Your circulatory system plays a central role in maintaining your health and well-being. Arteries are especially important, carrying nourishing blood from your heart to all your organs and providing them with oxygen and nutrients. But if fatty deposits called plaque build up in your arteries, they can narrow the vessels and raise your risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Several supplements are available that, over time, might help dissolve plaque and improve the function of your arteries, lowering your risk of chronic circulatory problems.
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Niacin and Lipids
Niacin is sometimes called vitamin B-3 and belongs to the group called the B complex. The effects of niacin on blood cholesterol and arterial plaque have been the subject of much research, and results suggest that the vitamin has significant benefits. A review published in the January 2001 issue of "Current Atherosclerosis Reports" indicated that consuming niacin increases blood levels of high-density lipoprotein, which removes extra cholesterol from your blood and carries it to your liver for removal. Niacin also lowers low-density lipoprotein and triglycerides, both unhealthy blood lipids. Over time, taking niacin supplements can promote reduction of plaque in your arteries, lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Garlic isn't just a culinary herb but is also a useful supplement if you're concerned about arterial plaque and atherosclerosis, according to evidence summarized at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website. Garlic contains a compound that's converted into allicin when cloves are crushed. Allicin could help lower blood levels of cholesterol by suppressing a liver enzyme that makes cholesterol. This eventually reduces plaque, according to Sloan-Kettering. A review published in the November 2007 issue of "Molecular Nutrition and Food Research" indicated that garlic may also slow or reverse deposition of plaque by reducing inflammation and slowing oxidation of LDL, two steps involved in production of arterial plaque.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Although you might expect consuming fat to increase arterial plaque, omega-3 fatty acids may help slow plaque deposition and, over time, reduce its amount, according to experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Consuming supplements containing these unsaturated, healthy fatty acids can lower levels of blood triglycerides while raising levels of HDL, helping to keep your blood cholesterol in a healthy range. They may also help prevent inflammation of the arterial lining and reduce the risk of blood clots, both of which promote plaque deposits. Clinical research supports the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in promoting arterial health, as summarized in a review paper published in the May-June 2013 issue of the "Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism."
Niacin, garlic and omega-3 fatty acid supplements are generally considered safe for healthy people. Niacin might cause flushing when first taken, and it could cause mild stomach upset or dizziness in some people. Don't exceed a daily dose of 3 grams of niacin to avoid potentially serious side effects. Although taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements is usually safe, use products certified as free of heavy metals such as lead or cadmium, and don't exceed a daily dose of 3 grams because the fatty acids can thin blood, and higher doses can increase your risk of bleeding.
Garlic supplements are available in several forms, including powder in capsules or as odor-free aged extract. Either preparation might cause gastric upset in some people and, like omega-3 fatty acids and niacin, could interact with prescription medications. Discuss using these supplements with your doctor to decide what's best for you.
- MedlinePlus: Niacin and Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
- Current Atherosclerosis Reports: The Benefits of Niacin in Atherosclerosis
- Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: The Atherosclerotic Heart Disease and Protecting Properties of Garlic -- Contemporary Data
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Garlic
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Coronary Artery Disease
- Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism: A Fish a Day Keeps the Cardiologist Away! -- A Review of the Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Cardiovascular System