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Nutrition and health tips

February 11, 2011
Jill Weber, ISU Extension Nutrition & Health Program Specialist

Heart Health: Will Vitamins Help?

It's February when we are drawn to all things of the heart including Heart Disease Awareness month. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in Iowa, it's a good time to make sure we are aware of the risks. There are many factors that contribute to a persons risk for heart disease. Some, like genetics, are not controllable. But lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity and a healthful diet are within your control and can reduce your risk. One area of study is how vitamins and minerals affect the risk of heart attack.

Will taking B vitamins help? At one time researchers thought folic acid lowered the risk of heart attack. Higher blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine were associated with increased risk of heart attack. Because folic acid lowered homoycsteine levels in the blood, it was thought it improved heart health. However, more recent research shows that people who took B vitamins were just as likely as those taking a placebo (e.g. sugar pill) to suffer heart attacks. Current research indicates that homocysteine may be a marker of heart attack rather than a cause. So, despite folic acids role in lowering homocysteine levels it does not lower the risk of heart attack.

What about multivitamins? The Women's Health Initiative studies, which followed more than 161,000 people for eight years, showed that those who took multivitamins were as likely to suffer strokes and heart attacks as those who didn't take multivitamins.

What does improve heart health? The American Heart Association reminds us of Life's Simple Seven, everyday things to do to improve heart health in seven categories: Manage Blood Pressure. Lose Weight. Get Active. Reduce Blood Sugar. Control Cholesterol. Stop Smoking. Eat Better.

You can complete a simple online assessment called My Life Check to see how you're doing in each of these seven areas and learn ways to make everyday changes to improve heart health.

Source: Nutrition Action Newsletter July/August 2010, American Heart Association



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