Nutrition Articles

Supplements for a Healthy Heart

Do Supplements Really Help Your Heart?

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B Vitamins: Folic Acid, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin B-12
The B-complex vitamins, which include folic acid, help keep your nerves and red blood cells healthy and strong. They are also involved in the metabolism (and reduction) of homocysteine, an amino acid that, when elevated, is linked to heart disease, blood clots, heart attack and strokes.

Several controlled research studies indicate that a combination of vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, and folic acid can decrease homocysteine levels; but other studies have shown no benefit in reducing the risk of heart disease. Therefore, the American Heart Association has concluded that there isn't enough evidence to say that B-vitamin supplementation reduces cardiovascular risk.

It is important to work with your physician before taking B-complex vitamin supplements to improve heart health.

Baby Aspirin
This little over-the-counter pain reliever has been shown to have some great heart-healthy benefits as well. Aspirin interferes with your body’s blood clotting ability. For someone with narrowed blood vessels, a decrease in blood clotting may help to prevent a blockage and thus prevent a heart attack or stroke. To determine if you would benefit from taking an aspirin daily, talk to your doctor first about usage and dosage. If you have already had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor has probably already discussed this treatment option.

If you have strong risk factors for heart disease, you may also benefit from taking a baby aspirin daily. There is no standard dosage for aspirin usage and heart health: It can range from 75-325 milligrams. A baby aspirin (81 mg) is often prescribed. Some medical conditions such as bleeding disorders, asthma, stomach ulcer, or heart failure could become more dangerous if a baby aspirin was consumed daily. Aspirin can also interfere with certain medications, herbal supplements and dietary supplements, too, so talk to your doctor first.

Calcium
The mineral calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth, but the heart, nerves, and blood-clotting systems also need calcium to work properly.

In people with high blood pressure (hypertension), calcium supplementation appears to have a modest effect by lowering systolic blood pressure by 2–4 mmHg, but it appears to have little effect in people with normal blood pressure. Calcium seems to be most effective in salt-sensitive people and people who normally get very little calcium in their diet.

For people with high cholesterol, taking calcium supplements along with a heart healthy diet may modestly reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol by 4.4% and increase HDL "good" cholesterol by 4.1%. Taking calcium alone, without the heart healthy diet, does not seem to lower cholesterol.

Other studies suggest that simply eating a calcium-rich diet (not supplementing it) can improve heart health. Research has shown that individuals who eat a vegetarian diet that is high in minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium) and fiber, and low in fat tend to have lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease. Similarly, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study was conducted to test the effects of three different eating patterns on blood pressure: the "typical" American diet; a diet high in fruits and vegetables; and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, now known as the DASH diet. The third group experienced the greatest reduction in blood pressure among the three groups, which signals that dietary calcium plays an important role in heart health.

A heart-healthy goal for calcium intake is to consume at least 1,000-1,200 milligrams daily. Determine how much calcium you are getting daily through your diet (tracking your food on SparkPeople's free Nutrition Tracker will do the math for you!) and then add a supplement to meet the remaining amount, if necessary.

Coenzyme Q-10
Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) is a vitamin-like substance found throughout the body, especially in the cells of the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is involved in generating energy, cell respiration and cell transport. It occurs naturally (in small amounts) in meats and seafood, but can also be made in a laboratory for medicinal and supplementation purposes.

Preliminary research indicates that Coenzyme Q-10 supplementation MAY:
  • Reduce blood pressure enough that people taking medication for hypertension can decrease or discontinue their dosage (under a doctor's care, of course).
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease complications when started within 72 hours of having a heart attack and taken for one year.
  • Help treat congestive heart failure when taken in combination with other heart failure medications and treatments.
  • Improve exercise tolerance in patients with chest pain (angina).
  • Help prevent the muscle pains and liver damage often experience by people using statin drugs.
Work closely with your physician when using or considering this supplement.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I've been loyal to my health supplement and yes, it really helps me boost my health and lifestyle. I guess, we all need it especially we are in the process of creating an improve us, a healthier and happier us! - 7/13/2014 11:15:22 PM
  • There is new scietific evidence that baby aspirins can have a negative effective if you never had a stroke or heart problems before. Affter a stroke baby aspirin can really help! - 5/22/2014 9:17:21 PM
  • TFRANIC88
    I tried a lot of supplements, while trying to overcome heart disease but vitamin D3 and fish oil shown to be among the most effective. Probably because most people don't get enough sun exposure because of their job or they don't consume enough healthy fats, on regular basis.

    Although minerals such as calcium as well as vitamins such as niacin can be useful, from my experience, they are not necessary since these micronutrients can be easily obtained through healthy diet.

