7 worst supplements for your heart


This month, the Americans make New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy, exercise more, sleep better, and maybe even finding ways to manage stress. Those that do are also more likely to purchase dietary supplements, a market that reached $32.5 billion in sales in 2012.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans take vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, and 20 percent for heart health, according to a report from the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

Even supplements are not regulated by the FDA— there is no telling exactly what’s in them— and some of them may also be harmful for the heart, the interaction with drugs and have serious side effects.

Here are seven supplements that you should avoid, especially if you have heart disease, and cardiovascular disease and risk factors.

1. Calcium
About 43 percent of Americans, including nearly 70 percent of the older women, take a supplement that contains calcium for healthy bones.

Yet, a recent study from John Hopkins Medicine found that taking calcium supplements may increase the risk for plaque deposits in the blood vessels and damage the heart.

Experts agree, however, that there is probably not a cause and effect relationship. Calcium is even good for the heart and cardiovascular system, but only when both vitamins D and K2 are optimal, because they help manage calcium status.

“Without a good level of vitamin D or vitamin K2 in your body, calcium has a tendency to start to deposit in other tissues, such as your arterial system,” said Dr. Michael Smith, author of “The Supplement Pyramid,” and a senior health scientist for Life Extension in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Nonetheless, you should talk with your doctor about a calcium supplement.

“Not everyone is the taking of calcium is necessary. The best way to get calcium is through food, and not a supplement,” said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, executive director of cardiovascular interventional programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

More about this…

  • Calcium pills linked to artery build-up

  • 15 common supplement ingredients that could make you seriously ill

  • DR. MANNY: Are your supplements killing you?

2. Licorice
Licorice is an herb that is used for improving the health of the prostate and digestive problems such as stomach ulcers, acid reflux and bowel complaints. It is also used to relieve symptoms of the menopause and inflammation, including viral and bacterial infections and coughing.
Even licorice can cause high blood pressure and deplete potassium levels, so if you have a history of heart disease, you should avoid it, Smith said.

3. Yohimbe
Yohimbe is sold as a dietary supplement for erectile dysfunction, but it is not clear whether it would be effective, Bhatt said.

It can also help to curb appetite and aid in weight loss and help with depression, but you should avoid if you have heart disease, because it can have negative cardiac effects.

4. Ephedra
Often used to help lose weight and boost energy, ephedra increases heart rate and blood pressure and can aggravate heart arrhythmias.

“A person with heart failure, even mild heart failure, may start having shortness of breath episodes,” Smith said.

Taking ephedra may lead to an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack, especially in people who have heart disease, or people who are not diagnosed with heart disease.

People who have risk factors for heart disease should avoid.

5. Arginine
Arginine l-Arginine is an amino acid in the body. In supplement form, studies show it may have positive cardiovascular effects, because it dilates and relaxes the blood vessels. It can also help people with angina, high blood pressure and heart failure.

But the take of the supplement can be deadly, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

The bottom line? “It is not clear that it hurts but it is not clear that it helps”, Bhatt said.

6. Bitter orange
Studies show bitter orange, an plant, is used to the appetite and aid in weight loss, but it can also be dangerous.

“Bitter orange is known to have some cardiovascular side effects, mainly because it is a caffeine-like substance in it,” Smith said.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine or have risk factors for heart disease, it is a good idea to avoid taking it.

7. St. John’s Wort
St. john’s Wort is known as a therapy for mild to moderate depression without all the side effects of anti-depressive medication, but taking the supplement may also lead to blood pressure spikes, according to a study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology.

Julie Relevant, is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the health care. She is also a mother of two. More information about Julie at


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