One of the primary reasons that people take vitamins is to promote heart health, but you may be surprised to learn that off-the-shelf multivitamins are not really geared to address heart risk issues. In fact, standard multivitamins are built for the lowest common denominator profile – the healthy individual keeping a balanced diet and trying to meet RDA intake levels. There is no adjustment to the formula for any form of heart risk, or dietary choices that may contribute to long-term heart risk. It can easily give people a false sense of security to take a multivitamin, and think they are preventing long-term heart disease, when in fact, they are doing very little to mitigate the risk.
There is an emerging field of personalized vitamins that may hold stronger potential to address heart risk. Personalized vitamins are products that are calibrated to your unique health and lifestyle profile. These services typically start with an online assessment of your individualized risk factors, including demographics, diet, fitness, and health status. These data points are put through an algorithm that generates a customized vitamin recommendation. Most personalized vitamin companies will assign a pill pack with your selected supplements. Keep in mind, these pill packs can get quite expensive, sometimes reaching more than $100+ per month, and require you to swallow 10+ pills and powders of different shapes and sizes. For dedicated supplement takers, this is a good option because you have a lot of choice in your pill pack design. For casual supplement takers, this may not be a feasible course of action. Another approach is a customized all-in-one multivitamin, sometimes paired with limited add-on supplements like an Omega-3 capsule. The bespoke nature of the product limits the number of individual pills that you need to take to get to your personalized vitamin. A personalized all-in-one multivitamin can also be more affordable since it costs less to manufacture a targeted formula compared to the process of packaging several individual pills to produce that similar formula.
There is another advantage to personalized vitamins. When you buy a standard vitamin from the shelves of retail, it is a transactional relationship where you pay for that bottle, and never hear from the vitamin company again. You may not even know what half of the “A to Z” vitamins on the back of the bottle are doing for you. By contrast, when you purchase a personalized vitamin, you get an ongoing, data-based relationship with the company. They check in on you to ensure their data is up-to-date so your formula is calibrated to your needs and continues to evolve with your changes in health and lifestyle. Moreover, they can reach back out to gather feedback on how the vitamin is performing and reshaping your health. They will likely provide you with ongoing education about your formula and help you learn about the ingredients on the back of the bottle. The vitamins are shipped to your door on a pre-set cadence, so you will always have your refills on hand.
Specific Vitamins For Heart Health
It is critical to get vitamins that may be beneficial for heart health in the right amounts for your personalized profile. It is also important to recognize that heart disease involves a number of factors that are separate and distinct from vitamin choices.
First, let’s talk about a few nonvitamin options for heart disease prevention. The role of lifestyle should not be underestimated in protecting your heart. Keeping an active lifestyle with regular exercise (goal of 30 minutes most days of the week), a healthy diet (see here for some suggestions, we strongly recommend a Mediterranean diet) and adequate sleep. You should not underestimate the role of sleep in health and longevity, especially treating sleep apnea for those at-risk or diagnosed. The most essential lifestyle intervention in improving and maintaining heart disease is to quit smoking. Stopping this nasty habit is likely the fastest way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Smoking raises risk by several fold and stopping smoking can bring you back to an average risk within two years.
Omega 3s (often found in the form of fish or algal oil) are often mentioned. Omega 3s likely help with this is via their reducing triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol. Several studies show compelling roles for Omega3s in helping with heart health, and there are even vegan Omega3 options made from sources like algae.
Another essential vitamin for heart health is magnesium. Magnesium is an element that has many roles in health as it is a primary component in helping cells function optimally and has been shown to be beneficial for numerous conditions from migraine to IBS to muscle aches. It is no surprise that magnesium is one of the best vitamins for heart health because it has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias and possibly prevent heart disease. Many of us are deficient in magnesium (even with normal blood testing!) and can benefit from taking this supplement as part of a personalized vitamin service.
Vitamin D has also been highlighted to be an important vitamin to take for heart health. People who are deficient in vitamin D, which actually turns out to be the majority of Americans, have higher rates of heart disease. Most of us need to take supplemental vitamin D in order to raise our levels but taking too much can also be bad for your heart. Too much vitamin D may cause excess serum calcium, and in theory this can cause deposition of calcium in blood vessels. Therefore, finding that safe and helpful amount of vitamin D is essential. This can be determined based on factors about you including where you live, your ethnicity and diet.
No comprehensive discussion of heart health vitamins and supplements would be complete without CoQ10. This enzyme has had some compelling data to suggest it’s useful in heart disease prevention. It also is known to help prevent muscle aches that are common among those who take statin drugs for cholesterol. CoQ10 on its own in high doses is probably not needed or essential (and gets costly), but it can be helpful as a part of a personalized all-in-one daily vitamin.
Leveraging Personalized Vitamins Breakthroughs For Heart Health
The emergence of personalization technology in the vitamin field holds the promise to calibrate vitamin formulas specifically for heart health risk. You no longer need to settle for a multivitamin built for “all men” or “all women” or “all seniors.” The personalized vitamin companies can proactively use data to engineer better products that are more targeted to individualized need states.
It is most critical that you find a company that you trust to work with your data and enhance your vitamin formula. You should look at the credentials of the founders of the company. Are they doctors? Have they published in the field? Do they follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and other hallmarks of quality? Do they look to produce in sustainable ways, like avoiding animal products? Are the products made in the United States or abroad? Physician-led personalized vitamin companies are always a good bet because the culture of any company starts at the top, and physicians will tend to prioritize scientific studies and evidence.
We are moving past the era of “do-it-yourself” (DIY) shopping in the vitamin aisles and generic products. The future of the industry is a highly navigated process around your personal profile. It is important that you research the options and find a company that you can trust for the long-term. Vitamins are a long-term commitment, and you want a company that can evolve their products with your changes in health and lifestyle. It is a great time to kick start your wellness journey with a personalized vitamin.