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 Dr. George Jacob
Heart Infocenter

Holistic-online.com

Alternative and Complementary Medicine for Heart Disease

Vitamin Therapy for Heart Disease

Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. As the most active muscle in the body, the heart requires proper nutrition. Poor nourishment has a profound effect on the heart. Research has shown that as people age, their eating habits get worse, thus increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease. In this case supplementation has to be resorted to to provide the body with the proper nutrition.

Caution: 

  • If you are pregnant, or intend to get pregnant, or if you have liver disease, consult your doctor before taking supplemental vitamin A. 

  • If you have high blood pressure, limit your intake of supplemental vitamin E to a total of 400 international units daily. 

  • If you are taking an anticoagulant (blood thinner), consult your physician before taking supplemental vitamin E.

Bioflavonoids:  

These are a group of compounds that provide color to citrus fruits and vegetables. In conjunction with Vitamin C, some bioflavonoids are potent antioxidants to improve the strength of small blood vessels or capillaries. They prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood and prevent the clotting of the blood by making the blood less thick.

Betacarotene:  

Beta carotene is the plant form of vitamin A. It can be converted into vitamin A by the body. Beta carotene, as an antioxidant,  protects against heart disease by inhibiting the conversion of LDL into its more dangerous, oxidized form. 

One study found that 50 mg of beta carotene taken every other day reduced the incidence of major coronary and vascular events. Beta carotene is found in yellow-orange fruits and vegetables (

Vitamin C:  

Recent research has shown that taking plenty of Vitamin C provides more protection against heart disease than either maintaining a low blood cholesterol or eating a low fat diet. It is believed that the beneficial effect of Vitamin C is from a variety of factors:

  • Vitamin C plays a role in the conversion of cholesterol into bile acids. If vitamin C is lacking, less cholesterol is converted. Instead, the cholesterol may build up in the arteries, blood and liver.

  • Vitamin C is needed for the normal metabolism of blood fats. It builds the collagen that helps to keep artery walls strong.

  • Vitamin C reduces the high blood pressure and reduces the hardening of the arteries.

  • Vitamin C affects the levels of glutathione in the blood. Glutathione is a compound that helps guard against heart disease. Lower levels of Vitamin C was found to result in lower levels of glutathione in the blood stream.

  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to control the free radicals and other oxidants that can convert LDL into its more dangerous, artery-clogging form.

  • Vitamin C supplementation drives down cholesterol in people with high cholesterol and low levels of vitamin C in the blood. Adding pectin, or other agents that bind cholesterol, increases the effect.

The level of vitamin C in the blood has been found to be related to the CHD-related angina pain. The higher the level of vitamin C, the less pain.

Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries and sweet red peppers.

Vitamin E:  

Vitamin E is believed to prevent the oxidation of LDL, the bad cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

The vitamin may play a role in regulating the way that cells lining the arteries proliferate and repair themselves, and may protect them from the damaging oxidants. This helps to prevent the formation of blockages on the artery walls.

Vitamin E supplementation may increase the protective HDL.

The amount of vitamin E in the blood may be inversely related to the death from heart attacks. In other words, a greater level of vitamin E in the blood may translate to a lower risk of death.

Vitamin E strengthens the immune system and heart muscle, improves circulation, and destroys free radicals.

Caution: Use this supplement only under the supervision of a physician.

Recommended Dosage: Start with 100-200 IU daily and increase slowly, adding 100 IU each week until daily dosage is 800-1,000 IU. If you take an anticoagulant drug, do not exceed 400 IU daily. Use d-alpha-tocopherol form.

Selenium:  

The amount of selenium in the blood and red blood cells may be related to the risk of CHD and heart attacks. The lower the level of selenium, the more the risk. Selenium activates glutathione proxidase, one of the most potent antioxidants, that prevents the free radicals from attacking LDL cholesterol and prevent its conversion into its more artery-damaging, oxidized form. Selenium also helps to "thin" the blood. When the blood is "thin," there is less chance that unnecessary blood clots will form and trigger a heart attack by lodging in an already-narrowed artery. Lower levels of selenium has also been linked to higher levels of the incidence of stroke.

