Supplements for PAD

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on February 11, 2024
5 min read

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also called peripheral artery disease, causes inflammation in the layers of your blood vessel walls. It leads to reduced blood flow to your limbs. Without treatment, not only can PAD cause pain, but it can also cause tissue death (which could lead to amputation of a limb), stroke, or even heart attack.

If you have PAD, you may wonder if common dietary supplements can help your heart health. Some may, and some others might lead to complications or other risks.

As with any medication, let your doctor know before you begin any new supplement or vitamin. Your care team can tell you which ones may not be right for you or if any supplement could interact badly with another prescribed drug that you take.

Some of the most common ones for PAD include:

Omega-3 fatty acids. This supplement mainly comes from fish. Some studies show that short-term use of omega-3 supplements lowered triglyceride levels. But experts still aren’t sure if this would cause long-term benefits for people with PAD. Other studies found no evidence that nonprescription omega-3 supplements help with cardiovascular conditions and quality of life.

Berberine. This supplement is naturally in certain plants. It has antioxidant and immune system-modifying effects. It has anti-inflammatory effects and can help protect your cardiovascular system, liver, and kidneys. It can also help regulate glucose metabolism. Berberine may also lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. High cholesterol can harm your arteries and raise your risk for PAD. You shouldn’t take this supplement if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ground flaxseed. This ground seed may help lower your LDL cholesterol. But if you’re on blood-thinning medication, talk to your doctor before you use flaxseed. It might interact with some of your medications.

Green tea or green tea extract. Green tea might help lower your LDL cholesterol. But like flaxseed, it could interact with blood-thinning medication.

Niacin. This supplement is a B vitamin. Your body uses it to turn food into energy. Niacin keeps your skin, nervous system, and digestive system healthy. At a higher dosage, this supplement may lower your triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. It might also improve your high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” lipoprotein) cholesterol. While it may raise your HDL, studies suggest that it may not lower your rate of death, heart attack, or stroke.

Plant stanols and sterols. Made from nuts, vegetables, and other plant foods, these supplements may reduce your LDL cholesterol, especially in people with a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol.

Fiber. You can add more fiber to your diet to lower your cholesterol. About 25-35 grams a day is ideal. Fiber binds to cholesterol and removes it from your body. You can get fiber from food or supplements like psyllium (Konsyl, Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel). At first, these supplements may cause bloating and gas. Talk to your doctor before you begin these, especially if you have an intestinal condition (like Crohn’s disease or a history of bowel blockage). Ask your care team about any drug interactions. They may interact with certain medications.

Some supplements might be harmful for some people or may not have any benefits for treating PAD. It’s important that you’re aware of any potential risks so that you can avoid complications.

Potassium. High blood pressure can harm your arteries and put you at risk for PAD. Potassium is important for your muscle function, including relaxing your blood vessel walls. This helps lower your blood pressure. Potassium is found naturally in many foods, like prunes, apricots, sweet potatoes, and lima beans. Potassium supplements are available, but most people don’t need them. Don’t take them without talking to your doctor. Too much or too little can lead to dangerous irregular heart rhythms.

Magnesium. You need magnesium to regulate body functions, including maintaining your blood pressure and helping your blood vessels relax. Extreme magnesium deficiencies are rare, but most older adults in the United States don’t get enough in their diets. You can get more magnesium from dark, leafy green vegetables, unrefined grains, and legumes. Talk to your doctor if you want to start a magnesium supplement. Taking too much can cause diarrhea.

Chromium. If you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk for PAD. Low levels of chromium can lead to the high blood sugar (blood glucose) associated with diabetes. But chromium deficiencies are rare. Check with your doctor. And don’t take chromium supplements if you have a kidney disease.

Vitamin C. People with PAD tend to have low amounts of vitamin C. But no studies prove that supplementing vitamin C lowers the risk of cardiovascular issues or helps with symptoms of PAD. Some researchers believe that high doses of vitamin C can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin D. People with PAD tend to be low on vitamin D as well. But just like with vitamin C, taking vitamin D supplements hasn’t been shown to have benefits for PAD. If your vitamin D levels are normal, a higher dosage might heighten the risk of calcium deposition in your blood vessels. Talk to your doctor about your vitamin D levels and if you should take a supplement.

Vitamin E. This vitamin also tends to be low in people with PAD. Researchers believe that vitamin E deficiencies make PAD symptoms worse. But supplements don’t seem to lower the risk of PAD progression. Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin E. People who use blood thinners should be very careful with these supplements, as they can heighten your bleeding risk.

Folate and other B vitamins. These supplements don’t have many risks. One study shows that higher amounts of folate supplements might help in the prevention of PAD, but experts need to study this more to confirm the relationship. B vitamins and folate may be harmful to you if you have kidney disease. For healthy individuals, doctors suggest a low dose of 400 micrograms for overall well-being.

Calcium. It’s important to get enough calcium so that you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Calcium helps blood vessels tighten and relax when they need to. Most people get calcium in dairy products; dark, leafy greens; and fish (canned salmon and sardines). But doctors advise people to get their calcium from foods, not supplement pills. Some studies suggest that too much calcium can lead to a higher risk of heart disease. If you don’t think you get enough calcium from food, talk to your doctor before you begin supplements.