Avoid these 3 supplements that harm more than help your heart

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men, women, and most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, claiming a life every 33 seconds [1], [2]. 

With such alarming statistics, many people turn to heart health supplements, hoping to enhance their heart health. However, not all supplements are beneficial; some may even pose significant risks.

What supplements are bad for your heart?

Certain supplements can be detrimental to heart health. Despite their popularity and widespread use, these supplements have been linked to increased risks of heart-related issues.

Understanding the potential dangers these supplements pose and considering safer alternatives to protect your heart is crucial.

Let’s discuss why these supplements are harmful and provide actionable advice on maintaining heart health without relying on them.

1. Calcium supplements

Calcium supplements are commonly taken to support bone health, but excessive intake can adversely affect the heart [3].

Studies have shown that high calcium levels from supplements can lead to artery calcification.

In this condition, calcium builds up in the arterial walls, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease. This calcification can restrict blood flow and heighten the chances of heart attacks and strokes.

Potential risks

  • Arterial calcification: Excessive calcium from supplements can lead to calcium deposits in the arterial walls, causing arterial stiffness and increasing the risk of heart disease.
  • Increased risk of heart attack: Some studies suggest that high calcium intake from supplements may be associated with a higher risk of heart attacks, particularly in older adults [4].
  • Impaired blood flow: Calcium buildup in the arteries can restrict blood flow, leading to potential cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Interaction with medications: Calcium supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of certain heart medications, potentially leading to adverse health outcomes.
  • Imbalance of nutrients: Relying on supplements rather than a balanced diet can result in an imbalance of other essential nutrients, which are crucial for maintaining heart health.

Alternative sources

Instead of relying on supplements, obtaining calcium from natural dietary sources is better. Foods rich in calcium include:

  • Leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Dairy products such as milk and yogurt
  • Fortified foods like certain cereals and plant-based milk

These natural sources not only provide calcium but also offer other essential nutrients that contribute to overall health.

Actionable advice

To ensure you’re getting the right amount of calcium without risking your heart health, consider the following tips:

  • Monitor your dietary intake. Track your calcium intake from foods and ensure it aligns with the recommended daily amounts.
  • Focus on balanced nutrition. Aim for a balanced diet that provides all necessary nutrients, reducing the need for high-dose supplements.
  • Consult a healthcare provider. Before starting any calcium supplements, especially if you have pre-existing heart conditions, seek professional medical advice.

You can support your bone health without compromising your heart by choosing natural food sources over supplements and consulting with healthcare professionals.

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2. Beta-carotene supplements

Beta-carotene supplements, often taken for their antioxidant properties and to support vision health, can pose serious risks to heart health, especially when consumed in high doses [5].

Potential risks

  • Increased risk of heart disease: High doses of beta-carotene supplements have been linked to a heightened risk of heart disease, particularly in smokers and individuals with a history of asbestos exposure.
  • Increased mortality in smokers: Studies have shown that smokers who take high-dose beta-carotene supplements have an increased risk of mortality from heart disease and other causes [6].
  • Oxidative stress: Excessive beta-carotene can contribute to oxidative stress, which damages cells and tissues, negatively impacting cardiovascular health.
  • Interference with other antioxidants: High levels of beta-carotene can interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of other important antioxidants, potentially reducing their protective effects on the heart.
  • Potential for toxicity: Overconsumption of beta-carotene through supplements can lead to toxicity, which can have various adverse health effects, including harm to the heart.

Alternative sources

Instead of supplements, obtaining beta-carotene from natural food sources is beneficial. Foods rich in beta-carotene include:

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Other colorful vegetables and fruits

These foods provide a balanced intake of beta-carotene and other essential nutrients that contribute to overall health and well-being.

Actionable advice

To minimize the risks associated with beta-carotene supplements and support heart health, consider the following tips:

  • Avoid high-dose supplements. Steer clear of beta-carotene supplements, especially if you are a smoker or have been exposed to asbestos, as these groups are at higher risk.
  • Prioritize a balanced diet. Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into your daily meals to ensure adequate beta-carotene intake.

By focusing on natural food sources and seeking professional advice, you can enjoy the benefits of beta-carotene without compromising your heart health.

3. Vitamin E supplements

Vitamin E supplements are often taken for their antioxidant properties, but high doses can have serious negative effects on heart health [7].

