November 16, 2009
Low Vitamin D Boosts Heart Death Risks?

Okay, weeks have gone by without a vitamin D post. Well, with big turkeys on the horizon it is time to think about heart health. Patients over 50 years old with the lowest vitamin D levels died at higher rates.

MURRAY, UT – While mothers have known that feeding their kids milk builds strong bones, a new study by researchers at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City suggests that Vitamin D contributes to a strong and healthy heart as well – and that inadequate levels of the vitamin may significantly increase a person's risk of stroke, heart disease, and death, even among people who've never had heart disease.

For more than a year, the Intermountain Medical Center research team followed 27,686 patients who were 50 years of age or older with no prior history of cardiovascular disease. The participants had their blood Vitamin D levels tested during routine clinical care. The patients were divided into three groups based on their Vitamin D levels – normal (over 30 nanograms per milliliter), low (15-30 ng/ml), or very low (less than 15 ng/ml). The patients were then followed to see if they developed some form of heart disease.

Researchers found that patients with very low levels of Vitamin D were 77 percent more likely to die, 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease, and 78 percent were more likely to have a stroke than patients with normal levels. Patients with very low levels of Vitamin D were also twice as likely to develop heart failure than those with normal Vitamin D levels.

Those are startling differences. But what is the direction of causation?

If men have low vitamin D and low estrogen (yes, that's right, estrogen) then that's bad news for arteries.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins are reporting what is believed to be the first conclusive evidence in men that the long-term ill effects of vitamin D deficiency are amplified by lower levels of the key sex hormone estrogen, but not testosterone.

In a national study in 1010 men, to be presented Nov. 15 at the American Heart Association's (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions in Orlando, researchers say the new findings build on previous studies showing that deficiencies in vitamin D and low levels of estrogen, found naturally in differing amounts in men and women, were independent risk factors for hardened and narrowed arteries and weakened bones. Vitamin D is an essential part to keeping the body healthy, and can be obtained from fortified foods, such as milk and cereals, and by exposure to sunlight.

"Our results confirm a long-suspected link and suggest that vitamin D supplements, which are already prescribed to treat osteoporosis, may also be useful in preventing heart disease," says lead study investigator and cardiologist Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S.

Do you think you ought to take vitamin D but just do not seem to get around to starting the habit?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 November 16 10:52 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

random said at November 17, 2009 7:38 AM:

Drink more milk! Fortified milk is a great source of Vitamin D and estrogen.

PacRim Jim said at November 17, 2009 9:35 AM:

I take vitamins C and E, so they average out at D.

Physician said at November 18, 2009 11:50 AM:

People have always known that vitamins and proper nutrients can contribute to a more healthy heart. A new study by researchers at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City claims that Vitamin D, in particular, has strong correlations to healthy heart, and that a deficiency of Vitamin D may substantially increase one’s risk for stroke and heart disease.

O'Brien said at November 25, 2009 11:32 AM:

I don't understand why they put Vitamin D in milk. Non-Europeans are the most likely to be vitamin-D deficient (indeed, Vitamin D deficiency seems to be near universal amongst blacks, Latinos, and Asians in the U.S.), yet also tend not to tolerate milk well. It seems like some other type of food should be vitamin D fortified as well.

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