Skip to Content

Heart Supplements Can Carry Risks

Last updated: October 27, 2021

If you’ve had a stroke or heart attack — or are at risk of having one — your doctor likely has prescribed you medication to help manage the condition. Before prescribing, your doctor will consider your unique needs, health history, personal circumstances, and any other medications you might be taking.

As tempting as it may be to alter that treatment regimen as you see fit, it could pose real danger to your health. If you’re considering adding medications, vitamins, or supplements to your routine, it’s always best to run it past your doctor first.

Here’s what you need to know before you consider taking a supplement.

Benefits Rarely Outweigh the Risks

Johns Hopkins Medicine clinical trials found that heart supplements do not reduce a person’s risk of heart disease. In fact, they could do more harm than good.

“Your body chemistry is very much based on your diet and anything else you’re ingesting,” says Dr. Ameer Kabour, a Cardiologist and Senior Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services for ThedaCare Cardiovascular Care. “Supplements can wreak havoc on your system.”

Heart supplements can create blood clotting issues for people, leading to an increased risk of bleeding. They can cause serious complications if people aren’t careful, Dr. Kabour says.

Even widely used over-the-counter medications — such as a daily aspirin or cough syrup — could pose problems. Dr. Kabour also cites the example of water pills, something many people would consider harmless.

“If I prescribe a certain kind of water pill to a patient, and they decide to change which water pill they’re taking or how they’re taking it, there may be just enough differences between them to cause significant issues,” Dr. Kabour says. “Even worse, the issues may not be noticeable to the individual until they become severe, or even life-threatening.”

FDA Has No Oversight

While research does support potential benefits of supplements like omega-3 and fish oil capsules for reducing the risk of a heart attack, even that can be a gray area.  

Unlike medications, supplements don’t have a federally recognized quality and purity measure. Therefore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t perform the same kinds of detailed studies on vitamins and supplements as it does for medications. Those seeking guidance on supplements can, however, look for non-government-funded approvals through groups like the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab.  

USP is an independent, scientific nonprofit organization focused on building trust in the supply of safe, quality medicines. ConsumerLab works to “help consumers and health care professionals find the best-quality health and nutrition products through independent testing and evaluation,” according to the organization.

Your Provider is Here to Help

With any kind of supplement, vitamin, or medication, one size doesn’t fit all.

“People may assume that just because a friend or relative is benefiting from a supplement, they will have the same experience,” Dr. Kabour says. “But there are so many variables that can impact a person’s reaction, from their medical history to other medications they may be taking.” 

Your doctor and pharmacist are great resources for determining if a supplement will benefit your health.

On a related note, if you stop taking a recommended medication or supplement, let your doctor know.

“Patients should communicate freely with their provider to ensure they can receive the safest, most efficient treatment for their specific situation,” Dr. Kabour says. “We aren’t here to judge your decisions. We just want to take the best possible care of you, and that starts with openness and honesty.”

Above All, Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

It’s never too late to start practicing a healthier lifestyle, including finding a primary care physician, having regular checkups, and completing recommended preventive screenings. Talk to your doctor about your diet, lifestyle, and the importance of keeping tabs on your blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar, and body mass index.

Choosing foods that are low in saturated fat, trans-fat, and sodium can make a big difference in how you feel and reduce your risk for heart-related illness and stroke. A healthy diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish) at least twice per week, nuts, legumes, and seeds. If you eat meat, choose lean cuts and consume red meat sparingly.

“Cutting down on alcohol and fast food, eating home-cooked meals, giving up tobacco use, and exercising regularly can all make a big difference in your heart health,” Dr. Kabour says. “It’s important to remember, the more essential nutrients you incorporate directly into your diet, the less likely you are to need supplements in the first place.”

Wondering if a supplement is right for you? Our heart specialists are here for you. Learn more about our personal approach, expertise, and treatment options.

Tags: cardiovascular health heart health supplements

Related Articles

Link to the full post Health & Well-Being Heart Health Weight Management

Benefits of Walking

Link to the full post Heart Health

‘Essential 8’ Offers Ways to Care for Heart Health

Back to site