A 1982 study of 11,000 men and women in Finland found that people with low blood selenium levels had an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease. After accounting for other risk factors, 22 percent of the heart attack deaths in this population were attributed to low selenium levels. Another study of Finnish men in 1991 linked low selenium levels to atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries.

A recent study has shown that those who had higher selenium levels in the blood had 60 percent lower risk of heart disease than people who had lower levels of this mineral. When patients who had heart attacks were treated with selenium or selenium-rich yeast, they had fewer second attacks than those who were given a placebo. Good sources of selenium include barley, shrimp and whole grains. 

Recommended Dosage: RDA for selenium is 70 micrograms for men, and 55 micrograms for women. If you are at high risk for heart disease, you may take 200 mcg daily under professional supervision. However, it you are pregnant, do not exceed 40 mcg daily.

Selenium is provided by many foods including tomatoes, poultry, shellfish, garlic, meat, and egg yolks.

Niacin (Vitamin B3):  

Recently, Niacin has got publicity for reducing cholesterol. It has also been found effective in reducing the incidence of second heart attack by 30 percent. Higher levels of Niacin can lead to hot flushes and liver damage. So, be very careful when taking therapeutical doses of this vitamin. Consult a qualified person before starting this treatment.

Caution: Do not take niacin if you have a liver disorder, gout, or high blood pressure.

Recommended Dosage: 50 mg daily. Do not exceed a total of 200 mg daily if you have a history of rheumatic heart disease or other valvular heart problem.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine):

Pyridoxine deficiency has been linked to heart disease. Extremely important for formation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters.

Animal studies have shown that diets deficient in B6 can lead to hardened, narrowed arteries. This may be because B6 helps to prevent the unnecessary blood clots that can block arteries. B6 is also necessary to control homocysteine that appears to damage artery linings and encourage heart disease. 

Recommended Dosage: 50 mg daily. B6 is found in whole grains, lentils and sweet potatoes.

Folic Acid:  

Recent studies have shown that folic acid can ward of heart attacks and strokes. A deficiency of folic acid can increase the risk of heart disease 200 to 300 percent. Folic acid was shown to break down homocysteine, an amino acid. Homocysteine was shown to increase the risk of heart attack by 300 percent. Higher levels of homocysteine were found to cause significant blockages in the carotid arteries. (Carotid arteries are found in the neck. They deliver blood to the brain.) Ten percent of all heart disease in the United States is believed to be from high levels of homocysteine. Hence folic acid, which breaks down homocysteine, is a very important deterrent to the heart disease. It is found in foods such as navy beans, broccoli, orange juice, green leafy vegetables, fruits and legumes.

Recommended Dosage: 400 mcg daily.

Vitamin B12

Shortage of Vitamin B-12 has been associated with elevated levels of the dangerous homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine can damage the inner surface of arteries. This can be treated and/or prevented with vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Many cardiologists are now using B-vitamins to help prevent coronary artery disease.

Calcium and Magnesium
 
Calcium: In the proper amounts, calcium may help to keep cholesterol under control and may prevent dangerous blood clots. Too much calcium may increase the risk of heart disease, especially if there is too much calcium in relation to magnesium. Sources of calcium include milk, sardines (with bones) and cheese.

Magnesium: A lack of magnesium has been linked to an increased risk of CHD, heart attacks and improper heartbeats. Many doctors report using magnesium as a first-line treatment for treating irregular heart rhythms.

Magnesium supplementation may reduce the total cholesterol, increase the beneficial HDL and prevent unnecessary "clumping" in the blood that can trigger a heart attack. The mineral may also reduce the symptoms of angina or may prevent future attacks.

