Features April 2019 Issue

The Role of 4 Vitamins in PeripheralVascular Disease

Do you wonder if taking vitamin B, C, D or E will lower your cardiovascular risk?

Patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) have atherosclerosis in the smaller vessels of their body, usually in their legs, feet and arms. PAD increases the risk of losing a limb to amputation. It also increases the risk of having coronary artery disease (CAD) or cerebrovascular disease. PAD patients have a higher risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke than CAD patients who don't have PAD.

So wouldn't it be great if taking vitamins could lower these risks?

Unfortunately, no vitamin or supplement has been shown to improve vascular health or lower the risk of complications.

"If you are getting recommended levels of vitamins through a normal diet, you likely do not need supplemental vitamins," says Cleveland Clinic vascular medicine specialist Deborah Hornacek,DO.

1 Vitamins

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"If you are on a restricted diet, or have a malabsorption issue or gastrointestinal disease, you may be an exception and should discuss this with your doctor," she adds.

What We Have Learned

Here's what we know about vitamins and vascular health:

Vitamin B: Low doses of B vitamins are recommended for overall health, but have not been shown to benefit PAD or reduce cardiovascular risk. Patients with high homocysteine levels may be the exception. "We give them vitamin B6, B9 (folate) and B12 supplements," says Dr. Hornacek.

Vitamin C: PAD patients often have low vitamin C levels, but there is no data that show that supplementing the vitamin reduces cardiovascular risk or improves PAD. In addition, vitamins B and C are water soluble, so the kidneys eliminate any vitamin that is not absorbed.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D ("the sunshine vitamin") is considered beneficial, but not in the megadoses some people take. Vitamins D and E are stored in fat, which can increase blood calcium levels and cause kidney stones and psychiatric issues.

Vitamin E: Deficiencies of vitamin E are thought to worsen PAD, but there is no evidence that vitamin E supplements improve vascular disease in people who have it.

Too much vitamin E can increase bruising and bleeding and may be harmful to people who take aspirin, anti platelet medication or blood thinners. In addition, excessive vitamin E has been linked to heart failure and stroke.

How to Lessen the Impact of PAD

"There are no substitutes for prescription medications for cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar control, if you need them," says Dr. Hornacek.

A heart-healthy diet will benefit you in the long run.

"A diet like the Mediterranean diet is our choice for long-term reduction of cardiovascular burden.We suggest eliminating animal-based products, sugar and highly refined flour, which promote inflammation," she says.

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