    I would also like to point out that few other supplements such as CoQ10 and DIM or 3,3′-Diindo
    lylmethane can help, too. That is, at least they helped me. - 11/16/2013 6:07:04 PM
  • Thanks for sharing. - 10/23/2013 6:18:00 AM
  • It is said that if you take a statin drug, then a CoQ10 supplement is a MUST. CoQ10 helps to prevent the serious side effects of the statins, some of which can be permanent.

    I had a surprise benefit from a high-EPA Omega-3 supplement. My vision got brighter! And it happened within only a couple of days of starting it.

    My eyes in general have improved over the last couple of years. I can change focus distance more easily now, and I can see better in the dark. (My work requires that I write in dark theaters, so this was very welcome.) Since I take several supplements, it would be difficult to say which one was responsible for these improvements. These changes were very recent, so it may be due to the lypo-C supplements I've been taking for 5 or 6 months now. But, as I said, I can't be sure about that. - 10/21/2013 11:37:33 AM
  • AGATES8
    Of course we need supplements and can trust their claims!!!! - 10/18/2013 9:31:48 PM
  • TWEITZY
    There has never been a single study showing that we can get OPTIMUM nutrient levels from food. NOT ONE!
    Secondly, our food supply is getting more and more depleted of nutrients due to increased use of pesticides and modern farming methods.
    A really good source of information on supplements is Life Extension Foundation (lef.org) - 10/18/2013 4:12:59 PM
  • RON10BAX
    How do we know what is in our suppliment. ? Is there any reliable source to verify? - 10/18/2013 4:58:21 AM
  • This article has all of the hallmark of what is contemporary and alive in the current research and vitamin sales literature. This is helpful for all of us overwhelmed by concern for our health and the maintenance of good health. - 1/4/2013 3:59:14 PM
  • One can tell by reading the comments here that people will believe what they want to believe.
    I do take a vitamin, calcium and a couple others and my doctors are aware of everything I take. I always heard that if we eat a healthy diet, we are headed in the right direction! - 12/9/2012 7:42:18 PM
  • MSHERER1622
    As someone with metabolic syndrome, I'm particularly interested in L-Arginine, Quercetin and Rutin. L-Arginine is an amino acid that stimulates NO uptake, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation. Quercetin and Rutin are antioxidants/flav
    inols that are cardioprotective and reduce inflammation. Lots of articles on them in PubMed, so there's clearly interest from the medical research community. - 12/9/2012 5:02:36 PM
  • STANKORANCH
    Re: new research. Research from Penn State published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last year about this time. The study used rigorously designed research--A randomized Controlled Clinical Intervention Trial- to investigate the effects of cholesterol-lower
    ing diets; The Healthy American Diet, The Dash Diet, The Bold Diet and the Bold Plus Diet. The main difference between the Dash Diet and the Bold and Bold Plus diets is the source of protein; Dash uses white meat and plant protein sources while the Bold and Bold Plus diet use lean beef as the main source of protein. Both the Bold Diet and teh Bold Plus Diets allow for slighly more % of protein; Dash 18 %, Bold 19 % and Bold Plus 27%. Bottom line: The Bold and Bold Plus diets were just as effective as the Dash Diet in reducint LDL over a 5 week period. The key is to use one of the 29 lean cuts of beef which range in fat content between a boneless skinless chicken breast and boneless skinless chicken thigh. Just a 3 oz serving of lean beef provides less that 10% of your daily calories while providing more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients. excellent source of protein, zinc, vitamin b 12, vitamin b 6, niacin and selenium and good source of phosphorous, choline, iron and riboflavin. - 12/9/2012 11:53:35 AM
  • I'm a lap band patient so I definitely have to take supplements, but I keep them to a minimum. I take chewable or liquid multivitamins, fiber, calcium, and small fish oil and vitamin D (those 2 on doctors orders). - 12/9/2012 9:16:01 AM
  • I try to stay up with current nutritional studies (not that I am an expert by any means) and thought that the article was very useful as a starting point for the general audience. That said, we much recognize that each of us is unique, with individual differences and needs. Therefore, for example, although it may be generally advisable for most people to avoid supplementing with selenium, if one has a deficiency, then supplementation might be advisable. I am over 65 years old and am very careful to eat a well balanced diet. However, I have, for the past 5 years, had several vitamin deficiencies and do supplement as needed. My physician checks every 3-6 months and we adjust accordingly. - 12/9/2012 9:08:37 AM
  • INNERPEACE4LIFE
    I am a master herbalist as well as a nurse. What is really sad and frightening is the power given to doctors to prescribe chemicals that are deadly. You would never voice the same questions or opinons to your doctor. - 12/9/2012 7:45:11 AM

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