Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) represent the biggest killer worldwide, so it is clear that protecting your heart and taking care of your cardiometabolic health is crucial. CVD is an umbrella name for conditions that affect your heart and circulation. CVDs are usually associated with a buildup of fatty deposits inside the arteries, a process called atherosclerosis, and an increased risk of blood clots. CVDs can be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.
As defined by the World Heart Federation,¹ the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases can be divided into modifiable and non-modifiable factors. Modifiable risk factors include physical inactivity, smoking, unhealthy diet, and high blood pressure.
The good news is that these are all factors that can be improved by actions to protect your heart. The non-modifiable risk factors, on the other hand, can increase the risk of developing some kind of CVD regardless of a healthy lifestyle. These include a family history of CVD, age (simply getting old is a risk factor for CVD), gender (men are at greater risk of heart disease than premenopausal women; after menopause, the risk is equal), ethnicity (people with African or Asian ancestry are at higher risks of developing cardiovascular disease than other racial groups), and socioeconomic status (being poor, no matter where in the globe, increases your risk of heart disease and stroke). A chronically stressful life, social isolation, anxiety, and depression also increase the risk.
Protect Your Heart With Hydrogen Water
Cardioprotection includes all the mechanisms that contribute to the preservation of the cardiac tissue by reducing or preventing cardiac damage.² You can protect your heart by leading a healthy lifestyle, which can significantly lower the risk of getting CVD and decrease the chances of deterioration if you already have it. Medications and supplements can also help with protecting your heart, and here’s where hydrogen-rich water (HRW) makes its appearance.
Molecular hydrogen is the lightest gas and has long been used to prevent decompression sickness following deep-sea diving.³ In 2007, a first notable report about H2 treatment was published in the journal Nature Medicine, showing that treatment at clinically viable doses of H2 significantly reduced the levels of -OH in cultured cells and provided therapeutic neurological benefits.⁴ These results suggested that hydrogen may be potentially used as an antioxidant in vivo.
Oxidative stress is indeed a common denominator of several pathological processes, including cardiovascular diseases. It occurs as a result of an imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the intrinsic antioxidant cellular defense mechanism, leading to impaired cellular and organ function.
What makes molecular hydrogen promising for therapeutic applications is its favorable physicochemical properties. It is electrically neutral and even smaller than molecular oxygen. Therefore, it can easily penetrate cell membranes and diffuse into cellular organelles, such as the nucleus and mitochondria. Additionally, it is very mildly reactive, and it does not interfere with ROS involved in cell signaling. It has been demonstrated that, conveniently, hydrogen has no effect on physiology, temperature, blood pressure, pH, or pO2,⁵ and it has not been reported to be toxic at concentrations even higher than the clinically effective dosages.
Hydrogen Rich Water and CVD Risk Factors
The administration of molecular hydrogen has been studied in several heart disease models and clinical trials. A September 2020 search on ClinicalTrials.gov, the database containing all the clinical trials going on worldwide, showed 777 results. This substantial number highlights how molecular hydrogen is emerging more and more as a novel therapeutic intervention for a plethora of conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, and the results of all these clinical trials are eagerly awaited.
More than 10 years ago, it was shown that drinking HRW for 4 months reduced atherosclerotic lesion in an apolipoprotein E knockout mouse.⁶ Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) is a protein involved in cholesterol metabolism, and the ApoE knockout mouse is a commonly used model of atherosclerosis since it spontaneously develops it.
Diabetic mice have also shown improvement in cardiometabolic health following long-term drinking of H2-rich water. Their obesity index, hyperglycemia, and plasma triglycerides were all improved, and these are all very relevant modifiable cardiovascular risk factors.⁷
Building on promising results in animal models, a recently published study showed the results of a trial where men and women with metabolic syndrome underwent a 24-week administration of high-concentration hydrogen-rich water (> 5.5. millimoles of H2 per day). The high-concentration HRW used in this study was prepared via hydrogen-producing tablets from Drink HRW. Read our breakdown of the study.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by various medical conditions, including visceral obesity, hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Uncontrolled metabolic syndrome increases the risk of cardiovascular disease because the risk factors that are associated with metabolic syndrome play causative roles in the development of atherosclerosis, which further leads to coronary artery disease, stroke, and myocardial infarction.
