Improving your cardiovascular health to help maintain a healthy lifestyle

We chat to two integrative physiology professors about their studies on MitoQ and heart health, and the role mitochondria play in keeping healthy.

Cardiovascular health is a major concern and understandably people are looking for ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We all know how hard our hearts work beating 24/7. The energy powering our hearts and carrying our blood away from and back to the heart comes from mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells. Mitochondria convert glucose and oxygen to cellular energy and they work hardest in the cardiovascular system, but mitochondria numbers diminish with age, and mitochondrial dysfunction increases. 

Longevity.Technology: Doug Seals PhD and Matthew Rossman PhD are integrative physiology professors at the University of Colorado Boulder. Having headed up a fascinating study on heart health and MitoQ in 2018, they have built on the the positive results with a much-larger scale clinical trial, again focused on MitoQ and heart health. Our hearts skipped a metaphorical beat at the chance to discuss the dangers of oxidative stress with them, and find out more about keeping the cardiovascular system healthy.

Check out our fascinating interview with Drs Seals and Rossman, in which we find out more about MitoQ and how it can help to support arterial function.

Doug Seals and Matthew Rossman on…

Cardiovascular health and the role of nitric oxide

Cardiovascular health, in general, decreases with aging, and in particular, the health of your arteries also decreases. Research has shown that mitochondria, and in particular, excess production of reactive oxygen species by mitochondria, is a mechanism contributing to forms of vascular dysfunction with aging.

When it comes to age-related arterial function, oxidative stress produced by the mitochondria is detrimental, largely because it reacts with a molecule called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a key vasodilatory and vasoprotective molecule in the vasculature, and declines in nitric oxide cause vascular dysfunction with aging. Excess ROS react with nitric oxide reducing its bioavailability meaning less is around to serve those protective functions.

Positive results from MitoQ study

We looked at a particular mitoquinol supplement – MitoQ – given orally in mice could improve arterial health in middle-aged and older adults. In previous work in a mouse model looking at arterial aging, we were able to reverse the adverse effects of aging on arterial health.

We used those studies as a platform for this initial pilot trial in human subjects; as we found, the arterial function improved after six weeks on MitoQ. Endothelial function improved and we were able to reduce the stiffness of the large arteries that influence blood pressure and a number of other key cardiovascular health parameters.

Mitochondrial-induced oxidative stress was reduced by MitoQ supplementation and that led to improvements in vascular function.

Top tips for keeping the cardiovascular system healthy

Really the number one recommendation is regular exercise. It sounds formulaic, but exercise is probably the single-most powerful mechanism or strategy to maintain the health of the entire cardiovascular system as we undergo the aging process. Certainly, aerobic exercise plays a tremendous role in maintaining cardiovascular health with aging. Diet also plays a major role in keeping your arteries healthy with aging, and calorie intake should be within an appropriate range. One of the interesting new things we are studying is passive heat therapy, which some have called the new aerobic exercise! This involves sitting in a hot tub or a sauna for three or four times a week, and it produces the kind of physiological responses that aerobic exercise produces. Our early indications from a pilot trial show the same kind of benefits that we see with exercise and some of these other healthy lifestyle behaviours.

We’ve done some preclinical studies in our lab to show that one of the mechanisms by which aerobic exercise does improve vascular health with aging is by a reduction in mitochondrial oxidative stress.

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