Can taking vitamins help prevent heart disease or a heart attack?

Answers from Rekha Mankad, M.D.

It's not yet clear if taking vitamins can reduce your risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. But, what is known is that no vitamin can prevent the development of heart disease if you don't control your other risk factors, such as a poor diet, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Previous studies suggested that certain vitamins, such as vitamins C and E, may reduce your heart disease risk, but larger clinical trials haven't shown a benefit. However, one recent study indicated that vitamin E, when taken alone, may help prevent a heart attack. But, the American Heart Association doesn't recommend taking either vitamin as a way to prevent heart disease.

There's also some evidence of a relationship between low blood levels of vitamin D and heart disease, but more research is needed. Talk to your doctor if you're concerned about your vitamin D level.

Most people who are generally healthy and get the nutrients they need from their diets don't need to take a daily vitamin. Even a daily multivitamin doesn't seem to help prevent heart disease. If you're concerned about your nutrition, talk with your doctor about whether taking a daily vitamin might be a good option for you.

Or, better yet, add nutrient-rich foods — such as vegetables and fruits, vegetable or seed oils, whole grains, and at least two servings of fish weekly — to your diet to help protect your heart.

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Rekha Mankad, M.D.

Feb. 18, 2017