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B-Vitamin Deficiency and Heart Palpitations

author image Christian Walker, Ph.D.
Dr. Christian Walker began writing professionally in 1982. He has published in the fields of surgery, neurology, rehabilitation and orthopedics, with work appearing in various journals, including the "Journal of the American Osteopathic Association" and "European Neurological Society." Walker holds a Doctor of Philosophy in medical physiology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
B-Vitamin Deficiency and Heart Palpitations
A healthcare worker is listening to the heart or lungs of a woman. Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

The B vitamins are an important part of maintaining good cardiovascular health. Certain B vitamins can cause heart and circulatory dysfunction if the body gets too much or too little of certain B vitamins. One sign of B vitamin imbalance can be heart palpitations or other disturbances of the cardiovascular system.

Vitamin Physiology

According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B-6 is a water-soluble vitamin found in nature in the chemical forms pyridoxamine, pyridoxal and pyridoxine. More than 100 enzyme processes throughout the body require vitamin B-6. It is needed to make hemoglobin, helps prevent anemia and sustains blood glucose levels. Vitamin B-12, also called methylcobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin used throughout the body to make DNA and red blood cells. Vitamin B-9, also called folate is a water-soluble vitamin important for cell division, making red blood cells and maintaining cell metabolism.

Heart Palpitations

The National Heart, Lung and Blood institute of the National Institutes of Health says that heart palpitations are the feelings of the heart skipping a beat, fluttering or beating too fast or slow. Heart palpitations can occur while sitting still, lying down or during physical activity. Any number of factors can trigger heart palpitations. These include strong emotions, vigorous activity, certain medicines, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and some medical conditions. Insufficiency of vitamins B-6, B-9 and B-12 also can cause heart palpitations.

Relationship to Heart Function

In general, certain B vitamins may help to maintain normal heart function and prevent heart disease. Dietary insufficiency of vitamin B-6, B-9 or B-12 may increase levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid found in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for stroke and heart disease, says the NIH. High homocysteine levels may harm coronary arteries or increase the ability of clotting by platelets. There is no evidence that lowering homocysteine levels with B vitamin supplements will lower the risk of heart disease. A study cited by the American Heart Association, however, did show that elevated levels of vitamin B-6 and folate can lower the risk of dying from stroke and heart disease in women. In men, these vitamins may also lower the risk of heart failure. The NIH also says that vitamins B-6, B-9 and B-12 have other important functions relating to general cardiovascular health. For example, they help prevent anemia and are needed to make new red blood cells.

Vitamin Sources

According to the NIH, B vitamin supplements are a good way to obtain necessary daily levels. Vitamin B-6 is also found in fortified cereals, beans, poultry, meats, a variety of fish, vegetables and fruits. Vitamin B-9 is found in fortified breakfast cereals, beef liver, cowpeas, spinach, beans, asparagus and white rice. Vitamin B-12 is found in fortified breakfast cereals, beef liver, clams, salmon, trout, milk and eggs.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

The NIH says the adult RDA for vitamin B-6 is 1.3 mg for ages 19 to 50, and 1.5 mg for women and 1.7 mg for men older than age 50. The RDA for vitamin B-9 is 600 mcg in pregnant women and 400 mcg for all other adults. The adult RDA for vitamin B-12 is 2.4 mcg.

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