B Vitamins for Heart Disease

These nutrients won’t lower your cholesterol, but they will help keep your homocysteine at a healthy level; a high level of homocysteine is associated with a higher risk of heart attack. In order to prevent homocysteine from accumulating and damaging blood vessels, the body uses three B vitamins—folate, B6 and B12—to convert it into other harmless compounds.

One simple strategy to lower elevated homocysteine levels is to boost your intake of these three B vitamins. Harvard researchers proved this point when they studied 80,000 women for 14 years and found that those who consumed the most folate and vitamin B6 had a 45 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to women who consumed the least.11 Among those women who got plenty of B vitamins in their diet, the risk of heart disease was also lower if they regularly took a multivitamin and mineral supplement, a major source of folate and B6. See the B vitamin table on page 4 in chapter 1 to see how to get more B’s into your daily diet.

If you have difficulty eating a varied diet, I recommend taking a good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure you’re getting your daily B vitamins. If you’re over 50, you should be getting your B12 from a supplement anyway. That’s because as we age, we become less efficient at producing stomach acid, a necessary aid for B12 absorption from food. Look for a supplement that offers 0.4 to 1.0 milligrams of folic acid, the supplement form of folate.

If you’re looking for more B vitamins than a regular multi gives you, choose a “high potency” or “super” formula that contains 30 to 75 milligrams of B vitamins (or 1000 micrograms in the case of folic acid). One word of caution: the B vitamin niacin may cause flushing of the face and chest when it’s taken in doses greater than 35 milligrams—this is easily avoided if you take your supplement just after eating a meal. This symptom is harmless and goes away within 20 minutes, but some people find it uncomfortable. To avoid flushing, look for a formula that contains niacinamide, a non-flushing form of niacin, instead.

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