The Role of Supplements in Heart Health

Many of us seek to take a proactive role in protecting our health, and that includes individuals who have been diagnosed with heart disease. Many patients have questions surrounding the role of supplements in heart health. Are they a good idea? Are there risks to taking supplements? While there are some supplements that may support heart health, others have unclear benefits overall. 

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or any other medical condition, be sure your doctor knows about any supplements you are already taking and always talk to your doctor before adding a new supplement. 

Supplements for heart health

There are several supplements that may play a role in promoting heart health, primarily because they target specific risk factors for heart disease and therefore lower your overall risk. Fiber is found in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. The presence of fiber in your diet reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed by your body. When fiber is lacking in your diet, fiber supplements have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. 

Coenzyme Q10, or Co-Q10, is an enzyme found naturally in your body, but it can also be taken as a supplement. Because taking statin drugs lowers the natural Co-Q10 produced by the body, some research studies have looked at whether Co-Q10 supplements can help reduce some of the side effects of statin drugs. At the same time, Co-Q10 may interact negatively with other heart medications, so it’s definitely one to discuss with your doctor before taking.    

For many years it was believed that omega-3 supplements played a role in reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. In more recent years, there has been much debate surrounding this topic. While eating a diet high in omega-3-fatty acids is good for the heart, the effects of supplements are less certain with the strongest evidence pointing to lower triglyceride levels. Overall, the effect of omega-3 supplements are not harmful to your heart, but they may not be as beneficial as once believed. 

Other benefits of supplements

Our diets are imperfect, and supplements can help fill the nutritional gaps. Additionally, changes in our soil and agricultural practices in recent decades have greatly reduced the amounts of natural vitamins and mineral in food. If you feel you may not be getting enough vitamins and minerals from your diet, your doctor might recommend a multivitamin or suggest testing for deficiencies in particular vitamins or minerals.

Supplements can support overall health and well-being. Rather than looking toward supplements to treat specific conditions, they can be part of a preventative approach along with exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Omega-3 supplements in particular support sleep, promote healthy skin, and can fight inflammation. Some supplements lower risk factors for other diseases. For example, calcium can lower risk factors for osteoporosis. 

As with anything health-related, a key component of adding supplements to your diet is communication with your doctor. Supplements can have interactions with medications and sometimes have contraindications for taking them. If you are already taking vitamins or other supplements, be sure to inform your doctor about them so they can know the full picture before prescribing additional medications.  

The role of supplements in heart health remains somewhat unclear in many ways, but there are still benefits for supporting your overall health or targeting a specific health need. If you are considering adding supplements to your diet, reach out to your Oklahoma Heart Hospital physician with any questions or concerns you may have.