What is remarkable is that magnesium is beneficial even when a heart attack is in progress. In a study involving 2,300 people, some patients were given magnesium injections while they were having heart attacks. The injections cut the death rate by 25 percent. Magnesium can be found in almonds, parsley and spinach. 

Caution: An excess of magnesium can cause diarrhea. If you develop loose stools, reduce the dosage slightly until you arrive at the best dosage for your body.

If you suspect a heart attack, get medical attention immediately.

Calcium, magnesium and Vitamin B-6 should be taken together for proper absorption and effectiveness. 

Recommended Dosage: 

1,500-2,000 mg calcium daily, in divided doses, after meals and at bedtime.

750-1,000 mg magnesium  daily, in divided doses, after meals and at bedtime.

Take with 50 mg vitamin B6.

Chromium:  

Chromium is a trace metal that is vital to human health. Nutritionists are not sure exactly what chromium does in the body or how much is needed to maintain health. Chromium supplements were found to help raise HDL cholesterol levels - an important benefit in CHD.

Chromium is important for normal metabolic functions, particularly for carbohydrate metabolism. It plays a significant role in regulating blood sugar.

A Recommended Daily Allowance has not been established for chromium. A daily intake of 50 to 200 micrograms is often recommended. It is estimated that 50 to 90 percent of Americans are not getting enough chromium in their diets.

Trace amounts of chromium are present in many foods. The best dietary source is brewers yeast, which contains chromium in the form of GTF (glucose tolerance factor). Other good sources of chromium include peanuts, legumes, and whole grains,

Chromium deficiency was found to increase the blood cholesterol levels of rats. Chromium supplementation, on the other hand, was found to bring the cholesterol values back down. More impressively, some rats were found to actually develop fatty plaques of atherosclerosis in their arteries as a result of chromium deficiency.

Between 1968 and 1982 at least 6 independent trials investigated the effects of chromium supplements on blood cholesterol levels in healthy volunteers. Chromium supplements appeared to produce small reductions in serum cholesterol levels. What was significant, though, was that HDL levels rose by an average of 10 percent.

A 1978 study checked blood chromium levels in patients undergoing coronary angiograms and found that low chromium levels could account for 17 percent of their atherosclerotic lesions, even after considering cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors.

In a 1991 study, 63 men in North Carolina suffering from hypertension and taking beta-blockers were studied. (Beta blockers are known to lower HDL and raise LDL cholesterol levels.) Half the volunteers received chromium, while the others took a placebo. Complete cholesterol profiles were obtained at the start of the trial and after 2 months of treatment. The results were significant: chromium supplements boosted HDL cholesterol levels by an average of nearly 6 points, a 16 percent increase. No changes occurred in total cholesterol, triglycerides, or body weight. No side effects were observed.

According to Harvey Simon, MD of Harvard Medical School, a 6-point increase in HDL, which was achieved in the chromium trial, should reduce the risk of heart attack by about 20 percent.

HDL plays an important protective role in atherosclerosis. Unfortunately, it is very hard to boost HDL levels in some people. So chromium is a natural way to boost the HDL.

Experts say that if your cardiac risk is rated moderate to high, and if your HDL is below 40, you should try to raise it. Exercise, maintenance of ideal body weight, and smoking cessation should be part of everyone's plan. But if these critical changes don't bring your HDL up to protective levels, consider chromium supplementation.

Recommended Dosage: Take 200 micrograms 3 times a day.

Zinc:

Zinc is an antioxidant that helps maintain proper immune function. 

Note: Take zinc with food to prevent stomach upset. If you take over 30 milligrams of zinc on a daily basis for more than one or two months, you should also take 1 to 2 milligrams of copper each day to maintain a proper mineral balance.

Copper:

Copper plays an important role in human metabolism and in the formation of red blood cells. It only takes one and a half to 3 milligrams of copper per day to fulfill these needs. Most of us get more than enough copper from cereals, barley, legumes, nuts, shellfish, and meats.

