Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the highest killer of men and women in the United States. Many clients are electing to take a proactive approach to their heart health by taking a supplement that claims to improve vascular health. Pharmacists should check a client’s prescription history to ensure that there are no drug interactions present. Managing a chronic vascular condition should be monitored by a client’s primary care physician, and pharmacists can help to ensure that communication channels remain open between a client and their general practitioner when a client is considering adding a nutritional supplement to their healthcare routine.
Pharmacists should remind customers that over the counter supplements are not to be used as a replacement for prescription antihyperlipidemic medications, and encourage any customers to check with their general practitioner before beginning any supplement routine. Pharmacy counters can be used to display literature where appropriate, reminding customers that the best defense against CVD is a healthy diet and moderate physical activity.
Pharmacists have a number of OTC options available to customers that are looking to help manage their heart health, including CoQ10, garlic pills, and omega-6 as well as omega-3 fatty acid pills or liquid. Omega-6 and omega-3 are also known as PUFAs (Poly-unsaturated fatty acids), and research has shown that replacing traditional saturated or trans fats with omega-6 and omega-3 may provide heart health benefits. These fatty acids cannot be naturally produced by the body, thus they must be obtained through diet (fatty fish such as salmon or tuna) or a supplement. Pharmacists can suggest to patients that the best way to obtain a healthy dose of omega-3 and omega-6 for optimal heart health would be to increase their weekly allotment of fish. A standard serving of fish is three ounces, and contains both essential fatty acids. Pharmacists can also warn patients of prolonged use of fish oils, which can lead to vitamin E deficiency.
Omega-6 and omega-3 supplements may lower blood sugar, so diabetic patients will need to monitor their glucose levels accordingly. Plant sterols are another option for managing cardiovascular health, though more research is needed to determine whether they are a viable solution for heart health supplementation. CoQ10 is a choice that is often selected by customers, with mild side effects. These include gastrointestinal distress, headache, dizziness, and irritability. CoQ10 is not recommended for pregnant women.
Garlic supplements are another option for clients seeking to improve their heart health. Research and clinical trials have shown that taking a garlic supplement can decrease blood pressure by as much as 8%. There are other promising results for those wanting to supplement with garlic, though more research is needed to help determine its overall long-term effectiveness. Garlic is a useful short term suggestion for clients with hypertension. Pharmacists have a bevy of options when helping patients choose how to supplement their cardiovascular health routine, and can ensure the well-being of their community by offering these suggestions.