Denver Cardiologists’ Advice on Vitamins and Supplements

If you have high cholesterol, or if you’re at high risk for heart disease and heart attack, some supplements can actually help increase your heart health.

Can vitamin and mineral supplements really make you healthier?

Many of us are overwhelmed by conflicting information about the value of vitamin and mineral supplements.  Which ones really work? Exactly how effective are they? Are they worth the money? Which ones are recommended for cardiac care?

If you have high cholesterol, or are at high risk for heart disease and heart attack, you’ve likely had serious talks with your doctor about the right course of action. For many people, making lifestyle changes is enough to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. Other people need medications like cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Dietary supplements can also be an important part of the equation.

Medical professionals and nutritionists agree that the best way to be sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs is to eat right.  While supplements can be beneficial, they should not be considered a substitute to eating a balanced diet. If you’re already doing your best to eat healthy foods but still are deficient in some areas, supplements can help. The key is to ensure they’re taken on top of a healthy diet full of nutrient-rich foods. That’s why they are called supplements, not replacements!

Omega-3 fatty acids — found in fish oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil – have been proven to provide significant reductions in triglyceride levels and increases in good HDL cholesterol. Omega-3 doesn’t affect “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

Before taking vitamin and mineral supplements, talk to your physician about your personal dietary plan.

Also, consider these recommended “do’s and don’ts” from the American Heart Association:
Do this:

  • EAT HEALTHY:  There’s just no substitute for a balanced, nutritious diet that limits excess calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and dietary cholesterol
  • Patients with heart disease should consume about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids called EPA + DHA. This should ideally come from fish. This can hard to get by diet alone, so a supplement could be needed.
  • If you have elevated triglycerides, try to get 2 to 4 grams per day of EPA+DHA.

Don’t do this:

  • Don’t take antioxidant vitamin supplements such as A, C and E. Scientific evidence does not suggest these can eliminate the need to reduce blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol or stop smoking.
  • Do not rely only on supplements. There isn’t sufficient data to suggest that healthy people benefit by taking certain vitamin or mineral supplements in excess of the daily recommended allowance. Some observational studies have suggested that using these can lower rates of cardiovascular disease and/or lower risk factor levels. However, it’s unclear in these studies whether supplements caused these improvements.

For more information, check out the American Heart Association’s Scientific Position

How to Use this Information

If you have heart disease talk to your cardiologist about whether supplements are right for you.  Ask to determine if you are getting sufficient levels of EPA and DHA and, if not, what course of action they recommend.  If you have questions about diet or supplements, contact the heart doctors at South Denver Cardiology at 303-744-1065.