An essential part of maintaining your health, heart vitamins contribute to the well-being of your cardiovascular system as well as the rest of your body. Therefore, you have to be sure to include them in your diet to prevent heart disease and the onset of other preventable conditions.
What are heart healthy vitamins?
Of all the essential nutrients that our bodies need on a regular basis, vitamins are perhaps the most researched and well-known. Ever since we were children, we were told of the importance of taking our vitamins. These nutrients help our body perform hundreds of different functions and without them we simply cannot survive.
The ones we discuss here have specific cardiovascular benefits, including preventing heart disease, improving function and assisting in various daily tasks. Let’s take a look at the top vitamins for your heart.
Vitamin K performs many important functions in your body. The most important function related to heart and circulatory health has to do with keeping calcium out of your bloodstream.
When calcium gets deposited or “stuck” inside the walls of your blood vessels, it causes them to harden, stiffen or “calcify”. Vascular calcification is a main component of heart disease. It causes increased blood pressure and also increases the risk of blood clots. Calcium can combine with cholesterol and other fats in the bloodstream. The arterial “plaques” described by doctors are partly composed of calcium.
Vitamin K is something of a traffic director for calcium. The nutrient helps to ensure that calcium is deposited in the bones, not the arteries. Recent studies have shown a link between adequate vitamin K intake and a decreased risk of heart disease. So, this is definitely a vitamin you want to be sure to get enough of every day. Look for a supplement that contains Menaquinone, the form of vitamin K that your body can use.
Recommended daily intake: 180 – 278 mcg per day
Vitamin D deficiencies have become so common that the Canadian government has started recommending supplements for everyone. The US has not gone quite that far yet, even though doctors are seeing more and more health problems related to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplementation has proven to be beneficial in a number of studies. Some of the benefits seen include:
· Reduced blood vessel stiffness
· Improved blood vessel function
· Reduced inflammation
· Increased antioxidant activity in the bloodstream
· Lower blood pressure in people with hypertension
The right form of vitamin D is cholecalciferol or vitamin D3 because it is the form that your body can most easily absorb. Not many supplements contain cholecalciferol. You should look for one that does.
Recommended daily intake: 500 IU per day
The antioxidant activity of vitamin C helps to reduce fat or cholesterol oxidation in your bloodstream. Research indicates that the nutrient helps to lower blood pressure naturally, while lowering cholesterol levels and stimulating immune system activity that helps to repair blood vessels that have been damaged over time.
Vitamin C is also an “anti-stress” vitamin. It helps your body produce more anti-stress hormones. Stress plays a role in high blood pressure and heart disease. Excessive production of stress hormones is also believed to play a role in obesity.
Calcium ascorbate and ascorbyl palmitate are the most absorbable forms of vitamin C and also the least likely to cause stomach upset. Straight ascorbic acid, the most common form of vitamin C, can cause heart burn, aggravate ulcers and cause other digestive complaints.
The best supplements also contain plant bioflavonoids because they further enhance vitamin C absorption. There’s no point in taking a supplement if your body cannot absorb the nutrients.
Recommended daily intake: 164 – 428 mg per day
A new study shows that increased vitamin E intake may reduce the negative effects of a diet high in saturated fats. High saturated fat intake has long been recognized as a risk factor for heart disease. Researchers believe that the high fat/heart disease connection has to do with the activity of a hormone called leptin. They refer to the connection as a “leptin imbalance in the vessels”. Vitamin E was shown to help correct the imbalance.
Don’t take this info to mean that you can eat all of the fat you want as long as you take a vitamin E supplement. Excessive intake of any nutrient, including fat, is bad for your health. What you should take away from the study is that your daily vitamin E supplement could help protect your vessels on days when your diet is less than perfect.
The form of vitamin E to look for is D-alpha tocopheryl succinate derived from vegetable oils. This is the natural form. Most of the vitamin E on today’s market is synthetic. There is no reason to believe that synthetic vitamins are good for your health.
Recommended daily intake: 100 – 159 IU per day
If you are a woman who doesn’t get enough vitamin B6, you are at risk for chronic inflammation and high homocysteine levels according to researchers. Inflammation in the arterial walls can lead to a rupture, causing a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease and high homocysteine levels seem to go hand in hand, although researchers have yet to come up with a reason for the connection. Supplements containing vitamin B6 and also B12 have been shown to lower homocysteine levels which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Everyone can benefit from a little B6 every day, but women who take birth control pills should definitely take a supplement. Something about the hormones in the pills lowers the body’s B6 levels. Also, B3(niacin) and B9(folic acid) are important heart vitamins.
Recommended daily intake: 8 – 14 mg per day
Other Nutrients Are Important, Too!
Nutrients of all kinds are important for the health of your heart and the health of your whole body. A good daily multi-nutritional supplement should contain all of the vitamins listed here, in the right amount and in the right form. The best supplements will also contain a variety of other nutrients to give you as much heart-help as possible. To have a healthy heart and good circulation throughout your life, you need all the help you can get!
Are heart vitamins all you need to maintain cardiovascular health?
Although they are extremely important, there are many other nutrients that you need to maintain the health of your heart.
Remember that your heart is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to your entire body, so not only do you need nutrients that strengthen the heart but also nutrients for the rest of your body.
These include heart vitamins as well as minerals, amino acids, Omega 3 fatty acids and herbal extracts, many of which offer more potent health benefits than vitamins.
For a full list of important heart nutrients for reducing the risk of heart disease as well as promoting overall heart health, please visit our Heart Nutrients Section.
As with all health supplements, please consult a physician or other qualified medical professional before taking heart healthy vitamins or any other nutrients to promote heart health.