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Dear Pharmacist: Nutrients for health

Dear Pharmacist: Both my father and brother have suffered a heart attack. I'm worried because I'm 52 years old, and my blood pressure is slightly elevated; but other than that, I am pretty healthy. All my tests are OK, but I am scared. Any suggestions? - P.A. Denver

Just because your relatives have suffered a heart attack, doesn't mean you will, so realize that in this moment you are still healthy. Positive thoughts reduce stress hormones, such as cortisol, which damage the heart.

Because you have a family history of heart disease, remain vigilant. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, do aerobic exercise and take essential nutrients that help maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol.

Most Americans take blood pressure drugs. Pharmaceutically speaking, there are more than 100 different pills to tackle high blood pressure. In some instances, these are helpful, but they relax blood vessels temporarily, while the disease process continues. Many drugs used to lower blood pressure just so happen to deplete magnesium, zinc, calcium and iron so taking a multimineral supplement, or a trace mineral supplement, a few hours after you take your medicine can mitigate side effects.

Although blood pressure or cholesterol medications, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and digoxin may be prescribed by your physician, it's important to realize that their effects on your body are only temporary. The underlying disease and inflammation will continue to destroy the delicate pipeline, your blood vessels, arteries and capillaries. This is why vitamin C, lysine and proline help, because they keep your blood vessels flexible and help reduce plaquing.

I wrote a chapter on heart disease in my diabetes book, and right now, I'd like to share some of the most important supplements that could help a person reduce the risk of heart attack. Obviously, ask your physician which supplement(s) are right for your individual condition:

Arginine: This is an amino acid that the body makes on its own. You can buy it, too. In 2009, researchers at the University of Virginia found it could help people with heart failure.

Ribose: This naturally occurring sugar is used by the body to make ATP, your energy molecule. Ribose improves blood flow and provides much-needed oxygen to the heart.

Hawthorn: This herb increases the amount of blood your heart pumps, and it lowers blood pressure over time. Hawthorn turns on an anti-aging switch in your body (a gene called PGC-1 alpha) that helps you burn fat more efficiently.

Fish oils: These improve cholesterol ratios and reduce risk of blood-clot formation.

Taurine: This amino acid helps regulate heart rhythm, regulate blood pressure and lower blood pressure.

Sometimes potassium deficiency contributes to heart problems. If your doctor has told you that you're low in this mineral, check in your medicine cabinet because some medications reduce potassium levels.

Did You Know? Certain anti-depressants, decongestants and pain-relieving narcotics can alter heart rhythm.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your disease. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. To ask her a question or to learn more about your health, visit