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Vitamin Supplement - Does it really needed for health

October 4, 2021

Vitamins and Health

Walking around in a drug store, convenience store, or even grocery story, you are bound to come across an aisle - maybe even two - of supplements and vitamins.  There are vitamins for general health, vitamins to make you smarter, vitamins for iron deficiency.  There are also vitamins for heart problems, to strengthen your heart and increase blood flow.  But do these vitamins, and their components, actually work?  While some have been proven to have good effects, others are almost completely worthless.

Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is most commonly known as the vitamin obtained from spending time out in the sunshine.  Although too much time in the sun can result in sunburn and the increased risk of skin cancer, a little bit of time spent each day soaking up the sun’s rays is beneficial to your health.  People who suffer winter depression are even advised to buy a special light that mimics the sun’s effects, meant to lift their spirits and make them happier.

It has been proven that low levels of vitamin D may increase your risk of heart disease.  Vitamin D deficiency may also increase your blood pressure, leading to an increased risk of heart attack.  Although the easiest way to get vitamin D is to spend some time outside in the sun, vitamin D also comes in supplements, and is found in food such as fish, milk, soy, oranges, and eggs.  Spending time in the sun or eating these nutritious foods is a simple way to keep your heart healthy and lower your risk for heart disease.

Bone Vitamin, Calcium

Calcium is also linked to heart disease, though maybe not in the ways that you might think.  Some studies link calcium supplements - not necessarily the calcium naturally found in foods such as milk or yogurt - to an increased risk of heart attack and death from heart disease.  However, other studies have found no such connection; it is best to keep in mind that data on heart health may be skewed by participants’ lifestyles.  If someone eats extremely healthily and exercises regularly, for instance, they would have a healthier heart than someone who doesn’t.

Calcium helps lower blood pressure as well as lower risk of hypertension, which is a cause of heart disease.  Rather than take a supplement, it is better to get calcium from your food.  Dairy, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, is an excellent way to get all the calcium you need.

Although it is healthy for you, calcium, along with plaque, builds up in blood vessels with age, causing hardening of the arteries and reduced blood flow, which may lead to heart problems.  Because of this, getting a calcium scan of the arteries around your heart can help predict if you’re at risk for heart disease.  The test looks at how much calcium you have built up in your blood vessels; in this way, doctors are able to tell whether you’re at risk.

The B vitamins and heart

It is also thought that a deficiency of vitamin B6 can cause heart disease, among other sicknesses.  Decrease in both vitamin B6 and B12 are linked to depression, which can contribute negatively to heart health by causing unhealthy habits, unhappy moods, and lack of sleep or exercise.  Green, leafy foods, as well as seeds and nuts, contain vitamin B6.  The combination of vitamins B6 and B12 results in a natural relief from depression, as well as lowering the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is found in the blood and is related to the development of heart disease.

Folic acid, another B vitamin, also helps to break down homocysteine.  However, a recent study at Oxford University concluded that taking folic acid, as a supplement does not have a large -or significant - effect on reducing your risk for heart disease.  A similar discovery has been made about niacin (vitamin B3).  Almost all studies to see if niacin actually helps heart health have failed, in fact revealing that those taking niacin as a supplement or pill are at higher risk for infections, bleeding, and diabetes.  However, niacin does increase good cholesterol.

Vitamin E, the antioxidant

Another vitamin that may not have any affect on the health of your heart is vitamin E.  Vitamin E is an antioxidant, helping to heal and prevent oxidation of certain fats in the body caused by smoking.  Without a supplement of vitamin E, it can take ten years or more before the heart of someone who has quit smoking begins to resemble the heart of a non-smoker.  However, there is some trepidation as to whether or not vitamin E supplements can really help prevent heart disease.

Vitamins is not the answer

Vitamins are not the end-all answer to good heart health, or even good health in general.  You can’t rely on vitamins as a crutch, but rather must maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.  Good nutrition and regular exercise are necessary for a healthy heart and a healthy body; this should not be forgotten.  People who are relatively healthy don’t even really need to take vitamins or supplements; they’re already getting the nutrients they need.

Image of a Henderson, NC cardiologist's chest at a vascular care center.