Maybe you already stick to a heart-healthy diet and get your exercise, too. But should you add some supplements to the mix to keep your ticker in good shape? There are pros and cons to the "natural" approach, so learn as much as you can about how they work, and check with your doctor before you decide.
Supplements That May Help
Fish oil: It's got omega-3 fatty acids, which researchers say is good for heart health. Studies show they may lower your chances of heart disease and reduce levels of a blood fat called triglycerides. They may also cut your risk of irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia, and lower your blood pressure slightly.
Ideally, rather than take supplements, you should eat fish to get omega-3s, says Mark K. Urman, MD, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
To prevent heart disease, the American Heart Association suggests you eat fish twice a week, especially salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna. But if you're allergic or just don't like seafood enough to eat it that often, talk to your doctor about supplements.
Fiber: Studies show that getting 5 to 10 grams a day of "soluble" fiber, the type that absorbs water, can lower LDL "bad" cholesterol by about 5%. Psyllium, a type of fiber supplement, may be helpful when you also keep up a healthy diet, Urman says, but it can also cause stomach pain or discomfort, especially if you don't get enough to drink.
It's better to get your soluble fiber from foods like oatmeal, beans, citrus fruits, and barley, says Frances M. Burke, RD, a dietitian for the Penn Heart and Vascular Center at the University of Pennsylvania. They'll help you feel full more than supplements do, so you won't be tempted to sample unhealthy foods. And there's strong evidence that you can reduce your heart risk if you get fiber from whole grains, legumes, fruit, and non-starchy vegetables.
Garlic: Some studies suggest that garlic -- fresh or in supplements -- may lower cholesterol or blood pressure, but others found no benefits.
"There is nothing wrong with spicing things up with garlic here and there," Urman says, but he doesn't recommend taking it in a pill.