Although some older research initially observed favorable effects from vitamin E in preventing blood clots and preventing build-up of plaque on blood vessel walls, many recent studies have found no heart protection from either vitamin E or C supplements. Supplements of vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene are not recommended.
B Vitamins (Folic Acid). Deficiencies in the B vitamins folate (known also as folic acid), B6, and B12 have been associated with a higher risk for heart disease in some studies. Such deficiencies produce higher blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been associated with a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.
While major studies have indicated that B vitamin supplements help lower homocysteine levels, they do not protect against heart disease, stroke, or dementia (memory loss). Some researchers think that homocysteine may be a marker for heart disease rather than a cause of it.
|Click the icon to see an image of sources of folate.|
|Click the icon to see an image of sources of B12.|
Vitamin D. Vitamin D, in addition to promoting bone health, may also be important for heart health. In studies, people who were vitamin D deficient appeared to have an increased risk for heart-related deaths. Other studies have suggested that children and adolescents who have low blood levels of vitamin D may be at increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. More research is needed.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), egg yolks, liver, and vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice, or cereals. Sunlight is also an important source of vitamin D. However, many Americans do not get enough vitamin D solely from diet or exposure to sunlight and may require supplements.
At this time, there is no standard recommendation for whether people should take vitamin D supplements for heart health, or at what dosages. Many doctors recommend that for bone and overall health, children and teenagers should get at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily, adults under age 50 should get 400 - 800 IU daily, and adults over age 50 should get 800 - 1,000 IU daily.
Potassium. A potassium-rich diet can provide a small reduction in blood pressure. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, oranges, pears, prunes, cantaloupes, tomatoes, dried peas and beans, nuts, potatoes, and avocados. Potassium supplements should not be taken by patients without checking with your doctor first. For those using potassium-sparing diuretics (such as spironolactone), or have chronic kidney problems, potassium supplements may be very dangerous.
Magnesium. Some studies suggest that magnesium supplements may cause small but significant reductions in blood pressure. However, a clinically significant benefit on blood pressure has not yet been proven. The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 320 mg. People who live in soft water areas, who use diuretics, or who have other risk factors for magnesium loss may require more dietary magnesium than others.
Calcium. Calcium regulates the tone of the smooth muscles lining blood vessels. Studies have found that people who consume enough dietary calcium on a daily basis have lower blood pressure than those who do not. The effects of extra calcium on blood pressure, however, are mixed, with some studies showing higher pressure with calcium supplementation. . Some studies have indicated that calcium supplements do not have much effect on preventing heart disease.
|Click the icon to see an image of sources of calcium.|
Review Date: 04/02/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.