The statistics regarding cardiovascular disease paint a very dire picture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 600,000 Americans die each year from cardiovascular disease, which equates to one in four deaths.1 This makes heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women. Additionally, more than 700,000 Americans suffer heart attacks each year. The majority of these are first-time heart attacks.1 Given these statistics, it is a safe bet that many Americans are looking to improve their cardiovascular health.
Because the human body is such a complex mechanism, no one system works in isolation from another. Therefore, it is fair to say that the health of the cardiovascular system has an effect upon the health of other systems in the body, most notably the nervous system.2
Perhaps the most obvious way in which the two systems are connected is in terms of mood regulation. If the amygdala generates fear or anger responses to certain stimuli, the cardiovascular system triggers the heart to pumps faster and harder in response to such stimuli.2 Other research has also found links between pain and inflammatory responses in the brain and the cardiovascular system.2
If we combine this data, it seems clear that patients who are concerned about maintaining a healthy connection between their cardiovascular and nervous systems may be interested in vitamins and supplements that do “double duty,” so to speak. Combining vitamins B6 and B12 with folic acid can achieve these benefits.
What does the research say?
A 2012 article published in the journal, Atherosclerosis, pooled together the results from 10 smaller studies (representing 2,052 subjects) that examined the effect of folic acid upon progression of atherosclerosis, measured by the thickness of the two innermost walls of the artery.3 The thicker the layers, the greater the amount of blockage of blood cells. The researchers found that folic acid was particularly beneficial in slowing the progression of atherosclerosis among those patients with greater risk for cardiovascular disease or who had thicker than normal carotid intima-media.
A 2008 article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at the effects of a combination of folate and vitamins B6 and B12 upon the risk for coronary heart disease among a large population (more than 40,000) of middle-aged adults.4
The study says “coronary heart disease and definite myocardial infarction were inversely associated with dietary intake of folate,” vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Subjects who took less than the recommended amounts of all three supplements, or who only took vitamin B6, had “twice excess risk of total coronary heart disease” than those who did not take them.4
A 2004 article in the journal Stroke also looked at the relationship between risk of stroke and folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 intake for a group of more than 43,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75.5 The researchers found that, after factoring for diet and lifestyle, the risk for ischemic stroke significantly decreased with supplement intake.
It can be all too easy to think of the cardiac and nervous systems as existing independently. However, this is far from true. DCs who can help their patients improve their cardiovascular health will also be improving nervous system function.
- Heart disease facts. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Accessed 12/17/2015.
- Van Zandijcke M. The nervous system and the heart [BOOK REVIEW]. Brain Mar 2001, 124(3), 637-638. DOI: 10.1093/brain/124.3.637
- Qin X, Xu M, Zhang Y, et al. Effect of folic acid supplementation on the progression of carotid intima-media thickness: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Atherosclerosis 2012, 222(2), 307-313.
- Ishihara J1, Iso H, Inoue M, et al. Intake of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 and the risk of CHD: the Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study Cohort I. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2008 Feb, 27(1), 127-136.
- He K, Merchant A, Rimm EB, et al. Folate, vitamin B6, and B12 intakes in relation to risk of stroke among men. Stroke 2004, 35, 169-174.