Your heart is one organ you can't live without. In times past, people actually considered the heart the seat of thought and emotion, rather than the brain.
As medical science progressed, experts realized that the heart does not house our thoughts, but rather delivers life-giving oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. As the heart pumps, it sends blood through your veins and arteries, acting as the central part of your cardiovascular system.
Most of us know how important exercise is to heart health — the heart is a muscle, after all. However, getting enough heart-healthy nutrients is just as vital. Vitamins, minerals, and other compounds help your heart, blood vessels, and entire circulatory system function properly. But do you know which ones help your heart the most?
Best Vitamins & Minerals for Your Heart
One of the most important things you can do for your heart is to eat a healthful, balanced diet. Certain vitamins and minerals play a special role in supporting a healthy, happy heart.
While it's important to maintain proper levels of these vitamins and minerals throughout life, as you grow older, your body may produce less of certain nutrients, or your body may absorb them less effectively than when you were younger — making supplementation increasingly helpful.
These nutrients will help keep your heart healthy throughout life, and well into your golden years.
Vitamin C is a robust antioxidant that boosts collagen and repairs damaged tissues!
Found in oranges and other heart-healthy citrus fruits, vitamin C helps the body repair damaged tissue. Extra vitamin C also boosts your body's production of collagen, a protein that supports healthy blood vessels. A powerful antioxidant, this nutrient counteracts free radicals that damage cells. Vitamin C also plays a key role in the body’s production of L-carnitine, a compound critical to metabolism and heart health.
Adult women need 75 mg (milligrams) while adult men need 90 mg of vitamin C a day, but if you eat a conventional American diet, you might not get enough.
Your best bet? Boost your citrus fruit intake! Eating vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables — at least five servings a day — has been linked to a more than 15 percent reduction in heart disease risk.
Vitamin C normalizes levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and promotes normal blood pressure. It does this by boosting production of a compound called nitric oxide that helps relax and open blood vessels, helping your blood flow smoothly and efficiently.
Studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to heart health risk factors. Getting more will make your heart happy, especially as you grow older.
Did you know that the sunshine vitamin plays a big role in how nerves carry messages to your heart?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone produced by your liver and kidneys, although exposure to the sun can boost its production. That's why people call it the sunshine vitamin! With age, your body makes less vitamin D, as well.
Vitamin D helps regulate levels of calcium in the blood, which plays a role in how nerves carry messages to your heart — along with other parts of your body.
This vitamin may also promote normal blood sugar levels, though the studies are preliminary and mostly animal or human epidemiological studies (correlating vitamin D use with various health conditions in a population), versus human lab trials, which gives stronger results.
The daily requirement for adult men and women is 15 mcg (micrograms) or 600 IU. The Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board recommends that adults over 70 get 20 mcg (800 IU) per day.
Vitamin K plays a role in how your blood clots and in how calcium is processed in your bloodstream. Specifically, scientists have linked low vitamin K to "vascular calcifications" or calcium deposits on the wall of your arteries, which leads to atherosclerosis — a leading risk factor for heart disease.
With normal levels of vitamin K, people generally have fewer calcium deposits. Studies have found that higher vitamin K intake improves cardiovascular health and optimizes levels of calcium in tissues. The right amount of vitamin K promotes proper blood flow.
The daily requirement for vitamin K is 90 mcg for adult women and 120 mcg for adult men; pregnant or breastfeeding women and children require different amounts.
Magnesium is the fourth most plentiful mineral in your body — but a lot of people do not get enough. This mineral helps regulate muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
Magnesium works with calcium to help your heart muscle function properly.
Magnesium helps the body absorb calcium, which helps transmit the electrical impulse of your heartbeat. Magnesium helps muscles relax, while calcium helps them contract; together they help the heart muscle work properly.
The daily recommendation is 320 mg for adult women and 420 mg for adult men. While you can get magnesium from nuts, seeds, and legumes, you may need a supplement to ensure you get enough.
Different forms of magnesium are sold as supplements with different absorption rates; make sure you do your research on the best types for your needs. For more information, see our article 9 Types of Magnesium Explained.
A deficiency in potassium can lead to blood pressure issues in adults.
Potassium is an electrolyte, a mineral that acts as an electrical charge to help your body — including your heart, muscles, and nerves — function normally. It also helps you maintain a proper blood volume. Like vitamin K, potassium also helps normalize calcium buildup in blood vessels.
Many people don't get enough potassium. Too little of this mineral, along with too much sodium, can lead to blood pressure issues. However, adequate potassium levels promote normal blood pressure in adults.
Avoid processed foods like white rice and refined-flour bread, because processing grains removes much of their natural potassium.
Heart Health Supplements
Besides vitamins and minerals, other types of nutrients help you maintain a healthy heart. Below are the best supplements for heart health.
CoQ10, or coenzyme Q10, plays a critical role in every single cell in your body. Also called ubiquinone, CoQ10 sparks chemical reactions that help mitochondria, your cells' “power plants," convert food into energy. That's important because your heart consumes so much energy.
CoQ10 also helps keep veins open so blood can flow freely and without obstruction. It may also promote normal blood pressure.
CoQ10 promotes normal heart health and circulation, and it protects against toxins.
CoQ10 is a strong antioxidant that helps counteract oxidative stress — the damage caused to cells from toxins, illness, UV rays, or the body's natural aging processes.
Although your body produces CoQ10, it makes less as you age, making supplementation helpful. You can also find CoQ10 naturally in olive oil, pistachios, sesame seeds, and cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are called the “essential" fatty acids because your body needs them, but it can't make them on its own; thus, you have to get them from supplements or food. Omega-3 fatty acids — including ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) — improve your chances of living a long life with a healthy heart.