It is possible that too much copper may be harmful. Studies from 1991 and 1992 in Finland reported an association between high blood copper levels and heart attacks. The association was strong; the highest copper levels were linked to a 4-fold increase in heart attacks. It is suggested that copper can promote oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Iron

Iron is a vital nutrient; it's an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells. Americans are often low in iron. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in the United States.

Iron deficiency is particularly common in women, who lose red blood cells with each menstrual period.

The best dietary source of iron is red meat. Iron is also present in deep green vegetables, legumes, and certain fish. Even so, American women are estimated to get only two-thirds of the iron they need from their diet. Physicians often recommend iron tablets to women who are menstruating, pregnant, or lactating.

The September 1992 issue of the journal Circulation reported that a high level of iron in the blood was an important heart attack risk factor. The study was performed in Finland, where 1,931 middle-aged men were observed for an average of 3 years. All the conventional cardiac risk factors were evaluated. Results showed that iron was strongly associated with the risk of heart attack. The men with the highest blood iron levels were 2.2 times more likely to suffer heart attacks than men with low blood iron. Each milligram of iron in the daily diet was found to increase the heart attack risk by 5 percent. The association between iron and heart attack persisted even after other risk factors were considered; in fact, iron was second only to smoking as a risk factor.

It is postulated that iron promotes the formation of free radicals, which can oxidize LDL cholesterol, thus promoting atherosclerosis.

However, five studies in the USA found no link between heart attacks and dietary iron intake, blood iron levels, or body iron stores. These were large population studies. One study (1993) evaluated the body iron stores of 22,071 men in the U .S. Physicians' Health Study. Another evaluated dietary iron intake in 45,720 male health professionals. The third study checked blood iron levels in 14,916 men, and the fourth monitored iron levels in 171 men and 406 women older than 62. The fifth study in 1994 evaluated body iron stores in 4,518 Americans who had been tracked for over 20 years.

A 1994 study from Iceland also found no link between iron levels and heart attacks in 2,036 people who were observed for more than 8 years.

Thus, the results are contradictory as to the risk of iron to heart attack.

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA, Alpha-lipotene):

Alpha-lipoic acid, works with other antioxidants in the body to increase their effectiveness against oxidative stress. It helps the body to recycle other antioxidants. Instead of these vitamins being used up during the metabolism, they're kept available and used again.

Alpha-lipoic acid can also help the body rid itself of toxic heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium.

And as a strong antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid helps to keep arteries clear by preventing the LDL ("bad") cholesterol from being incorporated into the artery walls. Since it is both fat and water soluble, it can work inside and outside of the body cells.

Bromelain:

An enzyme found in pineapple, bromelain may 'thin" the blood and help to clear away debris from artery walls. One study has shown that bromelain can relieve the pain of angina, which is associated with CHD.

Coenzyme Q10:  

Heart muscle biopsies in patients with various cardiac diseases showed a CoQ10 deficiency in 50-75 percent of the cases. On the corollary, all the well functioning hearts had an adequate amount of CoQ10 in the tissue. To make it more interesting, when supplemental CoQ10 was introduced into the ailing hearts, they started getting signs of new life.

The obvious conclusion is that adequate levels of CoQ10 is necessary for a well functioning system. When the levels of CoQ10 drops below optimum levels, disease takes over or already had done so.

CoQ10 increases oxygenation of heart tissue.

Recommended Dosage: 50-100 mg 3 times daily

See Also: Benefits of Co Enzyme Q-10 Supplementation in Cardiovascular Health

L-Carnitine:  

L-Carnitine is a nonprotein amino acid that is found in the heart and skeletal muscle.

Carnitine has been shown to lower triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, while at the same time improving HDL levels.

Since foods that are rich in L-Carnitine such as red meat and dairy products are also high in saturated fat, it is recommended that supplements of L-Carnitine be taken instead.

