Are Dietary Supplements Good for Your Heart?
Dietary supplements are an ever-growing part of the American consciousness. We’ve all heard the ads and seen the articles written about the amazing benefits of certain supplements. As our collective health has deteriorated, we look for ways to keep our bodies a little bit healthier. Supplements seem to be a quick and easy way to make that happen.
Interestingly, the multibillion-dollar supplement industry remains largely unregulated by the FDA. This is baffling. So, at least for now, we must rely on our own research and clinical studies to evaluate the potential benefits and risks of the various supplements available.
Which Supplements Have Proven Benefits?
For most, there are certain supplements that offer a great deal of benefit without much risk. However, the key to taking supplements is ensuring that you need them. Any of the supplements mentioned below should only be taken after a vitamin panel (blood test) has been reviewed by your primary care physician or cardiologist here at Huntington Heart to determine if you have a deficiency.
Vitamin D allows the body to absorb calcium, can help with circulation and can improve mood. There is also an association between low vitamin D and various heart issues. Most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. Modern work and play lifestyles, along with consciousness about skin cancer, means that the ultraviolet rays required to synthesize vitamin D in our bodies are either avoided or blocked. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will likely have you take D3 supplements which are easily absorbed by the body and are very effective. But do they strengthen the heart? Unfortunately, we don’t have any data to show a definite benefit – but research continues.
B vitamins are important nutrients that provides several benefits to physical and psychological health. Vitamins B6 and B12 have been shown to control homocysteine, a common amino acid in your body. Unfortunately, as with vitamin D, many Americans are severely deficient and have serious consequences as a result. Vitamin B12 levels can be determined with a very simple vitamin panel as part of your next blood test. Vitamin B12 supplementation is often delivered orally. For more serious deficiencies, or for those who cannot absorb vitamin B12 orally, a periodic B12 injection may be an acceptable option. Once again, however, Vitamin B12 supplementation has not yet been proven to prevent heart disease.
Iron levels, along with vitamin B12, are critical to avoid cardiovascular disease and anemia. Iron is readily available in many foods, especially red meat. Iron deficiency is most often managed with a modification in diet and less so with supplementation as it is easy to get too much iron.
Of course, there are many more vitamins and minerals that affect heart health in one way or another. Speak to your doctor about how to best manage any deficiencies they find.
The bottom line? It seems that deficiencies in many vitamins and minerals are associated with heart disease. However, we don’t yet have the knowledge to prove which supplements or combination of supplements offer concrete heart benefits. Further research will see.