What it does

How to take it

Precautions

B-complex

Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid lower homocysteine levels. Too much homocysteine inhibits blood flow. Homocysteine can also damage the coronary arteries (the ones feeding the heart) and increase the chances of a heart attack–inducing clot. That's why some experts think homocysteine levels could be better heart-health indicators than cholesterol levels.

For heart health, a good choice is a B50 complex, which usually provides 400 mcg folic acid, 50 mcg vitamin B12, and at least 50 mg vitamin B6, as well as other B vitamins. Take B-complex with food to prevent queasiness.

Do not take more than 200 mg of B6 daily without supervision. If you take more than 1,000 mcg per day of folic acid, you can hinder diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Beta glucan

Beta-glucan—a naturally occurring substance found in yeast cell walls, many medicinal mushrooms, and oats—binds with cholesterol and sends it out of the body.

You may need 3–5 grams of beta-glucan to lower cholesterol significantly. About 1 1/2 bowls of oatmeal provide 3 grams of beta-glucan. Or take capsules.

None.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10), a vitaminlike substance, helps convert food into energy. Many different heart problems respond to Co-Q10, including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, and angina.

Effective doses range from 60 to 400 mg daily. Take fat-soluble Co-Q10 with food.

People with cardiomyopathy should not discontinue use of Co-Q10 without physician approval. Co-Q10 might interfere with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin).

Fish oil

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) and is linked to a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Fish oil lowers triglycerides and blood pressure and decreases clotting tendencies.

Eat oily fish several times per week, or take 1–3 grams of fish oil supplements daily. Take 100–400 IU of vitamin E along with omega-3 fatty acids (some fish oil supplements already contain vitamin E).

Some people experience upset stomach or "fishy" burps.

Garlic

Garlic significantly lowers total cholesterol, as well as harmful LDL cholesterol levels. This pungent herb also combats atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), lowers blood pressure, and decreases homocysteine levels.

Raw garlic has the strongest health benefits, although any garlic (cooked in food or even sprinkled as powder) can help. Or take 600–900 mg of standardized garlic in tablet or capsule form. Minimize garlic breath with enteric-coated supplements.

Garlic can cause heartburn and gas in some people. Exercise caution if combining with prescription blood thinners or taking before surgery.

Grapeseed Extract

Grapeseed extract consists of a mixture of proanthocyanidins with powerful antioxidant properties. Oxidized LDLs are more likely to build up along artery walls as plaque, making it harder for blood to flow. Grapeseed extract also bolsters blood circulation by strengthening capillaries, arteries, and veins.

50–200 mg of proanthocyanidins daily.

None.

Selenium

Population studies indicate an inverse relationship between selenium intake and heart disease, due to both the antioxidant protection and a lessening of unhealthy clumping of blood platelets.

100–200 mcg daily. Selenium comes in many forms, but selenomethionine is preferable because it is better absorbed and utilized.

Taking too much (more than 1,000 mcg daily) can cause problems, such as hair loss, white spots on fingernails, and tingling sensations in fingers and toes.