If you've been diagnosed with heart disease, then your doctor has probably lectured you in improving your diet and getting more exercise in order to prevent your condition from becoming any worse. Often, people with heart disease are told to eat more unsaturated fats, fewer saturated fats, and more fiber. While this is great advice that you should certainly heed, there is more you can do when it comes to improving your diet. Specifically, you'll want to make sure you're getting enough of these four vitamins and minerals.
A decade-long study conducted by researchers in Hawaii found that low magnesium levels contribute to heart disease. Your heart muscles need magnesium in order to contract properly. Without enough magnesium, the muscles contract too much, leading to angina and sometimes even heart attacks.
The RDA for magnesium is 420 mg per day for men ages 31 and older, and 320 mg per day for women ages 31 and older. Some good food sources of magnesium to consider adding to your diet include:
- Almonds, which contain 80 mg of magnesium per ounce
- Peanuts, which contain 63 mg of magnesium per 1/4 cuo
- Boiled spinach, which contains 78 mg of magnesium per 1/2 cup
- Black beans, which contain 60 mg of magnesium per 1/2 cup
- Avocado, which contains 44 mg of magnesium per cup
If you opt to take magnesium supplements, pay close attention to the kind you buy. Those that contain magnesium citrate are more easily absorbed in the body than those that contain magnesium oxide.
A diet high in potassium is good for the heart and will help keep both heart disease and high blood pressure in check. This mineral plays a role in ensuring your heart contracts properly. It also helps your kidneys filter blood, which keeps your blood volume and blood pressure in check.
The USDA recommends that adults eat about 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. To avoid overdosing, it is wisest to get this from food sources rather than from supplements. Good sources include the following:
- Cooked white beans, which contain 1004 mg of potassium per cup
- Cooked leafy greens such as spinach, which contain 839 mg of potassium per cup
- Baked potatoes (skin on), which contain about 926 mg of potassium each
- Dried apricots, which contain 755 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup
- Acorn squash, which contains 899 mg of potassium per cup
There's some evidence to suggest that a lack of B12 in the diet contributes to the narrowing of blood vessels. Low vitamin B12 levels have also been associated with higher levels of homocysteine in the blood, and lowering homocysteine levels is thought to decrease the risk of heart attacks. More research is needed to confirm this association, but it certainly can't hurt to ensure you're getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet.
The current RDA for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms per day for both men and women. This nutrient is only found in animal products, not plant foods. Good sources include:
- Cooked clams, which contain 84 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces
- Beef liver, which contains 70 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces
- Fortified breakfast cereals, which average 6 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving
- Trout, which contains 5.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces
- Beef, which contains 1.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per 3 ounces
A number of studies suggest that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Thus, keeping your vitamin D levels up may help prevent your heart disease from getting worse. Vitamin D helps regulate blood pressure by acting in the kidneys, and it may have other roles in promoting heart health that are not yet fully understood.
Your body can make its own vitamin D when you're exposed to sunlight. However, a lot of people do not get enough sunlight exposure, especially during the chilly months, to meet their vitamin D needs. Thus, you'll want to turn to food sources to make sure you're getting enough vitamin D. Aim for the RDA of 600 IU if you are age 70 or younger, or 800 IU if you are 71 or older. Food sources include:
- Swordfish, which contains 566 IUs of vitamin D per 3 ounces
- Salmon, which contains 447 IUs of vitamin D per 3 ounces
- Fortified orange juice, which contains an average of 137 IUs of vitamin D per cup
- Fortified milk, which contains 115 - 124 IUs of vitamin D per cup
- Egg yolks, which contain 41 IUs of vitamin D each
You can also take vitamin D supplements to help meet your needs. Look for supplements that contain vitamin D3. This is the form most readily absorbed and used in the body.
For more information and tips, talk with your doctor or those at heart disease treatment centers, like Van Wert County Hospital.