Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Can Improving Heart Health Reduce COVID Risk?

Strengthening your cardiovascular system is never a bad thing, but it may be more important now than ever.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Adobe Stock

Leading physicians and scientists on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have uncovered a strong link between the virus and cardiovascular disease. This emerging theory explains, in part, why people with pre-existing high blood pressure and diabetes are at greater risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19.

It’s thought that the virus enters the body through the respiratory passages and possibly the eyes. Since the virus attacks the ACE2 enzyme receptor, it then sets into motion a cascade of inflammatory reactions. Ultimately, it is the oxidative stress of this cascade that causes hypercoagulation and blood clots. These blood clots then cause damage everywhere there are small capillary beds: in the brain, lungs, kidneys, toes, and even the blood vessels themselves. The blood vessels and the heart have a thin lining of cells, called endothelial cells, that release a clotting factor called Von Willebrand’s Factor (VWF), which has been shown to be wildly elevated in severe COVID-19 cases. Interestingly, people with blood type O have less VWF.

5 Ways to Boost Your Heart Health & Immunity

1. Increase NO

One of the best things you can do for your immune system is to increase nitric oxide (NO), which helps protect endothelial cells. NO can be increased through specific breathing exercises. These entail nasal breathing only, and humming through the exhale so the front of the face vibrates, and then slowly inhaling through the nose. For more detailed information, see The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You by Patrick McKeown. This exercise fits nicely into a meditation practice, 5–10 minutes morning and night. 

2. Mind Your Minerals 

Make sure your antioxidant enzymes are supplied with the minerals they need—notably zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, and iron. Hemp, pumpkin, sesame, and other seeds contain significant amounts of zinc. Raw cashews do, as well. A cozy pot of lentil soup will also do the trick (just remember to soak the lentils first). And eat two raw Brazil nuts every day if you’re not allergic. That will give you approximately 200 mcg of selenium, which is the recommended daily amount. Copper, manganese, and iron are found in nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Or you can try a quality multimineral supplement.

3. Combat Quarantine Fatigue 

Maintaining your psychological and spiritual well-being throughout this difficult time is a key to going the distance. Quarantine fatigue is real. Nurture your happiness with this free course by Yale University on the Science of Well-Being

4. Take NAC

N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to reduced glutathione, a major factor in reducing the vascular damage caused by the virus through oxidative stress. Also, NAC helps clear thick mucus from the lungs. I recommend taking 600 mg NAC along with 200–400mg of S-acetyl-L-glutathione or liposomal glutathione. These can be taken together in the morning on an empty stomach.

5. Try a Pulse Oximeter

When should you go to the hospital if you are ill? Since only an estimated 30 percent of COVID-19 patients run fevers, one way of knowing is by using a pulse oximeter, a device for your fingertip that tells you the percentage of oxygen in your blood. Generally, a reading below 90 is the time to seek medical attention. This will help reduce the number of people who are waiting until it’s already too late, and instead, get you to help with a greater fighting chance.

Related: Top Herbs for Heart Health

Quercetin & Zinc

Adobe Stock

Zinc has been found to inhibit the enzyme that the COVID-19 virus uses to replicate itself. Very little zinc is stored in the body, so we need to consume it at low levels on a regular basis. I usually recommend 15 mg per day.

The challenge with zinc is that it is an ion, so it needs help getting inside your cells. The various chelated forms (e.g., picolinate, gluconate, arginate, glycinate) are better absorbed than plain zinc ions. But quercetin can also help.

There is a tiny channel in the cell wall, called an ionophore, that transports zinc into the cell. Quercetin a good ionophore for zinc. Depending on your size, you could take up to two 500 mg capsules three times per day with meals. Adjust downwards from there. For example, I’m currently taking one 500 mg capsule twice per day on an empty stomach.

Food sources of quercetin include watercress, cilantro, radicchio, asparagus, onions, elderberry, cranberry, blueberry, blackberry, and apples.