Excessive vitamin E supplementation may increase the risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular issues. High doses can interfere with blood clotting and may lead to an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, a condition where bleeding occurs in the brain.

Potential risks

  • Increased risk of heart failure: High doses of vitamin E supplements have been associated with an increased risk of heart failure.
  • Interference with blood clotting: Excessive vitamin E can interfere with blood clotting mechanisms, leading to potential complications [8].
  • Increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke: High doses of vitamin E may elevate the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, where bleeding occurs in the brain.
  • Reduced protective effects: Over-supplementation may diminish the effectiveness of other vital antioxidants, negatively impacting overall cardiovascular protection.

Alternative sources

It’s best to get vitamin E from natural food sources to avoid the risks associated with supplements. Foods rich in vitamin E include:

  • Nuts (such as almonds and hazelnuts)
  • Seeds (like sunflower seeds)
  • Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli)
  • Vegetable oils (like sunflower and safflower oil)

These foods provide vitamin E and offer a range of other nutrients that contribute to overall health.

Actionable advice

To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin E without compromising your heart health, consider the following tips:

  • Refrain from high-dose supplements. Avoid taking high doses of vitamin E supplements unless a healthcare professional advises.
  • Seek professional advice. Before beginning any supplement regimen, talk to a healthcare provider about your nutritional needs and any potential risks, particularly if you have existing health conditions.
  • Focus on a balanced diet. Ensure your meals include diverse vitamin E-rich foods to maintain adequate levels naturally.
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What is the best supplement to take for heart health?

Choosing the right supplements can make a significant difference when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. With so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which ones offer the most benefits without posing risks. 

Let’s discuss the best supplements to support heart health. By understanding the benefits of these supplements and how they contribute to heart health, you can make informed decisions to enhance your cardiovascular wellness.

1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, are renowned for their heart health benefits [9]. These essential fats help reduce inflammation, lower triglyceride levels, and decrease the risk of arrhythmias.

Omega-3s can be obtained through fish oil supplements or by consuming fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

2. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant, plays a crucial role in cell energy production and protects the heart from oxidative damage [10]. It has been shown to improve heart function and reduce the risk of heart failure.

CoQ10 levels naturally decline with age, so supplementation can be beneficial, especially for individuals taking statin medications, which can further deplete CoQ10 levels.

3. Magnesium

Magnesium is vital for maintaining a healthy heart rhythm and preventing cardiovascular disease [11]. It helps regulate blood pressure, supports proper muscle function, and reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are among the foods rich in magnesium, but supplements can help those who have difficulty meeting their needs through diet alone.

Final takeaways

Heart health is a critical aspect of overall wellness, and while supplements can provide valuable support, it’s essential to choose wisely.

Certain supplements, like calcium, beta-carotene, and high-dose vitamin E, can pose risks to your heart, making it crucial to seek safer alternatives. 

Incorporating these heart-friendly supplements into your routine, along with a balanced diet rich in natural sources of essential nutrients, can significantly enhance your heart health.

Prioritizing informed choices and professional guidance will help you protect your heart and enjoy a healthier, longer life.

FAQs

Are calcium supplements bad for your heart?

Yes, excessive calcium from supplements can lead to arterial calcification, increasing the risk of heart disease. It’s better to get calcium from natural food sources.

Why should I avoid high-dose vitamin E supplements?

High-dose vitamin E supplements can increase the risk of heart failure and hemorrhagic stroke. Obtaining vitamin E from foods like nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables is safer.

What is a safe and effective supplement for heart health?

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, are highly recommended for heart health. They help reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides, and decrease the risk of heart disease.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/heart-disease/data-research/facts-stats/index.html
[2] https://www.cdc.gov/heart-disease/about/index.html
[3] https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/heart/calcium-supplements-heart-disease
[4] https://www.uab.edu/shp/toneyourbones/news/calcium-supplements-and-heart-disease-risk-dont-stop-supplements-just-yet
[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332299801206
[6] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2022.872310/full
[7] https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2811%2962503-2/fulltext
[8] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030144718.htm
[9] https://www.peacehealth.org/healthy-you/8-heart-health-supplements-take-and-one-avoid
[10] https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-supplements-for-heart-health-8624463
[11] https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/supplements-herbs/best-supplements-vitamins-for-heart-health

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.