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‘I’m a Cardiologist—This Is the One Vitamin I Never, Ever Skip’

Heart healthy food with essential vitamins on a plate near other health-focused activities

The supplement industry is booming. According to Grand View Research, the market size was estimated at more than $177 billion (with a B) in 2023 and is expected to continue growing. “Take your vitamins” is time-honored advice. Yet experts, including a cardiologist, share that you can often get enough vitamins through food—including ones crucial for heart health.

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“Ultimately, a good, well-balanced diet is vitally important for overall good health and cardiac function,” explains Dr. Bradley Serwer, MD, an interventional cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution. “There are numerous vitamin deficiencies that can weaken the heart, enlarge the heart or lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

The one Dr. Serwer recommends is one people struggle to get enough of. Here’s the top vitamin not to skip for heart health and why Dr. Serwer ensures his plate is full of it.

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The Best Vitamin for Heart Health, According to a Cardiologist

Vitamin D. “Vitamin D plays a role in regulating blood pressure, inflammation and vascular function,” Dr. Serwer explains. Yet, one 2022 study of more than 71,000 people found that about 34% to 41% of people were “vitamin D insufficient.” Also, anywhere from 3% to 22% of the U.S. population was moderately to severely vitamin D deficient.

Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that people ages 1 to 70 consume 15 mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D daily and that people over 71 increase their vitamin D intake to 20 mcg (800 IU). “Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease,” Dr. Serwer says.

What the Research Says About Vitamin D and Heart Health

Back up. What is vitamin D, anyway? According to the NIH, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in some foods—either naturally or because they’ve been vitamin D-fortified (like some cereals). The sun also produces vitamin D.

There’s a good bit of research to back up Dr. Serwer’s recommendation to try to hit those vitamin D daily recommendations. For instance, research published in Clinical Nutrition in 2020 pointed out that vitamin D—often heralded for its effects on bone health—also helps with blood pressure regulation because it acts on endothelial cells that line the blood vessels and smooth muscle cells. Smooth muscle cells help keep blood vessels structurally sound and blood flowing too. Vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased risks of heart disease and death.

Research in Circulation, an American Heart Association Journal, indicated there might be a link between vitamin D intake and a lower risk of atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of fats and cholesterol on the artery’s walls.

A 2017 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked vitamin D deficiency to:

  • Vascular dysfunction (issues with the cells in the blood vessels not working correctly)
  • Artery stiffening
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy (The main pumping chamber of the heart thickens)
  • Hyperlipidemia (Elevated lipids, like cholesterol and triglyceride levels)

Some research, like a 2017 study, found that higher vitamin D levels were linked with lower risks of cardiovascular events.

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How To Get Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in several foods. A few of a cardiologist’s favorites? “Foods high in vitamin D include salmon, trout, eggs, mushrooms and milk,” Dr. Serwer says.

Think salmon topped with mushrooms (and extra veggies on the side) for dinner. Mix leftovers into an egg scramble the next morning. Swap a can of soda for a glass of milk.

You can also spend more time in the great outdoors. One 2021 study found that exposing the arm, hands, face and legs to the sun for 5 to 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. would help people get enough vitamin D. Authors noted this sun exposure could be with or without sunscreen (wear sunscreen—your skin will thank you.).

What about supplements? The research is mixed. Infants consuming human milk typically require vitamin D to prevent rickets (or the lactating parent can take a supplement). However, the NIH does not recommend vitamin D supplementation for heart health, citing research that doesn’t prove it helps reduce cardiovascular disease risk even in people with low levels.

Dr. Serwer also recommends taking a food-first approach. “Many times, adding certain foods such as salmon may overcome the deficiencies and thus negate the need for a multivitamin or supplement,” he says.

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Other Nutrients Not To Skip for Heart Health

Real talk: As great as vitamin D is, one nutrient won’t reduce heart disease risk alone. Balance is key. “Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, helps lower levels of homocysteine in the blood, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke,” Dr. Serwer says.

Folic acid-rich foods include spinach, romaine lettuce, avocado and asparagus. “Vitamin E deficiency can increase oxidative stress, which can then, in turn, lead to blood vessel damage,” Dr. Serwer explains.

Finally, though omega-3 fatty acids are technically not a vitamin, Dr. Serwer is keen on making sure he is getting plenty of it and making sure his patients do the same. “Omega-3 fatty acids can lower triglyceride levels, reduce vascular inflammation and have also been shown to reduce the risk of arrhythmias, [which are] abnormal heart rhythms,” he says.

Get this vital nutrient in salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts.

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What To Do if You’re Concerned About Vitamin and Nutrient Deficiencies

First, speak with your healthcare team, like a primary care doctor. “They may obtain blood levels to see if you are deficient and may benefit from supplemental replacement,” Dr. Serwer says. “If you have a deficiency, then speak with your primary health team to determine how much supplementation is best for you.”

A registered dietitian can also help you get more essential nutrients like vitamin D through food.

Next up: If You Want to Live to 100, This Is the Vitamin That Will Actually Make a Difference

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