Are vitamins and supplements good for the heart? While debate still remains for some types of supplements, this post will describe vitamins and supplements that have a lot of research to back them up. The research described here is supportive of overall cardiovascular health. Here are the best to look for in the year 2020.
Table of Contents
Do You Need Supplements For Your Heart?
Natural heart health begins with providing the heart with the nutrients it needs to perform optimally. Your need for supplements depends on many factors and what you are trying to achieve.
Will supplements make you live forever? No. Nothing will.
Will supplements make you live better? Yes. The right ones will.
Do you want to feel your best? Then you do likely want to consider supplements for your heart. Unfortunately, research studies usually don’t focus on feeling better. But, I bet you do.
Another consideration about supplements: if you wait to protect your heart with supplements until you have a health issue, your window for the prevention of heart disease is closed.
It is so much easier to prevent heart disease than to reverse the process once it develops. Prevention is notoriously impossible to measure in research studies.
Patiently Wait for a Heart Problem?
If you wait for a heart attack, you have waited too long to protect your heart with lifestyle changes.
Even if you have had a heart problem, adopting a healthy lifestyle with key supplements for the heart can go a long way to keeping your health and vitality at its best.
Your body will thank you for taking care of it.
Experts know that the development of heart disease starts when you are young. That means that it slowly progresses due to oxidative stress, poor diet, processed foods, chronic stress, lack of exercise, and more.
The tipping point is often a heart attack or stroke.
Think about the heart as a pump.
Every split second, the heart relies on nutrients to pump. Think potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other electrolytes, as an example. Your heart muscle requires B-vitamins like thiamine to provide the myocardium with energy.
Did you know that vitamin D is required by the heart muscles in order to use electrolytes correctly? As you can imagine, if you are vitamin D deficient, your risk of heart rhythm problems rises [R].
What about Food Sources of Vitamins?
Some might argue, “I can get enough nutrition from my food.” The better argument might be, ARE you getting enough?
If you have to think a lot about the answer to the question, you probably aren’t.
You certainly should try to get nutrients in your foods, primarily.
For best heart health, however, your diet is often not enough. We all know that with the industrial food supply and ultra-processed foods, it becomes more and more difficult to get high-nutrient foods [R].
Starting on a routine of great preventive supplements may go a long way to keep your arteries healthy AND keep you young at heart.
High-quality supplements may provide heart protection
Keep in mind, the root cause of heart disease is often inflammation, which drives an increase in arterial plaque [R].
Lack of nutrients and antioxidants can drive up inflammation in the body and cause the blood vessels to function poorly. Supplements can help boost booth nutrients and antioxidants if chosen correctly.
Note: always combine supplements with a healthy diet and lifestyle, as these are the biggest factors for keeping your heart pump healthy.
Vitamins Good for the Heart
When buying supplements, you absolutely must become a label reader.
This is because some forms and brands will not be the best.
Some may also contain unknown substances that aren’t good for your health.
List of supplements that support heart health:
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin K2
- Coenzyme Q10
- Omega 3’s
- Vitamin C
Other beneficial vitamins include:
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Folate (vitamin B9)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Other B-vitamins
Herbs and foods that may help heart health:
- Medicinal Mushrooms
1. Vitamin D3
Four really important functions of vitamin D3 for heart health have been proven. Here is a synopsis of those functions:
- Plays a central role in making the hormone called calcitriol, which helps prevent calcification of arteries in proper doses.
- Reduces inflammation in the body and helps restore the function of the arteries in the body.
- Helps restore the function of the arterial wall called the endothelium.
- At least 18 studies, as reviewed by The Vitamin D Council, have shown that vitamin D3 improves the quality of life.
This means that vitamin D3 makes people feel better and function better. If you live north of 40 degrees latitude, you are almost guaranteed to be low in vitamin D3 if you don’t supplement.
Vitamin D3 Doses
Clinical studies use doses in the range of 2000 IU to 10,000 IU per day.
