Heart Health Formula Vitamins — Are They Good For You?
Are “heart-healthy” vitamin formulations a good idea? Learn the truth from a preventive cardiologist.
There are a lot of vitamins out there that claim to promote heart health. So it’s no surprise that people are wondering if they should begin taking them or switch from their usual multivitamin to one that claims to offer cardiac benefits.
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According to preventive cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD, one of the most common questions patients ask is whether there are vitamins or other supplements they can take for a healthy heart. Yet there is no evidence-based data supporting that using vitamin supplements protects your heart.
“Supplement manufacturers do a good job selling the idea of health in general, but so-called heart health vitamins are not tested for efficacy,” Dr. Cho says.
“While many companies market multivitamins that are said to be formulated for heart health or other conditions, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not evaluated these claims,” she says.
Although research hasn’t shown that the nutrients found in heart health- formulated vitamins and supplements help prevent heart disease, there’s still some good news if you want to take care of your heart.
Eating heart-healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, along with other elements like fiber and water, already give you the nutrients you need for healthy heart function — which are also essential to your overall health.
“A healthy diet and regular exercise is still the most proven way you can take care of your heart,” Dr. Cho explains.
You should always talk with your doctor if you’re considering adding vitamins or supplements to your routine for any reason. While some vitamins may not be harmful, some may carry risks associated with heart function.
Vitamin C for example may not harm your heart and can be taken to support other aspects of your health. It does not offer any particular benefits for hearth health, however.
On the other hand, it’s important to know that vitamin E can actually increase the risk of heart failure and stroke for some people. “Patients who are under medical care for heart-related health issues are strongly discouraged from using vitamin E,” Dr. Cho says.
Potential risks of vitamin D are still being researched. Dr. Cho says that only those with very low levels should consider supplementation.
Other types of supplements like those made with animal thyroid may also be dangerous in certain circumstances. They can interact with heart medicines and cause unwanted effects such as rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure or increased bleeding.
“Don’t take chances with your heart and make sure to run anything by your doctor that you plan to put into your body,” Dr. Cho advises.
If you’re already prescribed heart medication you may also be wondering if it’s a good idea to replace your medication with a vitamin that promotes heart health instead.
The answer here is also a strong no. While it’s true that some ingredients included in heart-formulated vitamins such as phytosterols (plant sterols) have been shown to lower cholesterol it would take large amounts of these ingredients to provide this benefit.
In addition, a number of supplement products available over the counter that are touted for their “cholesterol-lowering” ability can cause serious liver damage.
“This is why you also can’t rely on supplements to do what the medications prescribed by your doctor can do,” Dr. Cho emphasizes.
“Phytosterols are much weaker than the statin drugs that are routinely used to treat high cholesterol, so it’s important that you don’t stop taking any medications your physician prescribes thinking that heart-formula vitamins will do the job,” she says.
To stay on track for optimum heart health, the prescription is clear. Maintain a healthy diet, take your prescribed medications, and follow the advice of your physician.
“If you’d like to supplement your diet it’s generally fine to choose one of these heart-formulated multivitamins to use as your regular multivitamin,” Dr. Cho says. “Just make sure you don’t short-change your health by neglecting nutrient-rich foods, exercise and your prescribed medication by relying on supplements,” she says.