Getting enough vitamin D could add years to your life, since people with the lowest levels of the sunshine vitamin may have a 57 percent higher risk of early death from both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all causes combined, compared to those with the highest levels, according to a meta-analysis published in British Medical Journal.
Despite these potential dangers, up to 75 percent of Americans are low in vitamin D and deficiency is even common among physicians, a new study published in the journal Osteoporosis reports, despite the availability of a simple blood test to measure levels. Here is a look at other recent findings about how the sunshine vitamin affects heart health.
- Low vitamin D may be an independent risk for heart attacks and strokes. Evidence from dozens of studies over the past three decades is now so robust that a 2014 comprehensive review concludes that vitamin D deficiency now meets established scientific standards as a “causal” risk factor for CVD, the leading killer of Americans, often from heart attacks and A growing body of research also suggests that increasing vitamin D may help prevent heart disease, though it’s not yet known if adding supplements reduce risk.
- The sunshine vitamin protects heart health by fighting inflammation. A 2014 meta-analysis found that vitamin D supplementation can significantly improve levels of the inflammatory marker high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP). Other research show that apparently healthy people with high hsCRP levels are up to four times more likely to have coronary artery disease and are also at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes.
- Childhood vitamin levels predict later risk for heart disease. In a new study published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers tracked 2,148 people who underwent a baseline exam in 1980 when they were 3 to 18 years old. Participants were re-examined in 2007, at ages 30 to 45. Even when potential cofounders (such as smoking, blood pressure and exercise) were taken into account, those who had low vitamin D as children were almost twice as likely to have high-risk signs of arterial disease (identified via an ultrasound exam of their neck arteries).
- Low vitamin D is linked to more severe coronary artery disease (CAD). In a study of 1,484 patients who were hospitalized for coronary angiography (an imaging test to evaluate how well blood is flowing through the heart’s arteries), 70 percent of the patients were vitamin D deficient. The study, presented at the 2014 American College of Cardiology meeting, also found that deficiency was linked to a 20 percent higher frequently of severe CAD. “”Present results suggest vitamin D deficiency to be the cause rather than the consequence of atherosclerosis,” said researcher and cardiologist Monica Verdoia, MD.
- Young adults with healthy levels of vitamin D are slimmer and fitter. In a 2014 study of college students (average age 23), those with higher levels of D had a lower body mass index (BMI) and scored better on a test of maximum oxygen uptake (V02max), a measure of physical fitness based on the maximum rate of oxygen consumed during exercise. More than half of the students studied had low blood levels of the sunshine vitamin (less than 35 ng/ml), the researchers reported.
- The sunshine vitamin may enhance athletic performance. By boosting muscle strength, bone health, and balance, vitamin D may also improve sports skills. In a new 30-day randomized controlled study of healthy male golfers, those who took a multivitamin that included 1,000 i.u. of vitamin D3 had significantly greater improvements in increasing drive distance and peak velocity, compared to the placebo group. Another new study found that NFL football players with higher levels of D played significantly more seasons and were less likely to be cut from the team. However, both studies were small and further investigation is needed to evaluate the effects of D on athletic performance.