While these doses may seem like a lot, a summer day in the sun can easily give you this much vitamin D3. Check with your doctor before taking higher doses of vitamin D3.
2. Vitamin K2
Heart health supplement routines should contain both vitamin D3 AND vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 work well together for heart health and what’s more important: they are two nutrients that are VERY deficient most likely if you aren’t supplementing them.
Vitamin K2 reduces the risk of calcification in the artery wall. This is helpful for heart health because calcification increases plaque and narrowing of the arteries.
This atherosclerosis increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and more. One clinic study was a 3-year double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of supplemental vitamin K2 as MenaQ7 at a daily dosage of 180 micrograms per day. At this dose, vitamin K2 reduced arterial stiffness. This is definitely good because your arteries should be flexible and dynamic.
One more reason vitamin K2 should be part of your heart health supplements:
Statin cholesterol drugs rob the body of vitamin K2 as well by reducing its metabolism in the body.
This is important to remember if you are on cholesterol-lowering medication. It may explain, in part, why patients who take cholesterol drugs still get arterial plaque and calcification in the artery wall.
Vitamin K2 Dosages
Clinical studies use:
- 45 micrograms per day in children
- 180 micrograms per day for healthy adults
Always check with your doctor if you are on blood-thinning medications before starting vitamin K2. Otherwise, vitamin K2 is safe and no known toxicity or side effects have been observed.
As you may recall, B vitamins are involved in heart health because they help provide energy to the heart muscle tissue. Supplements of various B vitamins have proven beneficial for heart health. Here is the research about B vitamins that we have so far.
Thiamine (vitamin B1) is thought to be a rare deficiency. However, consider this: many medications for the heart, including loop diuretics, deplete the body of thiamine, which may further worsen heart conditions like heart failure.
A review study of thiamine supplementation concluded that thiamine may improve functional parameters in the heart, including left ventricular ejection fraction [R].
Alcohol is notorious for depleting thiamine as well. If you imbibe often you may be low in thiamine, and this can be hard on the heart.
Do you crash diet or remain underweight? You also may be low in thiamine.
No known toxicity of thiamine has ever been found, so thiamine is very safe. People supplement up to 300 milligrams per day of thiamine safely.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Another nutrient that may help the heart is called riboflavin.
With similar roles in the body, riboflavin deficiency was found to be quite common among children with congestive heart failure [R].
The same is true of adults with heart failure [R].
Like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 is also robbed by common medications like diuretics, alcohol, and poor diets.
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin is often taken in combination with other B vitamins. Like thiamine, it is a very safe nutrient with no known toxicity. Doses up to 75 mg have been used safely on a daily basis.
Niacin (vitamin B3)
Niacin is now in the spotlight again for health benefits. Recent research shows that niacin, particularly NAD, may reduce aging processes in the body. The use of niacin supplements also reduces heart issues, according to a meta-analysis of 7 trials [R]. These issues include:
- coronary artery revascularization
- nonfatal myocardial infarction
Like thiamine and riboflavin, niacin helps provide energy to the heart muscle. Pre-clinical studies show that niacin reduces heart issues in a mouse model of heart failure [R].
5 main types of niacin are available as supplements:
- Nicotinic acid
- Inositol hexanicotinate
- Nicotinamide riboside
Nicotinamide riboside and NAD, a form of niacin, are safe at high doses in humans [R].
Various studies have used high doses of nicotinic acid, 1 gram 3 times daily, of the immediate release form, is used in schizophrenia patients.
Slow or timed-release release niacin should be avoided at high doses because they are more likely to cause liver damage.
Keep in mind, that niacin can cause flushing. While uncomfortable, there is no risk to this condition. It usually dissipates if you keep taking niacin for 3 or more days.
Do not take high doses of niacin unless under the supervision of your doctor.
Folate (vitamin B9)
Next to vitamin B12, folate is the most common B vitamin deficiency.
