Proper Nutrition and Heart Health
WebMD's top 5 vitamins and minerals for heart health. Part 2 of a three-part series.
Not Fooling With Folic Acid continued...
Homocysteine may damage the blood vessel walls and promote blood clots, and
although studies have consistently shown that high levels are associated with
an increased risk of heart disease, researchers are still not sure whether
lowering the level of homocysteine reduces heart disease risk.
But homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, and several studies have
shown that higher blood levels of B vitamins -- specifically folic acid -- are
related, at least partly, to lower concentrations of homocysteine. Today,
cereals, breads, and other grains like rice are fortified with extra folic
acid. Fruits and vegetables like
spinach, strawberries, oranges, and broccoli have high levels of folic
But don't forget the other Bs, says Nancy Kennedy, MS, RD, a nutritionist at
the Ministrelli Women's Heart Center at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.
Vitamins B-6 and B-12 are also important in lowering homocysteine. "Many
clinicians emphasize folic acid, but actually all three B vitamins are involved
in the metabolism of homocysteine,
and B-6 is one of the vitamins that is typically very low in the American
diet," she says. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) suggests 2 mg of
B-6 and 6 micrograms of B-12. Beef liver, baked potatoes, watermelon, and
banana are rich in B-6, while milk, meats (beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish,
poultry), eggs, and cheese are replete with B-12.
Nixing Your Heart Risks With Niacin
Niacin (also known as vitamin
B-3) helps increase HDL or "good" cholesterol levels. It comes in
over-the-counter preparations and as dietary supplements. It's also
found in dairy products, poultry, fish, lean meats, nuts, and eggs. Legumes and
enriched breads and cereals may also contain some niacin. Poon recommends that
people with low HDL levels take 500 mg of niacin each day, building up to 1,000
But, he cautions, this should be monitored by a doctor because each person
is different. "It can have some side effects and is not for everybody,
particularly people who already have high HDL levels," he tells WebMD.
Flushing, itching, and nausea and vomiting can occur.