Vitamins and Minerals for Heart Health

The proper amount of vitamins and minerals is important for a healthy body and a healthy heart. The government has set guidelines for Americans called Dietary Reference Intakes, which give levels of minimum and maximum amounts for most vitamins and minerals. You can find them at Food & Nutrition Information Center  . We recommend everyone take a one-a-day type vitamin and mineral supplement that contains no more than 300% of the DRI for any nutrient. People over 50 should choose a supplement that is low in iron, unless they have been told otherwise.

Some vitamins and minerals that are important for the heart are often lacking in the typical American diet. Examples are B-6, folic acid, calcium, magnesium and chromium . B vitamins may help lower a new emerging risk factor for heart disease called homocysteine. Calcium and magnesium are important for blood pressure regulation. Calcium is also involved in cholesterol metabolism and may play a role in weight management.  

B Vitamins And Your Heart

A deficiency of vitamins B-6, B-12, and folic acid can increase your risk of heart disease. These vitamins are involved in the breakdown of a substance called homocysteine. Homocysteine seems to make blood clot easier, a dangerous situation if there is plaque in your arteries. To keep homocysteine down:

Make sure you get enough B-6, B-12 and folic acid or folate in your diet.

One thing interesting about B-6 is the requirement is linked to the animal protein in your diet. The more animal protein you eat, the more B-6 you need.

B-6 is a vitamin that is often low in the diets of most Americans. However, mega doses of B-6 can cause irreversible nerve damage. So, if you take a supplement, check with your doctor or dietitian. The DRI is 1.3 - 1.7 mg. Up to 100 mg seems to be safe. To lower homocysteine, 2 mg is recommended.

Mega doses of folic acid are often recommended to lower homocysteine. The DRI is 400 mcg. Most multi-vitamins contain that much. To lower homocysteine, you can take up to 1 mg. or 1000 mcg. safely. Flour is now fortified with folic acid.

Vitamin B-12 is found exclusively in animal products so vegans need to supplement unless they are using B-12 fortified foods. Absorption of B-12 decreases as you get older, so all people over the age of 50 should take a synthetic supplement containing 2.4 mcg of B-12. Most multivitamins contain at least that much. Up to 6.0 mcg is recommended to lower homocysteine.

To make sure you get enough B vitamins in your diet:

  • Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose dark green leafy type vegetables rather than pale green ones. Eat them daily.
  • Use whole grains, six to 11 servings everyday.
  • Everyday eat some beans.