Folate improves the artery wall or endothelial function by acting as an antioxidant in the blood vessels. Folate also improves nitric oxide metabolism and reduces inflammatory compounds like homocysteine in the blood.
Supplemental folic acid reduced the risk of both cardiovascular disease and stroke in a large meta-analysis study [R].
Most folate experts now recommend methyl folate over folic acid because of its higher bioavailability, is less likely to mask a B12 deficiency, and is better than folic acid for people with gene polymorphisms in the MTHFR gene [R].
Doses used for heart health are typically around 1 mg per day of methyl folate. Some people still use folic acid, but the natural form of folate is likely safer and more effective.
4. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 supplements are helpful as a heart health supplement.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), or ubiquinol, is a potent antioxidant that helps protect neurons and heart muscle cells.
Most CoQ10 is made within the body, but it’s a very finicky substance.
If your diet isn’t pristine, you won’t make enough of it. Another reason you need coqQ10 supplements may be that you are on cholesterol medications called statins.
Statins are notorious for robbing the body of this critical nutrient. They also deplete another critical heart nutrient: vitamin K2.
The difference is: it is common practice for doctors to recommend CoQ10 supplementation for patients on statins; no such recommendation is being made regarding Vitamin K2.
Patients after heart surgery recovered quicker when taking coenzyme Q10 before their operations. Verdict: CoQ10 is a safe heart health supplement that may help you get energy.
Coenzyme Q10 Doses
For heart health, most studies use doses of coenzyme q10 between 100-400 mg per day.
Magnesium is a powerful mineral that plays a tremendous role in benefiting the whole body, including the heart. Most people aren’t eating enough magnesium-rich foods, including green vegetables and seeds. How does magnesium work for heart health?
- Help keep heart rhythm normal, reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease, reduce blood pressure, and reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.
- Improves sleep quality
- Maximize glucose metabolism
Heart patients perform better on exercise tests after supplementing magnesium as well. Many people benefit from taking magnesium supplements for these reasons. My favorite forms of magnesium supplements are magnesium glycinate, magnesium, chloride, magnesium malate, and dimagnesium malate.
Start with a low dose, such as 100-200 mg per day, and work your way up if you need to.
Side effects: magnesium has a laxative effect if you get too much.
6. Omega 3
Omega 3 deficiency is common. Why? The best source of omega-3 fats is wild-caught fish, especially fatty fish like sardines. Research suggests that the ratios of omega-3 intakes are lower than ever in the typical American diet.
Fish oil supplements are the primary supplement for omega 3’s. What does fish oil do in our bodies?
- Protect the heart from inflammation
- Reduce the stickiness of platelets
- Reduce triglycerides and blood pressure
If you don’t eat fish at least 2-4 times a week (be honest with yourself) you are likely low in omega 3’s. While omega 3’s reduce inflammation, they don’t have the potential to reduce calcification like vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 have.
Recent research suggests that high-dose omega-3 supplementation reduces the chances of fatal heart attacks and strokes by 25% over and above the benefit of cholesterol medications.
In this study, they used omega EPA only. Other studies show the benefits of both omega DHA and EPA.
Plant sources are available as well. Look for plant sources of DHA and EPA. Linolenic acid is an omega 3 from plants, but it isn’t easily converted into the active form of omega 3 in the body.
Omega 3 Doses
Clinical studies use omega 3 doses of 100 mg all the way up to 4000 mg per day.
People with the highest intake of zinc have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. This is especially true for people who have diabetes [R]. Low zinc levels in the blood also predict an increased risk of coronary heart disease [R].
Most people don’t realize that zinc isn’t just for immunity; it functions as an antioxidant in the body and plays a role in the metabolism and production of insulin. It also may help protect from autoimmune diseases and these are known to amp up heart disease risk.
Zinc also does this: reduces DNA damage in the body.
While we don’t know if zinc supplements reduce your risk of a heart attack, they certainly may support your vascular health and immunity.
