Did you know that the leading cause of death globally is cardiovascular disease? And that these diseases are responsible for 17.9 million deaths each year?
Shocking, right? Well, not really.
You will soon find out why.
Cardiovascular diseases or CVDs concern disorders of the heart and blood vessels which can manifest in the form of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, and other conditions.
Heart attacks and strokes are the most common deaths and, what may come as surprising to you, most of them occur in people under 70 years of age.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and obesity, you should know that some of these health concerns are behavioral risk factors of heart disease and stroke.
So, what are these factors? The most common and obvious ones are physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. All of these increase the risk of complications, such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Some of them are:
- Blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- A disease of the heart muscle
- Heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects)
- Heart infection
- Heart valve disease
The good news is that you can prevent many of these forms of heart disease or even treat them with a healthier lifestyle. Changing your lifestyle choices and some habits might not seem that easy. However, it is an easy way to prevent yourself from CVDs. And what better motivation is there than living a long and healthier life? You can start by quitting tobacco use, reducing the amount of salt in your diet, adding some more fruit and vegetables to your diet, practicing physical activity regularly, and avoiding alcohol. Any of these lifestyle choices will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
To facilitate things, there are healthy practices that people can follow to maintain good health. Let’s look at some affordable heart healthy choices.
Can Vitamins Help with Heart Disease?
Vitamins are essential to normal life and the normal functions of the body. Plus, there are some that may even help prevent and treat CVDs. This group includes antioxidant vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids), folic acid (FA), vitamins B6 and B12 from the vitamin B group, vitamin D, and coenzyme Q10.
The question you might want to ask is whether ingesting a number of vitamins i.e., vitamin substitution therapy, is effective in preventing and/or treating CVDs.
Despite the long investigation on the benefits of vitamins in CVDs, which is supported by observational studies and randomized controlled trials, the data remains inconsistent. The role of vitamins in primary or secondary prevention of CVD hasn’t been defined and some cases indicated increased mortality in those with pre-existing late-stage atherosclerosis.
Although not confirmed in trials, it has been suggested to prioritize combination therapy over single supplementation. Studies have indicated that β-carotene mediates pro-oxidant effects and that its negative effects may diminish the beneficial ones that come from the other vitamins in the supplementation cocktail. The trials on a combination of vitamins that include β-carotene have proven to be disappointing.
Meanwhile, vitamin E and vitamin C combined have shown long-term anti-atherogenic effects even if their combined effect on clinical endpoints has been inconsistent. We can also see in some studies that vitamins would be beneficial to individuals who are antioxidant-deficient or exposed to increased levels of oxidative stress. These include smokers, diabetics, and elderly patients. Because of this information, we can see the importance of subgroup targeting. If we manage to define the right population group and the best vitamin combination, there is a good chance of finding a positive future role for vitamins in the treatment of CVDs. How great does that sound?
What can lower my risk of heart disease?
As was previously mentioned, there are several things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease, including:
- Regular physical activity.
- Cessation of tobacco use.
- Reducing fats and salt in your diet.
- Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Another way is through certain vitamins called antioxidants.
What are antioxidants, and what do they do?
Antioxidants are the vitamins responsible for keeping cholesterol from going through “oxidation.” This process consists of the reaction of oxygen with cholesterol in your blood and causes the “bad” cholesterol (called “LDL” cholesterol) to stick to the lining of your arteries and even block them, not letting the blood get through. There are foods, especially fruits and vegetables, that effectively prevent this process from happening. Vitamin E and vitamin C are probably the best vitamin antioxidants. Vitamin E might reduce your risk of a heart attack if you already live with heart disease; Vitamin C complements vitamin E while improving the function of your arteries.
Foods that contain antioxidants
Some foods that contain antioxidants are:
– Vitamin E: green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, papaya, seeds, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, soybeans, sweet potatoes, watercress, wheat, and wheat germ.
– Beta carotene: dark orange, red and dark green vegetables and fruits.
To ensure adequate intake of disease-fighting antioxidant nutrients, eating between five and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily is recommended.
Why should you take extra vitamin E and vitamin C?
Vitamin E and vitamin C play a crucial role in lowering the risk of heart disease, and foods containing these vitamins are a good way to achieve a positive health outcome. You may have already heard from your doctor to take extra of these vitamins if you have had any of the following problems:
- A heart attack
- Angioplasty (balloon surgery)
- Bypass surgery (repair of blocked arteries around the heart)
- A stroke caused by a blood clot, carotid artery disease, or surgery
- Blocked arteries in your legs
- High levels of LDL cholesterol or triglycerides (another kind of cholesterol)
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
How much should I take? Are there side effects?
