Getting older is inevitable. But “aging” is not. While you can’t slow down the hands of time, you can absolutely increase longevity and age better by adopting certain habits, especially ones that protect your heart.
You probably already know about the roles that healthy diet and exercise play, but research now shows that supplementing two simple nutrients—selenium and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)—can significantly cut your risk of death from heart-related issues.1
Selenium and CoQ10 both act as antioxidants in the body. Selenium is a trace mineral that can be found in small amounts in some foods. Along with scavenging and neutralizing free radicals and decreasing inflammation in the body, selenium is important for reproduction, proper thyroid function and DNA production.
CoQ10 is found in your mitochondria, those tiny structures in cells responsible for converting energy from food into energy the cells can use. CoQ10 not only provides the heart with energy so that it can keep beating, it also destroys free radicals that can cause cardiovascular problems.
Your body naturally creates CoQ10, but production diminishes significantly with age and with the use of certain medications, most notably cholesterol-lowering statins. In addition to its antioxidant and heart-friendly properties, CoQ10 also reduces inflammation and may protect against a variety of conditions not related to the heart, including cancer, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.
The selenium-CoQ10 study under discussion was conducted in Europe, which happens to have a low average daily intake of selenium (around 40 mcg, compared to 134 mcg for men and 93 mcg for women in the U.S.). Previous research has indicated that low selenium levels may increase cardiovascular mortality and also prevent cells from getting adequate CoQ10 for proper energy production.2
Since both of these factors increase risk of heart disease and premature death, researchers aimed to determine what, if any, influence supplementation could have on lowering risk.1 They recruited 433 healthy elderly individuals in Sweden, who were given either daily dietary supplementation of 200 mg CoQ10 and 200 mcg selenium or placebo for four years. They were then followed for 10 years, with researchers noting deaths due to cardiovascular issues during that time.
The findings indicated significantly reduced cardiovascular mortality in those taking the selenium and coenzyme Q10. This decrease in risk of death persisted for the entire 10-year period, even after supplementation ended. And the participants with heart disease and/or diabetes appeared to be as protected as those who had no existing heart issues.
The researchers note that since levels of selenium in Swedes tend to be much lower than those seen in Americans, the benefits may be more profound in the Swedish population than in ours. Even so, no one disputes the fact that both selenium and CoQ10 have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that clearly influence the heart.
Therefore, making sure you have plenty of both in your system definitely won’t harm you—in fact, it is much more likely to benefit you too.
Selenium deficiencies are pretty rare in the U.S. In fact, most Americans get plenty in their diet because the mineral is abundant in our soil.
Multivitamins typically contain selenium as well. The recommended daily dosage ranges from about 55-70 mcg, with children needing far less. If you do choose to take additional selenium above and beyond what your multi offers, be aware overdosing is possible and potentially dangerous. Adverse effects can occur at dosages as low as 400 mcg.
To be on the safe side, don’t take more than 200 mcg of total selenium per day—the same dosage used in the study.
As mentioned earlier, the body makes its own CoQ10, but your natural production dwindles as you get older. You can get small amounts of this compound from certain foods, but for therapeutic effects, your best bet is to supplement.
Aim for 100-200 mg of CoQ10 (as ubiquinol) per day. You may want to take up to 300 mg if you take statins.
- Alehagen U, et al. PLoS One. 2015 Dec 1;10(12):e0141641.
- Alehagen U, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jan;70(1):91-6.