Scary headlines got you thinking its time to abandon supplements for better heart health and yet you wonder, can I trust the headlines?
No. These days one thing is for certain – headlines do not deliver better health information. They hope to deliver more eyeballs to their content and that won’t help your heart.
Headlines like these top the list of what is actually unhealthy for your heart.
- “Dispense with Supplements for Improving Health Outcomes” from the Annals of Internal Medicine.
- “More evidence supplements won’t help your heart” headline and exact same article published from the press release by The Chicago Tribune and Reuters.
I saved probably the most scary, frustrating and demotivating headline for last – take a deep breath (which incidentally is good for your heart) before reading:
“Changing your diet and taking supplements may not do anything for your heart health” from Popular Science. Ironically, the content of this piece delivers the most sage advice for those considering it time to abandon your supplements for better heart health.
The 3 things to consider before you stop or start taking supplements for your heart:
- “You can’t fix your heart by popping a pill” thank you Popular Science writer Sara Chodosh for the winning [should-be] headline. We know you want to prevent heart disease, but no pill can do for your body what it’s marketing campaign promises – and that includes statin drugs along with the myriad of supplements promoting heart health benefits.
- What’s better for your heart has more to do with the ‘your’ than the ‘heart’ Studies lump groups of participants together to create impressively large numbers to convey the high value of the results… and to create super grabby headlines. But your heart isn’t like thousands of other peoples. The data that doesn’t make the headlines includes: some diets work awesome for some people, some supplements help some people’s hearts, some diets and supplements are a disaster for others.
- Separating supplements and diets into different studies is a problem your body needs and you give it nutrients. Today, there are lots of ways to get in those nutrients – foods, drinks, fortified food products, supplements and medications. Your results are a result of your total nutrition, your genetics, and your lifestyle. The better studies should look at these altogether, but at minimum should look at total nutrition.
What is better for your heart?
Your heart needs these nutrients more often to run better.
Potassium. And not from supplements. Adults need ~4700mg and a banana has ~400mg so its critical to assess potassium intake (foods, beverages) as part of your heart healthy nutrition plan. We’ve got tools for practitioners to efficiently do both.
Magnesium. ~70% of adults aren’t meeting the recommended daily allowance for daily magnesium. That means bodies are choosing between heart pumping, building healthy bones, relaxing muscles or turning off stress!
Omegas. All of them (3,6,7,9,…). Especially in better balance. The research on omega 3s looks good, but eating quality fish and the plants they eat to create omegas in their bodies looks awesome. Go for the whole food sources on your plate, in your smoothie and as your better supplement choices. That’s how the do it in The Mediterranean (!)
B12, B6, Folate vs Folic Acid and or B12, even methylated versions of them. Your body uses these B vitamins in a cycle to prevent the formation of homocysteine. That’s a heart health win. Highly refined foods fortified with folic acid, or supplements (and shots) of only high doses of B12 or B12 with just one of these other Bs, isn’t better.
Soluble, Insoluble Fibers and Plenty of Water. You don’t get to pick and choose which fibers are heart healthy because your heart relies on healthy digestion too. Fiber without water doesn’t work. Get them all in.
What should I feed my heart for it to run better?
Leafy greens: Spinach, kale and collard greens are all rich in Vitamin K, which can help improve the function of your arteries and reduce blood pressure.
Berries: These tasty fruits are all great sources of antioxidants which may reduce multiple risk factors for developing heart disease. Enjoy them ready to eat or frozen, but aim to get in organic which delivers more of those powerful antioxidants and likely less ‘cides (pesticide, herbicide) residues.
Salmon, Hemp Seeds & Walnuts: Get heart healthy doses of omega-3s along with their other omega friends from these foods. Hemp seeds are the wild salmon of the plant kingdom – rich in fiber, omegas, and plant protein.
Dark chocolate: In addition to being rich in magnesium, dark chocolate contains antioxidants known as flavonoids, which may lower your risk of developing harmful calcified plaque in the arteries. Dark means >60% and make sure the “other” ingredients are better for your heart too.
When Should I Take Supplements for My Heart?
Your body needs the nutrients listed above for heart health. If you can’t get them in from foods more often, better quality supplements can help supplement your food and beverage choices so your total nutrition gives your heart what it needs to run better. Allergies, access, affordability, preferences, and other reasons may mean that at times or regularly supplements are still your better choice. Check out our provider referral network or email use (firstname.lastname@example.org) for help choosing better supplements as part of your overall plan.
Can you help me get in heart healthy foods?
Whether you abandon your supplements for better heart health or not, you need to get the above listed nutrients. And better be delicious or we won’t choose them more often. You can get some ideas and recipes for how to get them in with the Better Heart Healthy Nutrition Menu. it features deliciously easy ways to enjoy heart healthy foods more often.
What is never better for your heart?
Too much sodium. The low salt diet is hailed as the only winner in heart health. That’s because to lower your salt, you have to eat less processed, sodium-preserved, and restaurant made foods. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. But it also doesn’t mean you ignore the types and amounts of fat, protein, vegetables, and dressings that you take in more often.
Too much saturated fat, especially from animals. Optimize fat intake to include a variety of foods, primarily plants, rich in unsaturated fats.
Highly processed, isolated, or over-exposed fats. Those omegas aren’t heart healthy if the processing they undergo exposes them to light, excessive heat, air. They may not deliver better heart health when isolated to remove them from their other omegas.
Too much calcium, with or without vitamin D. The studies nailed this one. Hopefully dietary guidelines will catch up. Until then know this: your body doesn’t need more calcium. Too much (or calcium without key nutrients like vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K) can become arterial plaque or kidney stones. Before adding calcium (especially as a supplement) assess total calcium intake.
Using your cholesterol levels as a marker of heart health. ~50% of heart attacks (that’s 1 in 2, that’s every other one) happen in adults with healthy cholesterol levels! Don’t rely on your annual cholesterol test to tell you if your heart is healthy.
Stressing about heart health (or heart healthy supplements). More stress isn’t better, ever. Breathing (4-7-8 or 5-10 or just in and out) is better for your heart health. So is working with your practitioner to assess your personal heart health risks using the better heart health evaluation.
Ignoring genetic factors. Check out the Better Lp(a) guide for information on this important marker of heart health… it could save your life.
Should you abandon your supplements for better heart health?
Hopefully by now you see the answer is “I need to work with someone who fully assesses my nutrition and health first”. The other key takeaway is that considering action based on the headlines may be part of or the most un-heart-healthy thing you do today. Exhale. Inhale. Repeat ten times, and email us if you ever feel really confused or frustrated by a headline.