Lecithin:

An antioxidant found in eggs, corn and soybeans, lecithin helps prevent the conversion of LDL into its more dangerous, artery- damaging form. Lecithin may also lower the total cholesterol.

Pycnogenol:

Pycnogenol is found to be more effective than aspirin in reducing buildup of platelets in the arteries, a major risk factor in heart disease.

Soy Protein:  

Eating soy protein is found to reduce moderate to high concentration of blood cholesterol significantly (average of 10 percent drop in blood cholesterol was observed in a University of Kentucky study.)

See Also: Herbal Medicine for Cardiovascular Health

Taurine:

Taurine helps to stabilize the heart beat and correct cardiac arrhythmias. An important antioxidant and immune regulator, it is necessary for white blood cell activation and neurological function. The sublingual form is recommended.

Recommended Dosage: 1,000 mg daily. Take with 50 mg of vitamin B6 and 100 mg of vitamin C for better absorption.

Essential Fatty Acids:

Essential fatty acids help to prevent unnecessary blood clotting, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood pressure. They are found in black currant seed oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil, fish oil, and flaxseed oil 

Recommended Dosage: Take 500 to 1,000 milligrams of any of these oils twice daily.

Activated charcoal:

Activated charcoal is a special type of capsulated charcoal that is used in hospital emergency rooms as an antidote to many poisons.

In one study, seven patients with elevated cholesterol were given 8 grams of activated charcoal three times a day. Prior to this treatment, these patients had not responded to 10 years of treatment with cholesterol medicines. After four weeks of activated charcoal therapy, their total cholesterol fell by 41 percent, and their LDL (bad cholesterol) fell by 25 percent. Meanwhile, their HDL (good cholesterol) rose by 8 percent.

Recommended Dosage: Start with half a gram. Gradually raise the dosage to a gram of activated charcoal twice a day, with meals.

Pectin:

Pectin is a fiber found in grapefruit, apples and other fruits and vegetables. Human and animal studies have verified the effectiveness of pectin in lowering or counteracting the effect of cholesterol.

In one study, it was found that when patients were given pectin supplementation, their total cholesterol went down by 7.6 percent, and the harmful LDL by 10.8 percent after 8 weeks.

The power of grapefruit pectin was studied in pigs, whose cardiovascular systems are similar to humans. Even when the animals were deliberately fed a high-cholesterol diet, the grapefruit pectin swept away fatty plaque deposits away from the artery walls. 

Recommendations

Take Vitamin B6, Vitamin C (1000 to 5000 milligrams), E(400 to 800 IU), Vitamin B complex, beta carotene (daily supplements of 15 milligrams or 25000 IU), copper, magnesium (400 - milligram supplement per day) and lecithin. Selenium tablets (200 micrograms) may help. Taking 400 micrograms of Chromium tablets daily may help prevent the buildup of cholesterol in arteries.

The following list summarizes the vitamin, mineral and herbal regimen to help control or reverse the heart disease:

  • 1,500-2,000 mg Calcium daily, in divided doses, after meals and at bedtime. 
    and 750-1,000 mg magnesium  daily, in divided doses, after meals and at bedtime. Take with 50 mg vitamin B6.
  • 30-100 milligrams of coenzyme Q-10 three times a day
  • 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C three times a day
  • 400 IU of Vitamin E twice per day
  • 200 micrograms of Selenium a day
  • 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 a day
  • 500 milligrams of carnitine three times a day
  • one capsule of herb Ginkgo Biloba three times a day

See Also:

Diet and Nutrition Therapy for Cardiovascular Health

Nutrition Infocenter in Holisticonline.com

Vitamin/Nutrition Therapy for Angina

Vitamin and Nutritional Supplements for Arteriosclerosis

Vitamin/Nutritional Supplements for Heart Attack

Vitamin/Nutrition Therapy for High Blood Pressure

Nutritional Supplements for Stroke

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