In this study, they found that a 24-week intervention with high-concentration HRW improved several biomarkers of cardiometabolic health in middle-aged men and women with metabolic syndrome.⁸ For example, it significantly reduced blood cholesterol and glucose levels and improved biomarkers of inflammation and redox homeostasis as compared to the placebo. Furthermore, patients drinking HRW had a mild reduction in body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio. Although further investigation is needed to elucidate the precise biological mechanisms, these results suggest that long-term treatment with high-concentration hydrogen-rich water may be used as a therapeutic modality for reducing risk factors of metabolic syndrome and protecting your heart.
HRW and Radiation-Induced Heart Injury
One of the heart conditions where HRW can provide considerable benefits in terms of protecting your heart is radiation-induced heart injury. Radiation therapy is one of the primary methods used to treat and manage cancer. However, radiotherapy is linked to severe side effects caused by increased ROS and inflammation. Cardiotoxic effects due to radiation exposure are collectively referred to as radiation-induced heart disease (RIHD), and, unfortunately, cardiovascular injury is the most common cause of adverse events among cancer survivors. Several studies showed that H2 reduces oxidative stress and inflammation by reducing the expression of several pro-inflammatory and stress-related mediators. These cellular effects of molecular hydrogen are important in mediating cytoprotection. Many animal studies supported the use of molecular hydrogen in clinical practice, leading to successful clinical trials to limit the damages following radiotherapy⁹ and chemotherapy¹⁰ for liver cancer. A pilot trial is currently ongoing for patients receiving radiotherapy for glioma, using HRW produced with Drink HRW tablets,¹¹ and its results will pave the way for the widespread use of HRW to avoid radiation-induced injuries to several organs including the heart.
HRW and Heart Transplant
For conditions such as heart failure, where the heart is no longer able to meet the body’s need in terms of blood supply, cardiac transplant is still the only disease-modifying treatment. However, the most recent data from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation database demonstrated that 10‐year survival after a cardiac transplant remains approximately 50% for a number of reasons. One of the most common problems is graft injury as a result of oxidation and tissue inflammation. Graft injury can lead to rejection and vasculopathy, accounting for 30% of deaths among patients who survive longer than 1 year post-transplant.
In a rat model, drinking HRW has been shown to protect kidney allografts from chronic rejection. It does this by inhibiting inflammation.¹² Similarly, beneficial results in terms of reduced inflammation were also seen in vein grafts.¹³ Based on these encouraging results, another rat model was used to investigate the potential of HRW for preventing graft rejection and reducing dangerous side effects such as chronic inflammation post–cardiac transplant. ¹⁴ First, the results showed that oral intake of hydrogen‐rich water led to elevated blood hydrogen levels, confirming that the oral intake of hydrogen‐rich water is an efficient and safe mode of delivery for molecular hydrogen. Then, the researchers saw that the survival of cardiac allografts was better in rats drinking HRW daily. Overall, HRW reduced oxidative injury and decreased the activation of pro-inflammatory molecules, which usually contribute to transplant pathology.
This study demonstrated that the addition of HRW to post-transplant therapeutic regimes might protect the allografts and improve health for transplant recipients. One of the main advantages here is that, as already discussed, supplementation of drinking water with hydrogen is safe and cost-effective and could easily be added to the therapeutic regime without changing the lifestyle of the patients.
Conclusions on Protecting Your Heart With Hydrogen Water
To conclude, it is known that excessive production of free radicals is a mediator of many cardiovascular disorders like ischemia/reperfusion injury and graft injury post–heart transplantation, as well as radiation-induced heart disease. It is, therefore, necessary to develop new approaches for an effective and safe reduction of excessive ROS levels. It has also been shown that HRW has a cardioprotective effect by limiting the formation of the atherosclerotic plaque, and it could be used to modify CVD risk factors in individuals with metabolic syndrome.
Molecular hydrogen can be administered in several ways. HRW products can either be ready-to-drink products in a bottle or a can or on-demand products, including reactive tablets and machines to create HRW. Hydrogen inhalation is another common approach, as is injection of hydrogen-rich saline.
Although further research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms of action of molecular hydrogen, these promising results, combined with its ease of administration, pave the way for its widespread use in heart protection in the clinic.¹⁵