Your heart matters to you. Eating healthy and exercising are great ways to keep your heart in shape, but a little bit of supplementing never hurt anyone.
To get the wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants required for your body to function optimally, consider taking a multivitamin. If you’re already doing so, branch out to these heart-health superstars.
If you take vitamin C to boost immunity, you may be benefiting your heart as well. This powerful antioxidant reduces free-radical damage throughout the body, lessening overall inflammation and inhibiting the production of C-reactive protein, Moyad says. Studies have shown that vitamin C also plays a role in keeping blood pressure down, in theory because it helps blood-vessel walls dilate, which increases blood flow and reduces blood pressure.
Dose: 500 to 1,000 mg per day.
Tip: If you’re prone to heartburn or acid reflux, avoid ascorbic acid—the most common form of supplemental vitamin C—and opt for Ester-C, which consists of pH-neutral calcium ascorbate. High doses of ascorbic acid can also lead to kidney stones.
Vitamin D protects the heart by blocking a compound called angiotensinogen, released by the liver, that increases blood pressure. In addition, vitamin D regulates the immune system and lowers inflammation throughout the body. “Although vitamin D is important, taking more of it is not better for you,” Moyad cautions.
Dose: 1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day.
Tip: Sinatra says vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which the skin produces in response to sun exposure, may be more effective than its sibling vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), found in plant foods.
This mineral aids optimal muscle and nerve function, both critical components of cardiac health. Your heart is the one muscle in your body that never stops working, so it requires a steady stream of electrical impulses to keep it beating, says Dennis Goodman, MD, director of integrative medicine at New York Medical Associates in Manhattan. “Without enough magnesium, you are at risk for developing potentially harmful erratic heartbeats known as arrhythmias.” Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina have found that the less magnesium adults consume, the higher their levels of C-reactive protein.
Dose: 250 to 400 mg per day.
Tip: If you experience loose stools, cramping, or high blood pressure, decrease your dose.
Like polyphenols, this fat-soluble antioxidant compound prevents free radicals from corroding LDL cholesterol, so LDL doesn’t adhere to artery walls, Goodman says. Coenzyme Q10 also helps cells manufacture energy, which the heart needs in massive quantities. “A constantly beating heart requires a constant source of energy,” he says.
Dose: 30 to 150 mg per day.
Tip: Co-Q10 may cause insomnia and can reduce the efficacy of prescription blood thinners.
Red yeast rice extract
The heart-protective qualities of this extract from the yeast grown on red rice result from a compound known as monakolin K, which works very similarly to statin drugs, blocking the enzyme in the liver that manufactures LDL cholesterol. “I’ve seen patients lower their cholesterol levels by as much as 40 points while taking red yeast rice,” Moyad says. A 2008 study found that in addition to making healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising more, taking the extract for 12 weeks in combination with fish-oil supplements resulted in a slightly higher cholesterol reduction and a significant drop in triglycerides—blood fats associated with cardiovascular disease—than taking prescription statins for the same amount of time.
Dose: Consult your healthcare practitioner.
NOTE: Red yeast rice may increase the risk of bleeding.