In recent years, research has identified other factors that may increase the risk of heart disease. Homocysteine is an amino acid made by the body during normal metabolism. Studies suggest that elevated homocysteine increases the risk of heart disease by causing damage to the lining of the arteries and promoting clots. The amount of homocysteine in the blood is regulated by three vitamins for the heart: folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6 (4). A deficiency of these vitamins can increase levels; likewise, supplementing with these vitamins for the heart can lower homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can result from a poor-quality diet. Only during the later stages of a deficiency are symptoms seen when the intake of proper nutrients has been very low for some time. Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include skin inflammation, a sore tongue, depression, confusion and convulsions. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, including cereals, beans, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits (bananas) and vegetables (potatoes). A quality vitamin for the heart would include 50mg of B6 once or twice a day.
Vitamin B-12 another vitamin for the heart is needed to synthesize hemoglobin and to help manufacture healthy red blood cells. Signs of a B12 deficiency include fatigue, weakness, nausea, constipation, flatulence, loss of appetite and weight loss. Deficiency can also lead to numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Additional symptoms of B12 deficiency include difficulty in maintaining balance, depression, confusion, poor memory and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vegetarians and vegans who do not eat meat, fish, eggs, milk or milk products are consuming no vitamin B12 and so may have a high risk of developing a deficiency, although the minimum daily requirement is small at 1 mcg.
Folate, a member of the B family is another one of the vitamins for the heart that is used along with vitamin B6 and B12 to regulate the amount of homocysteine in the blood. Folate is found in leafy greens such as spinach, dried beans and peas, cereals and grain products, and some fruits and vegetables. It is recommended that folic-acid supplements are best taken with vitamins B6, B12 and C. The recommended dosage is between 400–800 mcg daily.
Although these vitamins for the heart lower homocysteine levels, studies have not found that this translates into a reduced risk of heart disease. They should however be taken as part of healthy diet for overall health.