How To Use Supplements for Heart Health

Many of us seek out helpful supplements because we are at risk or suffering from health issues related to our heart. It should be noted that before beginning any supplements, you should talk to your doctor about the advantages, disadvantages, and how he or she feels about the topic. It is also important to check and make sure that the supplements aren't going to react to any prescription medication that you are taking.

Step 1

Identify heart-healthy supplements. There are many heart-healthy supplements available. Some have a wide range of studies that show their effectiveness, while others have been the subject of only a few studies and therefore leave some research to be desired.

Basic heart healthy supplements include:

  • Fish oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • B Vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium

On the other hand, here are some supplements recommended for lowering your blood pressure:

  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Fish oil
  • Ginger
  • Potassium
  • Garlic

The following are supplements recommended for lowering cholesterol:

  • Hawthorne berries
  • Policosanol
  • Gugulipid
  • Green tea
  • Fish oil
  • Niacin

Fish oil is the number one researched item. Omega-3 found in some fish has a lot of advantages. It is recommended that people without heart concerns eat fish twice a week, particularly those with omega-3. On the other hand, those with heart problems should consume fish more often. Because most of us don't have diets heavy in fish, it is a good option to take fish oil, particularly those with omega-3.

Other studies have shown that the B Vitamins, vitamin E, and trace minerals such as potassium and magnesium have all been shown to be good for the heart and overall heart health. These things can be found in a good mulit-vitamin.

There is still some promise in the other listed ingredients. However, it's very important that you talk to your doctor and research thoroughly, as the thinking regarding some of the more suspect supplements (like Polycosanol) is constantly evolving; in the case of polycosanol, for example studies have been contradictory. The least amount of research has been done on folic acid and garlic.

Step 2

Talk to your doctor. Choosing which supplements to take and how much of them to take can be a difficult task. Depending on your doctor, they may make it very simple. Other doctors refuse to recognize the benefits of such supplements and would prefer to put you on a prescription. It is wise to seek the council of your doctor and to find out the risks associated with taking the supplements before beginning a regimen. It should also be noted that some supplements will react with prescription medications and even with each other.

Step 3

Do your research. If your doctor didn't have specific directions on what you should take and how much, then it is time for you to do your research. Go to the library and check out am up-to-date book on vitamins, minerals, and supplements (depending on your library, you may need more then one book). Find out what the book has to say about the supplements you are looking to take to help your particular hearth health needs.

For those looking for a good resource online, the National Institute of Health has a Dietary Suppliment Office online where they offer a wide range of dietary supplement information including a list of dietary supplements and their information.

Step 4

Find a store that sells supplements. Nowadays supplements are available at most department stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, the drug store, as well as health food stores. You can go to any of these places looking for the supplements you have decided to take. It isn't wise to seek medical advice from employees of stores, even at health food stores. You can ask advice from a pharmacist who at least has some medical training, but remember this doesn't replace talking to your doctor.

Step 5

Choose your supplements. Once you have found the aisle with the supplements, it is sometimes overwhelming; there are tons of options, brands, and types saying that they are the best. Choosing one can feel like a horrible task. Here are some things you should look for.

  • Most importantly, check to see if the product is USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) certified. This guarantees that the product and company have been checked out by a third party. The supplement that is in the bottle contains what is listed on the label; it doesn't contain harmful contaminants; it will break down in the system and release the supplement into the body; and the product has been manufactured with good practices.
  • The label should also list the ingredients and include percentages. For vitamins and minerals, this should be in the form of a % of daily value or % of recommended daily allowance. For mixed products containing other supplements, you should see a % of how much of each product is contained in the mix. If there aren't lists of ingredients or percents, then avoid the product.
  • Ignore all medical claims on the packaging -- only look for what you came to find. Often the supplement will have a list of medical claims based on advertising and not on actual studies.
  • Check the shelf life and choose the supplements that last the longest.
  • Also, if it is available in a chewable form, it is a good idea to get the chewable because your body is more likely to absorb those nutrients in chewable form.

I recommend Spring Valley as a good company for supplements.

Step 6

Take the supplements as directed. Most supplements will have basic instructions included. You should follow these unless your research has shown otherwise or your doctor has suggested a particular dosage. Never exceed the recommended dosage on the bottle unless your doctor tells you to; this can be dangerous and can cause an overdose which may lead to serious issues.

Step 7

Diet, exercise, and water. While supplements can have a hand in heart health, it is also important to maintain a healthy diet. Diets that are good for the heart are low in fats (especially saturated fats), high in fiber, and contain a lot of fruits and vegetables.

You should also do some sort of aerobic exercise at least three times a week for twenty or more minutes.

One last important part of a healthy heart lifestyle includes drinking lots of water. You should have at least 1/2 gallon (or eight 8-ounce glasses) of water each day.

There is a wide range of supplements that can potentially help you improve and maintain heart health, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They can be taken alone or in combination (as long as it is shown that these combinations are safe) as a great additive to a heart healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, exercise, and plenty of water.

Don't forget to always check with your doctor before adding vitamins, herbal treatments, or other supplements to your diet. I can't stress that enough, because your life matters and supplements can interact with prescription medications or even with each other. Get healthy, stay healthy, and stay safe!


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