08 July, 2011
The Best Vitamins for Heart Health
Your circulatory system is made up of your heart and blood vessels, which work together to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your body’s tissues. The food you eat greatly affects your heart health. Consuming a diet high in essential vitamins can help you maintain good cardiovascular health. If you want to take vitamin supplements to help your heart, however, be sure to ask your doctor first.
C Change for Artery Protection
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin C may help protect arteries against damage. Some studies propose that vitamin C can impede the progression of atherosclerosis -- hardening of the arteries. Furthermore, people whose diets are inadequate in vitamin C may be more likely to have peripheral artery disease, a stroke or a heart attack. Peripheral artery disease develops when plaque accumulates in the walls of the arteries, which supply blood to your limbs and organs. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 75 milligrams for women and 90 milligrams for men per day. For a healthy and robust heart, include vitamin C-rich foods in your diet such as oranges, strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage.
D Day Offensive Against Heart Disease
Population studies suggest that people who have insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood have a higher risk of developing heart disease than people who have good vitamin D levels. Having poor levels of vitamin D may raise your risk of calcium buildup -- which is a part of plaque -- in your arteries. Other population studies show that you are more likely to have risk factors for heart disease -- obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- if you have insignificant amounts of vitamin D, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. To get the recommended amount of vitamin D -- 600 international units per day -- consume cod liver oil, vitamin D-fortified milk and cereal, eggs and fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon.
B-12 Helps Regulate Homocysteine Levels
High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are linked to heart disease. Several studies suggest that individuals who have high levels of homocysteine are approximately 1.7 times more likely to have coronary artery disease and 2.5 times more likely to develop a stroke than those with healthy levels, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. But researchers are not sure whether homocysteine can lead to heart disease or is a marker indicating that you may have the disease. Eating foods rich in vitamin B-12 can help regulate homocysteine levels in your blood in addition to meeting your daily requirements -- 2.4 micrograms per day. Good sources include organ meats, shellfish, fish and dairy products.
Eating for Heart Health
In addition to eating foods high in vitamins C, D and B-12, you should avoid foods that sabotage your heart health. Reduce the intake of foods that are high in saturated fats and avoid trans fats. Both these fats raise your blood cholesterol levels, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease. Foods such as beef, lamb, pork, coconut oil and palm oil contain saturated fats, while margarine, baked goods, fried goods and shortening are high in trans fats. The American Heart Association recommends that you reduce your intake of saturated fats to less than 7 percent of your calories and trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.
- KidsHealth: Heart and Circulatory System
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Is Peripheral Arterial Disease?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin D
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- University of Illinois Extension: Eating for Cardiovascular Health
- Almaje/iStock/Getty Images