Nutrients for heart health


By Julie Riggs, MEd, RD, LD

Multivitamins: No one knows how important it is to take a quality, high-potency multivitamin every day, not only for heart health, but total body health as well. What is high-potency? You will have to look at the fine print on the label. If the multivitamin provides at least 20 mg of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, the other vitamins will likely be in appropriate amounts. You should notice that the amounts of these other vitamins are 400 percent higher than the Daily Value (or RDA), (this only means 4 times higher than the recommended amount, not 400 times higher). I believe this extra amount is greatly needed since so many Americans are lacking in proper food intake, and the official government recommendations are too low for optimal health.

Vitamin E: Is a biologically active, fat-soluble antioxidant found working within our blood plasma and cell membranes. The body cannot make it’s own Vitamin E, so it must be obtained from the diet or through supplementation. It’s the principal fat soluble antioxidant in the body and, as such, helps prevent the dangerous oxidation of cholesterol. It also has recently proven to significantly reduce the risk of serious blood clots in the veins.

B-Complex Vitamins: A high-potency multivitamin should offer adequate amounts of the B vitamins necessary for heart health. When there is an adequate supply in the body, they play an important role in the processing of homocysteine (much like cholesterol and triglycerides) and convert it to more useful substances. Low levels of these B vitamins, particularly folic acid, B6 and B12, can allow the formation of high levels of homocysteine, damaging the heart’s principal arteries and setting the stage for cholesterol deposits. This increases the risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C may have a protective role in preventing heart disease because of its anti-oxidant nature that helps inhibit the development of plaque. As a water-soluble nutrient, vitamin C is the body’s first line of defense and plays a critical role in maintaining anti-oxidant activity. It guards the body against free radical attack, which can lead to cell damage and eventually to possible cancer development. Stress and exposure to the daily environment may lead to insufficient levels of the vitamin, so take this into consideration when supplementing or choosing foods with Vitamin C.

Fish Oils: Fish oils are rich in the omega-3 family of fats, the healthiest family of fats. They can lower levels of triglycerides, a “bad” fat that (like cholesterol) can increase the risk of heart disease. The omega-3s can also function as mild blood thinners and improve blood-vessel flexibility, also known as endothelial function. In addition, the omega-3s can lower the risk of arrhythmias, potentially fatal heart-rhythm abnormalities. Lastly, high levels of fish oil intake were also associated with reduced blood pressure, fasting glucose, and blood triglyceride levels, as well as, lower Body Mass Index.

Vitamin D: Aids in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, both of these nutrients are responsible for proper heart function.

Eating the actual food sources of these nutrients may be the best way to ensure your body is digesting and using the nutrients consumed. Although, pharmaceutical companies and modern supplementation has really improved the bioavailability of it’s products. Taking high-potency multi-vitamins and high quality oils and fats can also be a great alternative to food consumption, for those who cannot or do not eat properly. One way or the other, every person should try to get these specific nutrients daily for proper heart health and a healthy life!

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