How is your energy? The stronger and healthier your heart is, the more vitality you’ll experience. How can you increase your heart’s strength so you have more energy?

Your Mitochondria

Whether you are really ill or in training for a triathlon, the answer is the same: if you want to up-regulate your heart’s energy, look to your mitochondria. Mitochondria are tiny little organelles in each of our cells (except the red blood cells).

They create the energy we need to live. Without them, we’d die in three seconds. They are very vulnerable to damage from toxins in our environment, especially heavy metals. Supporting your mitochondria is the key to a longer, healthier life.[1]

Heart’s Physical Capabilities

Do you ever wonder how you rate? How is your energy? Want to find out? 

If you want to know what your heart’s physical capabilities are, check out these tests. You can perform these with a physical trainer or a medical provider.

  • Stress test EKG: Do this with a medical practitioner. It is a good, classic baseline test to see how your heart handles the stress of exercise. But it does not give you as detailed of an assessment of your endurance as the VO2 test below. 
  •  VO2 Max: Used by pro athletes and medical providers, this is a clinic-based test to assess your level of aerobic (i.e., oxygen-using) fitness. It measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body uses during exercise.
  • Beep test/Pacer testing: The fit and agile can use this method to self-test. You can download a paced beep and run 20 meters, doing as many repetitions as you can. The pace increases as you go, and you run until you cannot keep up with the beep.
    From this number you can calculate your endurance level based on age.
    WARNING: The risk for injury to your joints is high, as you are pushing yourself to run fast here, so check in with your provider and yourself before doing this one. Personally, I would consider doing this in the pool to protect my joints.

Concerned about your risk of heart attack?

If you have a family history of heart disease, or your blood work shows dyslipidemia or markers of inflammation such as hs-CRP, fibrinogen, or MOA, then I’d highly recommend you consider getting a calcium score.[2][3]

This is a relatively inexpensive imaging study that allows you to see if you have calcium deposits in your heart vessels or not. I send my patients to OHSU for this assessment.

It can offer great peace of mind, or motivate you to focus on treating your physical heart now to prevent heart disease in the future. It’s recommended that you repeat the test every three years. 

Five ways to increase your mitochondrial function and heart health

  1.  MOVE 
    Mitochondria will burn more cleanly, increase in numbers per cell, replicate in the organs where they are needed the most (the heart, brain, liver, muscle), and revert to looking like the mitochondria of a younger person (ALERT: anti-aging hack!) with the healthy stress of exercise.[4]
    Resistance training[5] and HIIT seem to be the best kind of exercise for your mitochondria. The mitochondria of people in their 60s and 70s reverted back to looking like the mitochondria of a 24-year-old with resistance training three times a week for six weeks!
    Remember, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before you start a new exercise regimen. 
    GREENS: We are inundated with heavy metals these days. Thankfully we have the plant world to support us and pull toxins out of our tissues.
    Chlorella (a few capsules a day),[6] cilantro,[7] and parsley are great at helping us pull these out of the body.
    You may need a deeper detox, but this is a great daily practice. A lower level of metals allows the mitochondria to function better, giving you more energy.
    REDS AND PURPLES: Do you know why everyone talks about antioxidants for better health? It’s because they support the mitochondria! The mitochondria love the resveratrol[8] that’s found in berries.
    Eating reds and purples every day—in smoothies, for dessert, or as a power snack—can help your mitochondria function better. These also help pull toxins out.
  3. HYDROTHERAPY  This is a technique I learned in naturopathic school. It is an age-old natural healing therapy using alternating heat and cold to stimulate the body’s natural functions of immune stimulation and detoxification.[9]  
    Only recently did we learn that these same techniques can increase the number and efficiency of your mitochondria.[10]
    WARNING: Hydrotherapy can be stimulating, so if you have any health issues at all, especially a serious heart condition or extreme fatigue, work with your doctor to see if it’s a good fit for you now, and if so, work it in gradually. You can start with warm to cool temps.
  4. SUPPLEMENT BOOST There are a lot of supplements that can assist with mitochondrial health. Here are a few to get you started in supporting your heart health (check with your doctor to determine the right match for you)
    • CoQ10: Taking 100–300 mg a day may increase your mitochondrial function. This is a situation where the research is promising, but not yet conclusive. I choose to err on the side of practicing what I think will help and know won’t cause harm.[11] 
    • Taurine: Shown to increase endurance in varying doses of 1­–6 grams a day.[12] 
    • Magnesium: Most of us are deficient in this mineral, which is central to proper mito functioning. If you take too much, you’ll get loose stools. Work with your practitioner to find the right type and dose for you. 
    • B vitamins: We use these up fast with stress and toxic overload. I find most people feel more energy when taking this supplement.[13]
    • Resveratrol:[14] You can take this as a supplement to boost your antioxidant levels.
    • D-ribose: Helps reset and energize the mitochondria. 
  5. LOVE yourself enough to assess your heart health and your core vitality, and to get the support you need.

