One in every four deaths in America is due to heart disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes heart disease the leading cause of death in the nation. Some vitamins, such as B vitamins, folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin C and coenzyme Q10, have been shown to help keep the heart strong when facing challenges like heart disease, cardiomyopathy and heart failure. Always speak with your doctor, however, before changing your vitamin regime.
B Vitamins and Folic Acid
Folic acid, a B vitamin, was shown to boost endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease in a 2002 study published in “Circulation.” The endothelial layer of the circulatory system is made from flat cells that line the heart and all blood vessels. Because the heart is lined by endothelial cells, stronger endothelial cells can contribute to a stronger heart. A study published in 2012 in “Nutrition in Clinical Practice” explains that there are links between B vitamin deficiencies and the progression of heart failure. According to the National Institutes of Health, heart failure develops as the cardiac muscles grow weaker. Deficiencies in B vitamins may lead to lower stores of compounds that the heart needs to function, but more research is needed to develop vitamin B intake recommendations for patients with heart failure.
Cytokines are a type of immune system cell that plays an important role in the weakening of the heart during heart failure. In heart failure patients, pro-inflammatory cytokines provoke damaging cardiac inflammation. A different type of cytokine, called anti-inflammatory cytokines, can help decrease harmful cardiac inflammation. A 2006 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” found that vitamin D may reduce harmful pro-inflammatory cytokines and increase helpful anti-inflammatory cytokines. This shows that vitamin D may be an effective cardiac anti-inflammatory when fighting cardiac weakness caused by inflammation in heart failure.
Coenzyme Q10 is not technically a vitamin, but it can be bought in supplement form or consumed in food just like many vitamins. It is an antioxidant found naturally in the body that helps convert food into energy. A 2000 study published in “Annals of Internal Medicine” found that there are several reasons why a deficiency in coenzyme Q10 might lead heart muscle cells to experience difficulty contracting. The study suggests that coenzyme Q10 could prevent the destruction of heart muscle cells, which would help prevent heart muscle weakening. The study also found that patients with more severe heart failure had lower levels of coenzyme Q10 than patients with less severe heart failure. This means that the patients with stronger hearts had higher levels of coenzyme Q10.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, commonly found in citrus fruits, that serves many purposes in the human body. A 1998 study published in “Circulation” found that vitamin C, much like folic acid, improves endothelial cell function in heart-failure patients. One role of the endothelial layer of the circulatory system is to dilate and constrict vessels based on blood flow. In chronic heart failure, the endothelial cells are too weak to complete this function properly. The researchers in the study hypothesized that this endothelial cell dysfunction was caused by decreased levels of nitric oxide. As a result of the study, the researchers found that the antioxidant properties of vitamin C were able to increase the availability of nitric oxide to the endothelial cells. Because of this, the endothelial cells in the heart and vessels were strong enough to once again help regulate blood flow.