Health & Fitness

General Article

Vitamin D Benefits Include Cutting Heart Disease Risk

Vitamin D Benefits Include Cutting Heart Disease Risk

Yet another reason to make vitamin D a part of your diet. Researchers have found vitamin D benefits may well include cutting the risk of heart disease, as well as a host of other chronic conditions.

The findings suggest that taking supplements of this vital nutrient might be a viable treatment option for many people, especially those with deficiencies.

In the first study, two groups were followed for an average of one year each. Over 9,400 subjects, almost all women, were found to have low vitamin D levels.

All participants had at least one follow up exam during the study period. Of those who increased their levels of vitamin D between the two visits, 47% had a reduced risk for heart disease.

The second study had researchers putting 31,000 subjects into three groups based on vitamin D levels. Patients who upped their vitamin D levels to 43 nanograms per milliliter of blood (or higher) reduced their rates of diseases – diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and even high blood pressure and heart disease.

These subjects were also less likely to die during the study period. As a point of reference, a level of 30 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D is thought to be a normal level.

The connection between levels of vitamin D and increased risk for many dangerous diseases is very important.

Three out of every four American teens and adults have vitamin D levels below what is needed for optimal health.

The typical U.S. diet gives us about 100 IUs a day, though the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends people get 200-600 IUs of vitamin D daily. A review is underway on whether to up that recommendation with results due this spring.

If you’re worried about keeping your heart (and the rest of you) healthy, talk with your doctor about your vitamin D levels. The treatment options are simple – a blood test to see where your levels are now. If low, supplements and deliberate exposure to natural sunlight are options your doctor might suggest.

You might also consider the few natural food sources of vitamin D available. Any fatty fish like herring, catfish, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and eel are good choices, as are cod liver oil, eggs, beef liver and mushrooms.

What makes supplements such a good option is that they’re relatively affordable, and they can be found anywhere – drug stores, the supermarket, specialty shops.

Most supplements give you an average of 400 IU (international unites) of vitamin D per tablet. Being out in the sunlight for 20 to 30 minutes can give you up to 10,000 IUs, though you’ll want to avoid the hottest parts of the day to reduce your risk of skin cancer and sun damage, while still gaining from Vitamin D benefits.