Doctors and investigators haven’t defined a precise ideal dose. However, the following amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E areconsidered reasonable:
- Vitamin E: 400 IU a day
- Vitamin C: 500 mg twice a day
Most people don’t have side effects from many of these vitamins, but those who do may notice nausea, bloating, an upset stomach, or loose stools at first. So, be aware.
Also, you should not take vitamin C for three days before you have your blood tested.
If you’re already taking a blood-thinning drug like warfarin (brand name: Coumadin), and want to take vitamin E, you should take a dose lower than 800 IU per day. This is because of the fact that this vitamin acts like a blood thinner when you take more than the dose suggested above. Check with your doctor.
Good food sources of vitamin E:
- Wheat germ
- Brown rice
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
Good food sources of vitamin C:
- Sweet red peppers
Do other things in food help too?
“Phytochemicals”, which are only in foods that come from plants, may also protect you from heart disease and cancer. Some examples are:
● Genistein (in soybeans)
● Lycopene (in tomatoes and grapefruit)
● Indoles (in cabbage and Brussel sprouts)
● Allylic sulfides (in garlic and onion)
● Tannins (in green tea)
● Flavonoids (in most fruits and vegetables)
If you make sure to eat lots of foods containing antioxidants and phytochemicals, you will be doing more to improve your overall health.
Does it help to take a multivitamin every day?
You can surely find a good balance in some multivitamins, but they rarely have the amount of vitamin E and vitamin C that you may need for a healthy heart. Taking daily multivitamins along with extra vitamin C and vitamin E could be a reasonable solution. Be sure to ask your doctor about this before you take any multivitamin or combination of vitamins.
Women still menstruating should probably take a multivitamin containing extra iron. For those who are past menopause, this isn’t necessary, and multivitamins with 4 mg or less should be enough. Extra iron in your body can cause oxidation, so be sure to check with your doctor about the kind of multivitamin that is best for you.
Other Supplements That May Offer Benefits
Coenzyme Q10 ( CoQ10) is an enzyme that your body naturally makes in small amounts. If you take it as a supplement, it may help lower blood pressure.
Pills that contain CoQ10 are popular as a treatment for the side effects of statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). Statins are drugs that usually have side effects, precisely lowering the amount of CoQ10 that the body makes naturally. Although not supported by overall scientific evidence, some doctors suggest that taking a CoQ10 supplement can make up for the loss, and perhaps relieve problems such as muscle pain and weakness.
Fiber and Sterols for Your Heart
Fiber, which can be found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and legumes, lowers your cholesterol. The ideal dosage is at least 25 to 30 grams of it daily. For men less than 51 years of age the goal should be 38 grams a day. Getting your daily dose from your diet is recommended, but supplements are also an option. When you start taking a fiber supplement, be aware to increase the amount slowly and drink enough liquids. This can help prevent gas and cramping. Nuts and grains contain sterols and stanols which are also useful to reduce the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs from food. You can buy them as supplements or even find them added to other foods, such as some kinds of margarine, orange juice, and yogurts. For people who have high cholesterol, 2 grams a day are recommended to help lower LDL cholesterol.
Other beneficial foods and liquids
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week, as you can find benefits, like improvement of blood pressure, from having fish oil in your diet.
Research has shown that garlic could also slightly lower blood pressure and lower the risk of blood clots.
Some research concerning green tea showed signs of it lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raising HDL levels.
Safe Supplement Use
After taking all of these facts into consideration, you should always be cautious when you take supplements. Not all of them will be helpful to you. So, be sure to pay attention to what it does and if it will be beneficial for you. If you are interested, you should ask your doctor first, especially if you have a heart condition or a high risk of a heart attack.
Vitamins are not yet proven to be helpful for curing CDV diseases. Nevertheless, there are still many things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. It is important to decrease your risk factors and adjusting your lifestyle remains an effective choice, you can add vitamins or supplements to your healthy lifestyle choices.
Seven Simple methods to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease:
- Quit smoking and using tobacco products
- Have your doctor check your lipid profile
- Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fiber and nutrients (including antioxidants)
- Be active and exercise regularly
- Control high blood pressure and diabetes
- Achieve and maintain an appropriate weight
- Have regular check-ups with your doctor
It remains important to stress the necessity of preventing heart diseases. In today’s society, people usually start worrying about their health when they already have a problem. Yet, if you start gradually making changes to your lifestyle you will experience great health benefits which you will surely be thankful for in the future. If you already suffer from a heart condition, making healthier choices will also be of great importance to you.