While some non-modifiable factors contribute to cardiovascular disease risk, most people can decrease their risk by following a heart-healthy diet. A top-quality vitamin and mineral supplement can also help provide the nutrients needed to support cardiovascular health.
The best way to protect your heart is through regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and healthy oils, not smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol intake, and limiting salt.
Nutritional Supplements for Cardiovascular Health
While the primary source of vitamins should be from a healthy, whole-food diet, many people take nutritional supplements to help fill in any gaps. These supplements can be an excellent way to address specific deficiencies contributing to heart disease risk factors, such as iron or vitamin D.
Antioxidant supplements are also frequently recommended for heart health because they can reduce oxidative stress linked to cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. However, results from studies examining the benefits of antioxidant supplements have been inconsistent, and they have yet to be widely adopted in preventive cardiology.
Exploring supplements for cardiovascular health allows individuals to consider additional measures that can complement a balanced diet and regular exercise, potentially supporting heart health and overall well-being.
Most nutrients humans require can be obtained without supplements if they follow a well-rounded diet full of nutritious grains, fruits, and vegetables. If you do decide to supplement, be sure to discuss it with your physician first.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
“Healthy” fats called omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of coronary heart disease, a disorder where the arteries accumulate plaque and inhibit or completely stop blood flow to the heart. Another significant risk factor for heart disease is high triglyceride levels, which omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease.
Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish, such as salmon, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are tuna, mackerel, and sardines. and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
A found that taking one g/day of long-chain Omega-3 PUFAs significantly reduced serum triglyceride levels and somewhat lowered the incidence of incidents related to coronary heart disease and death but didn’t affect other cardiovascular outcomes such as stroke or arrhythmia.
Vitamin C’s roles as an antioxidant and enzyme cofactor have long been recognized. However, major randomized clinical trials have not demonstrated cardiovascular benefits from vitamin C supplementation.
Multiple extensive cohort studies have suggested that higher levels of vitamin C in plasma may be linked to a lower heart disease risk. The prospectively examined 20,000 men and women separated into gender-specific plasma ascorbic acid quintiles. After four years of follow-up, the results indicated that higher dietary and supplemental vitamin C intakes were inversely associated with all-cause and ischemic heart disease mortality.
Additionally, two randomization studies found that a functional variant of the haptoglobin gene, Hp2-2, is linked to a higher chance of experiencing problems from diabetic vascular disease. While these results suggest that vitamin C can influence certain single elements of CVD risk, more comprehensive approaches are needed to optimize heart health.
Studies using observational data have revealed that increased vitamin E intakes may be associated with reduced rates of atherosclerosis. The nutrient inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is a critical step in initiating atherosclerosis. It might also stop blood clots from forming, preventing heart attacks and strokes.
One epidemiological study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, found that men who consumed the highest quintile of vitamin E had a 41% lower risk of developing coronary disease than those who consumed the most down. A similar reduction in risk was seen for nonfatal heart attack and stroke.
However, many scientists quickly point out that these observational dietary studies do not support large, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials, generally considered the “gold standard” of evidence for cause and effect.
Although vitamins C and D usually get the spotlight, another lesser-known vitamin is vital to heart health: vitamin K. This nutrient plays an essential role in producing Matrix Gla proteins that prevent calcification of arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin K1 is found mainly in green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils, and vitamin K2 is present in meat, eggs, and fermented foods such as cheese. Researchers found that people who consumed a high amount of vitamin K1 and K2 had a lower risk for hospitalization from cardiovascular disease caused by atherosclerosis, including ischemic heart disease and peripheral artery disease.
As with all supplements, consult a physician before increasing your intake of vitamin K-rich foods, and check with your pharmacist for drug interactions.