But vitamin pills seemed to have less of an effect in women with existing heart disease say Swedish researchers.
To investigate the relationship between vitamin use and heart disease in women, researchers followed more than 31,000 women with no history of heart disease and more than 2,000 women who did have cardiovascular disease for about 10 years. The women ranged in age from 49 to 83 at the study's outset, and about 60 percent in each group used some type of dietary supplement.
During the observed period, 932 heart attacks occurred among the women without heart disease, while 269 women with existing heart disease had heart attacks.
Among the women who initially had no heart disease and did not take any dietary supplements, 3.4 percent had heart attacks, compared to 2.6 percent of the women who took multivitamins plus other supplements; this translated to a 27 percent lower heart attack risk with vitamins.
Among the women with heart disease, 13 percent of the non-supplement-users had heart attacks, compared to 14 percent of women who took multivitamins only, which wasn't a statistically significant difference.
For the women without heart disease at the study's outset, taking a multivitamin for less than five years reduced heart attack risk by 18 percent compared with non-users of supplements. Taking vitamins for 10 or more years cut risk by 41 percent.
Researchers warn that it's important to keep in mind that multivitamin users tend be 'healthier' in general. They usually smoke less, are more physically active and have a healthier diet.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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