The World Health Organization reports that heart disease is the number one cause of death around the globe, with reported cardiovascular disease deaths expected to continue to climb year after year. Heart disease affects blood vessels and arteries, and a poor diet can increase your heart disease risk. Certain vitamins and minerals can improve your heart health and help prevent or treat heart disease.
Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all markers of a condition called metabolic syndrome, and all of these conditions increase your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in diabetics, and researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology conducted a study on the effects of vitamin E on diabetic patients. The results of their study, published in the May 2010 issue of "Pharmacogenomics," show that supplementing with vitamin E produced a reduction of more than 40 percent in the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. The study was conducted on patients with an exceptionally high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends consuming a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E rather than taking a supplement. Good food sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds and cooking oils.
Known as the "sunshine vitamin" because your body produces it from sunlight, vitamin D also is added to foods like milk and cereal. The Cleveland Clinic reports that vitamin D helps treat diabetes and cancer, build strong bones and prevent heart disease. The recommended intake for vitamin D is 200 IUs to prevent rickets, but larger amounts are recommended for heart disease prevention; according to the Cleveland Clinic, many physicians recommend a dosage of up to 2,000 IUs per day.
Potassium is an essential mineral that regulates muscle contraction and electrical impulses between cells in the body. One of the primary benefits of potassium is its ability to lower blood pressure, which can in turn help lower the risk of heart disease. According to a report in the March 15, 2011 issue of "Current Hypertension Reports," intakes of potassium in amounts of 4,700 mg per day can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by 8 percent to 15 percent. This is also the amount of daily potassium recommended in the DASH--Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension--diet, put forth by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Potassium-rich foods include meats, fish, citrus juice, potatoes, lima beans, tomatoes and cantaloupe. Due to potassium's ability to affect your heart beat, speak to your doctor before adding extra potassium to your diet, especially if you are being treated for any reason.
Like potassium, magnesium is an essential mineral that has an effect on the heart. The National Institutes of Health reports that magnesium maintains blood pressure and proper heart rhythm by keeping the muscles functioning properly. Researchers from Tel Aviv reporting in the January 2011 issue of the medical journal "Harefuah" state that magnesium helps prevent heart disease by preventing the accumulation of calcium in the arteries, improving fat metabolism, preventing deadly heart arrhythmias and preventing blood from gathering on arterial walls. They recommend that magnesium be considered as a safe and inexpensive means of preventing heart disease. Food sources of magnesium include nuts, beans, spinach, peanut butter, halibut, potatoes and avocados. Speak to your doctor before increasing your magnesium intake or taking a supplement, because it can affect certain medications.
- World Health Organization: Cardiovascular Diseases; January 2011
- "Pharmacogenomics"; Vitamin E Reduces Cardiovascular Disease in Individuals With Diabetes Mellitus and the Haptoglobin 2-2 Genotype; S Blum, et al.; May 2010
- "Circulation"; Antioxidant Vitamin Supplements and Cardiovascular Disease ; PM Kris-Etherton, et al.; 2004
- Cleveland Clinic: Vitamin D and Heart Disease
- "Current Hypertension Reports"; The Importance of Potassium in Managing Hypertension; MC Houston; March 15, 2011
- "Harefuah"; Body Magnesium--The Spark of Life; M Shechter; January 2011