019;16(6):1487-93.
Nagai M, Hoshide S, Kario K, et al. Sleep duration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease-a review of recent literature. Current Cardiology Reviews. 2010; 6(1): 54-61.
A new study indicated that eating more fruits and veggies may help lower markers of heart disease. NHLBI in the Press. 2020: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2020/new-study-indicates-eating-more-fruits-and-veggies-may-help-lower-markers-heart-disease
Husain K, Ansari R, Ferder L, et al. Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention. World Journal of Cardiology. 2014; 6(5): 245-252.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.