Did you know that your body doesn't produce omega-3s? You have to get them from supplements or natural foods!
Omega-3 fatty acids help keep chronic redness and swelling in check, and they also lower the body's production of triglycerides — fats that circulate in the blood. Studies have also found that omega-3s balance levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol.
The daily requirement for ALA is 1.1 g (grams) in adult women and 1.6 g in adult men. Breastfeeding and pregnant women need more, and children need a bit less. Experts haven't set recommended amounts for the other main types, EPA and DHA, although they are still important nutrients to obtain regularly. Natural sources include algae oil, flax seeds, olives, and olive oil.
You may have heard of the heart health benefits of red wine. Scientists think resveratrol, a polyphenol antioxidant, provides red wine's heart-healthy benefits. Scientists isolated this compound from the skin of grapes and have since found it also in other fruits, like mulberries, cranberries, and blueberries.
Resveratrol may protect blood vessel walls and promote healthy levels of both HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also promotes normal blood pressure. Further, resveratrol mimics the positive effects of calorie restriction and fasting; both fasting and resveratrol spur the body to produce adiponectin, which promotes heart health through fat metabolism and blood sugar balance.
While you can get small amounts from food or red wine, you won't get enough to make a significant difference in your heart health from dietary sources, according to studies. Supplements concentrate the nutrient in servings that can effectively support heart health.
Make sure to look for trans-resveratrol, which studies find much more effective than its isomer cis-resveratrol. Some supplements contain both, but higher-quality ones contain up to 99 percent trans-resveratrol.
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B-9; folic acid is the manufactured form of B-9 that's used in most supplements or in fortified foods (which we do not recommend because your body processes vitamins and minerals most efficiently from their natural form).
Whichever form, vitamin B-9 helps your body make red blood cells and DNA. It also helps balance your body's levels of homocysteine. Without enough folate, your homocysteine levels can get too high, which can cause swelling of the arteries and other blood vessels. Research has linked lower levels of homocysteine with a healthier heart.
Herbs & Spices for Your Heart
Herbs and spices are more than flavor enhancers: They're powerful substances that many cultures have used to support health for centuries. Modern research has found that several can, indeed, benefit your heart.
Bergamot is a type of citrus plant. Its oil is the fragrant ingredient in Earl Grey tea. You can also get it in supplement form. Bergamot is rich in polyphenols, a disease-fighting compound found in plants.
A recent study found that taking bergamot extract for six months not only lowered triglycerides, total and bad cholesterol, and atherogenic lipoproteins (molecules that tend to build up in arteries), it also increased good (HDL) cholesterol — all of which make for a healthier heart.
Traditional healers have long used the leaves, berries, and flowers of the hawthorn plant to address heart and blood vessel conditions.
Hawthorn can promote normal blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Recent research suggests that hawthorn may also fight free radicals, expand blood vessels, and protect muscles — including the heart. Most people take it in supplement form. Interestingly, hawthorn berries are extremely hard to distinguish from other closely related species; most of the hawthorn used in supplements come from Europe.
People have used this sweet apple pie spice for centuries for its health-promoting traits. Chemicals found in cinnamon, including cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, act as antioxidants — fighting off free radicals and harmful organisms.
Cinnamon also reduces systemic redness and swelling and balances lipid levels in the blood. A daily serving of cinnamon promotes normal blood sugar and blood pressure, both of which keep the heart healthy. You can buy cinnamon in stick form or ground in a jar — and it is an increasingly popular supplement, which concentrates the helpful compounds.
Ginger root contains several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds including gingerol and zingerone that can protect the heart and soothe systemic redness and swelling in your body.
Some studies have shown these properties of ginger help normalize blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides, and HDL (good) cholesterol. All of these factors make for a happy heart!
Garlic was one of the earliest herbal medicines. Chemicals found in this tangy bulb soothe chronic redness and swelling. You can use it in cooking or you can take odor-free garlic capsules.
Studies also show it slows plaque buildup, which encourages blood vessels to stay open. Other studies found it has a strong ability to regulate blood pressure as well as blood lipid (fat) levels — keeping your heart in top shape.
Other Heart-Healthy Tips
Even if you include all of these heart-healthy substances in your diet or consume them as supplements, the best way to keep your heart healthy is by living a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle. The most important things you can do for your heart include:
- Eat an organic, whole-food, plant-based diet.
- Limit your salt intake.
- Eat high-fiber foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation.
- Keep stress at bay through relaxation techniques.
- For more ideas, check out our 17 Healthy Heart Tips article.
Support Your Heart Health Naturally
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Precautions & Side Effects
While all of the above nutrients and supplements are generally safe, they can react with certain medications or cause side effects or allergic reactions in some people.
For example, if you take blood thinners, be cautious about consuming cinnamon or garlic. Additionally, vitamin K may lower blood sugar too much if you have diabetes.
If you are unsure about the safety of any nutritional supplement or vitamin, talk to your healthcare provider. Positive results may vary depending on the brand or type of supplement you take. Look for pure, organic, high-quality supplements.
Points to Remember
Your heart keeps you alive, so it's important to adopt a diet that supports heart health and reduces your risk factors for heart disease.
Maintaining sufficient levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients helps you better manage your cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
Your best heart protection comes from consuming vitamins C, D, and K, magnesium, potassium, coenzyme Q10, omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, and folate. You can get all of these from a healthy diet, but you can also try plant-based supplements.
Heart-healthy herbs and spices include bergamot, hawthorn, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. Make sure that you make healthy lifestyle choices — such as exercising regularly, eating heart-healthy foods, and reducing the amount of stress in your life.
Have you tried any vitamins, herbs, or supplements for heart health? What works best for you? Comment below!
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.