Your Heart Loves a Daily Multivitamin
Yet another reason not to skip a multi: It's smart for your heart. Get the info on how a daily vitamin habit can help your heart—plus, tips to get the most from your multi.
Wondering whether multivitamins are worthwhile? No vitamin or mineral supplement can take the place of a healthy diet, of course. But recent research suggests that taking a standard-dose multi is a smart nutritional insurance policy. It's safe and low-cost, and it covers the gaps when you make less than optimal food choices. In one new study, a daily multi even provided significant protection against heart attacks for women.
Multivitamins as Heart Helpers
When Swedish researchers tracked the health and vitamin-taking habits of 33,933 women for 10 years, they found that those who took a daily multivitamin for five or more years were 41 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who skipped this supplement. Only women who started the study without any signs of heart disease got benefits, a finding that indicates multivitamins may be protective but can't reverse heart disease. Other research has found similar benefits for men too.
Multis may help hearts in several ways. Antioxidant vitamins like C and E may discourage the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls. And minerals like magnesium may help keep arteries flexible and fight bodywide inflammation, which raises heart attack risk.
Multivitamins Made Simple
Here's what you need to know to get the most out of your multivitamin.
Meet your daily needs. Choose a multi that meets recommended daily needs for key vitamins and minerals. Check the "Supplement Facts" panel on the label to see if your multi has close to the 100 percent of the daily value for A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B6, B12, C, chromium, E, folic acid, niacin, copper, and zinc. (For others, like vitamin K, you'll probably find lower levels because most American diets provide these.)
Skip megadoses. For most vitamins and minerals, more isn't better. High-dose vitamins don't offer more health protection, and they may be risky.
With or without iron? If you're a premenopausal woman, look for a multi with 18 milligrams of iron; this will replace iron lost during your monthly menstrual period. Most men and postmenopausal women should take a multi without iron.
Look for plenty of D. Nutrition experts now recommend most people get 1,000 to 2,000 IU of D per day, higher than current standards. If your multi has less, look for a separate D supplement to fill the gap.
Consider calcium. The National Academy of Sciences currently recommends that people ages 19 to 50 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, 1,200 milligrams per day at age 51 and older. Your multi won't contain that much—the pill would be too big to swallow! So health experts recommend adding a calcium supplement to meet that goal. One caveat: Higher calcium intakes may increase prostate cancer risk, so men may want to limit calcium supplements to 500 milligrams per day.
Take it with food. Taking your multi with a meal increases absorption and can help you avoid stomach upset.
Make it routine. Keep your multi beside your coffeemaker, post a note on the refrigerator, or store them in the bag you use to tote lunch to work. Creating a visible reminder will help make taking a multi a daily habit.
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