7 Supplements Heart Doctors Take Every Day
Your diet delivers a lot of nutrients, but sometimes you need a bit more. Top heart doctors share the vitamins, minerals and other supplements they take daily to stay healthy.
Found naturally in fatty fish (think mackerel, tuna, salmon, and sardines), these healthy fats can reduce the inflammation tied to heart disease — among other benefits. "These healthy fats are not made by the body so you have to get them from food," says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, attending cardiologist and director of Women's Heart Health program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She sometimes falls short of the American Heart Association's (AHA) recommendations that call for eating fish twice a week, so she takes omega 3 supplements daily. If you don't eat fish often, consider having your blood levels tested, she advises. These supplements may also lower the risk of dying after heart failure or a recent heart attack, according to the AHA.
Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin because the body produces it when skin is exposed to sunlight. The problem? The sunscreen we wear to stave off skin cancer may also prevent vitamin D absorption — and low levels of D are linked to a host of diseases and conditions including heart disease. "I wear tons of sunblock and a big wide-brimmed hat to protect my skin from cancer, so I take 2,000 international units of vitamin D a day to make sure my levels are where that need to be," says Dr. Steinbaum. A simple blood test for vitamin D can tell you where you stand and whether you need supplements.
Garlic does more than ward off vampires and cause bad breath. The flavorful bulb also helps lower blood cholesterol levels and may lower blood pressure and blood sugar, as well. "I started taking Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract a few years back when I received news that I had hypertension," shares cardiologist Matthew Budoff, MD, a professor of Medicine at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He takes two garlic pills a day. "I've led multiple studies on the supplement that demonstrated coronary plaque regression and blood pressure lowering effects," he says. "I would recommend it to anyone seeking help with hypertension or early heart disease." Fatty plaques in the coronary arteries are a sign of heart disease.
New York City cardiologist Neica Goldberg, MD, heard about this B vitamin from a manicurist who suggested she take biotin to strengthen her nails. "I take it when I remember, and my nails are stronger for it," says Dr. Goldberg, who prefers to get her nutrients from whole foods as opposed to supplements. Taking biotin supplements is one of 15 ways to achieve glowing skin and healthy hair, but there may be a downside when it comes to heart health. The FDA is warning that high doses of biotin in dietary supplements may interfere with hundreds of common lab tests — including the type emergency room doctors use to diagnose a heart attack.
Wear, tear, and advancing age take their toll on our joints and bones: This is why Perry Frankel, MD, a cardiologist in Lake Success, New York, takes glucosamine supplements daily. "It's proven in studies to be good for joints, and in a head-to-head study it beat out certain pain relievers," says Dr. Frankel. "It also helps form new cartilage." These are among the reasons that it tops the list of arthritis home remedies even doctors strongly recommend.
This antioxidant rock star is popular among supplement takers: "Data show that it helps boost your immune system," Dr. Frankel says, which is important for those who work in healthcare settings. Cardiovascular surgeon David A. Greuner MD, FACS, of NYC Surgical Associates, agrees. "I take Vitamin C because of the antioxidant effects, the overall effect on skin maintenance and health, and the fact that I never eat enough fruit," he shares. Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease, according to a review study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. What's more, the study suggests that supplementing with C may boost heart health — especially in people with low blood levels of vitamin C.
Here's how to recognize if you have any nutrient deficiencies.
Heart surgeon and talk show host Mehmet C. Oz, MD, FACS, also known as Dr. Oz, says multivitamins are the "most essential" supplement to take on a daily basis, and he always practices what he preaches. "Make sure it includes vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, as well as potassium, zinc, and iodine, and it should contain 100 per cent of your daily value of most vitamins and minerals," he writes on his website.