Vitamin D is vitally important to our health, but most people just don't realise that.
In truth, vitamin D is about an awful lot more than simply preventing rickets in children. It's benefits include reducing your risk of certain cancers, improving bone density, reducing blood sugars, and on and on it goes.
Observational studies suggest that having a low blood levels of vitamin D increases your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, by maintaining adequate vitamin D levels you can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke.
What I love about vitamin D, is that you don't need to take a huge amount of pills, with various side-effects to experience these benefits. And, just about everyone on the planet can optimize their vitamin D levels, if they want to.
So, how does vitamin D work in keeping your heart healthy?
There are a number of ways vitamin D may protect against CVD, these include:
- Regulating calcium, so it moves to the bones and teeth, rather than the soft tissues. This may assist the cardiovascular system.
- Reducing inflammation, very important for lessening the risk of heart attack.
- Increasing muscle strength — remember, the heart is a muscle.
- Reducing blood pressure.
Let's take a look a some of the research supporting this connection between vitamin D and CVD.
Vitamin D Deficiency
A nested case-control study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2008), looked at 18,225 men (aged 40 to 75 ) in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They found that,
- Men deficient in vitamin D (with a 25(OH)D of 15 ng/mL) were at increased risk for myocardial infarct, compared with those considered to be sufficient in vitamin D (with a 25(OH)D of 30 ng/mL).
- It was concluded that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher risk of myocardial infarction in a graded manner (i.e. the lower your vitamin D levels, the higher your risk).
Vitamin D Supplements
Another study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2010), found that vitamin D supplements at moderate to high doses (approximately 1000 IU/day) may reduce CVD risk.
Age Related Vitamin D Levels
Utah researchers have also reported that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and death. This study followed 27,686 people (ages 50 and older). After one year, it was noted that those with very low levels of vitamin D were 77% more likely to die, 45% more likely to develop heart disease, and 78% more likely to have a stroke, compared to those with normal vitamin D levels.
Another study, published in Maturitas (2010), concluded that high levels of vitamin D among middle-age and elderly populations was associated with a substantial decrease in cardiovascular disease (as well as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome).
Obviously, these are just some of the studies available, but I think they clearly state the importance of vitamin D in terms of heart health.
This the first article in a series on vitamin D. Next week we will look at how you can know if you are vitamin D deficient.
Melanie Thomassian, registered dietitian, online health coach, and author of Dietriffic.com, cuts through the misconceptions about diet and fitness to help you transform your health for life. Visit her website to learn more, or check out her new healthy eating guide.
Published On: June 02, 2011