Whether you have a triathlon on the horizon or just need to have more juice to use the stairs and get the laundry done, you can support your mitochondria for better heart health and vitality. 


[1] M. Nathania, K. G. Hollingsworth, M. Bates, et al., “ Impact of age on the association between cardiac high-energy phosphate metabolism and cardiac power in women,” Heart 104 (2018): 111–18.

[2] “Coronary calcium test could help clarify heart disease risk – and control cholesterol,” American Heart Association, November 13, 2018, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/13/coronary-calcium-test-could-help-clarify-heart-disease-risk-and-control-cholesterol.

[3] “Understanding Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) Scoring,” CardioSmart, American College of Cardiology, November 2018, https://www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/High-Cholesterol/Content/Coronary-Artery-Calcium-Scoring.

[4] Nicholas T. Broskey, Chiara Greggio, Andreas Boss, Marie Boutant, Andrew Dwyer, Leopold Schlueter, Didier Hans, Gerald Gremion, Roland Kreis, Chris Boesch, Carles Canto, Francesca Amati, “Skeletal Muscle Mitochondria in the Elderly: Effects of Physical Fitness and Exercise Training,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 99, no. 5 (May 2014): 185261, https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-3983

[5] C. Porter, P. T. Reidy, N. Bhattarai, L. S. Sidossis, and B. B. Rasmussen, “Resistance Exercise Training Alters Mitochondrial Function in Human Skeletal Muscle,” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 47, no. 9 (2015): 1922–31, https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000605

[6] K. Ogawa, T. Fukuda, J. Han, Y. Kitamura, K. Shiba, and A. Odani, “Evaluation of Chlorella as a Decorporation Agent to Enhance the Elimination of Radioactive Strontium from Body,” PloS ONE 11, no. 2 (2016): e0148080. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148080.

[7] D. Karunasagar, M. V. Balarama KrishnaS. V. RaoJ. Arunachalam, “Removal and preconcentration of inorganic and methyl mercury from aqueous media using a sorbent prepared from the plant Coriandrum sativum,” Journal of Hazardous Materials 118, no. 1–3 (February 2014): 133–39, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304389404005308?via%3Dihub.

[8]T. T. Zhou, X Y. Wang, J. Huang, Y. Z. Deng, L. J. Qiu, H. Y. Liu, X. W. Xu, Z. X. Ma, L. Tang, H. P. Chen, “Mitochondrial translocation of DJ-1 is mediated by Grp75 implication in cardioprotection of resveratrol against hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced oxidative stress,” Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology (January 2020), https://doi.org/10.1097/FJC.0000000000000805

[9] Peter Bongiorno, “A Cold Splash – Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety,” Psychology Today, July 6, 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inner-source/201407/cold-splash-hydrotherapy-depression-and-anxiety

[10] R. S. Dos Santos, A. Galina, and W. S. Da-Silva, “Cold acclimation increases mitochondrial oxidative capacity without inducing mitochondrial uncoupling in goldfish white skeletal muscle,” Biology open 2, no. 1 (2013): 82–7, https://doi.org/10.1242/bio.20122295

[11] S. Bronzato and A. Durante, “Dietary Supplements and Cardiovascular Diseases,” International journal of preventive medicine 9, no. 1 (2018): 80, https://doi.org/10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_179_17

[12] M. Waldron, S. D. Patterson, J. Tallent, et al., “The Effects of an Oral Taurine Dose and Supplementation Period on Endurance Exercise Performance in Humans: A Meta-Analysis,” Sports Medicine 48 (2018): 1247–53, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0896-2.

[13] Flore Depeint, W. Robert Bruce, Nandita Shangari, Rhea Mehta, and Peter J. O’Brien, “Mitochondrial function and toxicity: Role of the B vitamin family on mitochondrial energy metabolism,” Chemico-Biological Interactions 163, no. 1–2 (2006): 94–112, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbi.2006.04.014

[14] T. T. Zhou, X Y. Wang, J. Huang, Y. Z. Deng, L. J. Qiu, H. Y. Liu, X. W. Xu, Z. X. Ma, L. Tang, H. P. Chen, “Mitochondrial translocation of DJ-1 is mediated by Grp75 implication in cardioprotection of resveratrol against hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced oxidative stress,” Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology (January 2020), https://doi.org/10.1097/FJC.0000000000000805 


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