Zinc is always best tolerated when taken with food, especially protein.
Many people may benefit from supplemental zinc, but it is always best when taken in balance with other minerals and nutrients. Doses should be moderate to avoid depletion of copper.
Typical doses used in supplements are 10-20 mg per day.
8. Herbs for Heart Disease
Herbs can be useful to add to your healthy lifestyle.
I like to think of medicinal herbs and medicinal mushrooms as intelligent in our body, by helping correct imbalances and targeting what is needed. The herbs I list below are generally safe, but should always be reviewed with your healthcare provider.
Herbs can help regulate and balance. The most popular herbs for heart disease include:
- Hawthorne berries-increase blood flow to the heart and improves outcomes in heart failure patients [R]
- Garlic–reduces blood pressure
- Berberine-reduces blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol [R]
- Tulsi-supports weight loss, and glucose management, and reduces inflammation and asthma symptoms [R]
- Turmeric-reduces inflammation in the body
- Medicinal mushrooms–by balancing immunity and possibly lowering cholesterol, medicinal mushrooms support heart health.
- Resveratrol– has anti-aging effects, may reduce blood glucose, and blood pressure, supports healthy artery function, decreases arterial stiffness, and more [R].
Children’s Heart Health Supplements
Supplements listed in this blog are generally safe. While safe for healthy people, some supplements interact with blood-thinning and other medications. Always check with your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplement routine.
Heart health supplements help keep your body and heart strong and resilient. The supplements listed above all help get to the root cause of heart disease. Some supplements help treat vitamin deficiencies that are common today. Make sure to also eat a healthy diet to achieve the best heart health.
I know how challenging it can be to comb the vitamin supplement shelves and not know what to look for, so I am providing what I hope will be a useful product guide.
The following products I researched all have Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)-certified), contain patented forms of vitamin K2, and are all GMO-free.
Purethera Vegan D3 & K2 An ample dose of both vitamin D3 and K2 are in this gem of a supplement.
It contains Vitamin D3 as Vegan Cholecalciferol from Lichen 5,000 IU, Vitamin K2 680 mcg as MK-4 (Menatetrenone), 500 mcg, and vitamin K2 MK-7 (MenaQ7® as Menaquinone-7), 180 mcg.
Carlson’s Super Daily D3 & K2 A single drop contains Vitamin D3 2000 IU and Vitamin K2 MK-7 45 mcg (MenaQ7® as Menaquinone-7). I love this one because it is easy to take, no pills, and can work for just about anyone.
Now Mega D3 Mk-7 This supplement contains a good ratio of Vitamin D3 (5000 IU) and Vitamin K2 (180 mcg as MenaQ7®).
Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil + K2 Per small capsule, contains omega 3’s (375 mg EPA, 125 mg DHA, 30 mg other Omega 3s), and vitamin D3 2000 IU, vitamin K2 80 (MenaQ7® as Menaquinone-7), I like this one because it is a liquid gelcap that is easy to swallow.
Citadel Nutrition Athlete Vitamin This one has a higher vitamin K2 ratio than the previous supplements. I also love that it contains 3 minerals including a good amount of magnesium, calcium, and zinc: It has vitamin D3 2000 IU (cholecalciferol), vitamin K1 500 mcg, vitamin K2 200 mcg (MenaQ7® as Menaquinone-7), calcium citrate 500 mg, magnesium citrate 400 mg, and zinc citrate 25 mg.
A multivitamin/mineral combination that I like is called Healthy Cell AM/PM.
This is a comprehensive and natural multivitamin and mineral combination. It has vitamin K2 80 mcg (MenaQ7® as Menaquinone-7), vitamin D3 1000 IU, magnesium 40 mg, many trace minerals, and naturally-derived folate.
The information in this post is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. It is not meant to replace your health or meal plan unless under the supervision of your medical doctor or healthcare provider.
Questions or comments? Reach out to me at The Healthy RD contact page
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
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