Giving your body the vital nutrients it needs to stay healthy is so important… and new research has uncovered that one of the most important nutrients, vitamin D (sunlight or supplements), may have more of a role in keeping us healthy than we even suspected.
When it comes to risks for deadly heart disease, deficiencies of vitamin D may be a risk factor that has, until now, gone unrecognized.
It may also be linked to other risk factors for heart disease that include diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. The good news is that this type of deficiency is an easy thing to fix.
Several large studies have shown that those with low vitamin D levels were two times as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or another heart related event as compared to those with higher vitamin D levels.
” Vitamin D deficiency is an unrecognized, emerging cardiovascular risk factor, which should be screened for and treated,” says researcher James H. O’Keefe, MD, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo., in a release. “Vitamin D is easy to assess, and supplementation is simple, safe and inexpensive.”
Vitamin D deficiency is far more common than anyone ever thought, and affects up to 50% of adults and otherwise healthy children in the United States.
This may be due in part to us all spending less non-sunscreened time in natural sunlight. Sunscreens of SPF 15 block virtually all vitamin D synthesis by the skin. If you’re older, or a bit overweight or obese, your body is naturally less efficient at making vitamin D from sunlight.
If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency there are blood tests that can be done to look for a specific form of the vitamin called 25-hydroxy vitamin D, and you can be screened if you have risk factors that concern you.
The U.S. governments recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 200 international units (IUs) a day for those under 50; 400 IUs if you’re 50 to 70 years old; 600 IUs if you’re over 70 years old. Most health experts still think these numbers are too low, and that somewhere between 1,000-2,000 international units per day is a more appropriate level. The upper limit of vitamin D intake is 10,000 international units a day.
” Restoring vitamin D levels to normal is important in maintaining good musculoskeletal health, and it may also improve heart health and prognosis,” says O’Keefe. “We need large, randomized, controlled trials to determine whether or not vitamin D supplementation can actually reduce future heart disease and deaths.”
The most potent, most natural source of vitamin D is simple exposure to the sun, during the less intense (that’s from 10 am to 2 pm) hours of the day.
Food sources of vitamin D include salmon, sardines, cod liver oil and vitamin D fortified choices like milk and some cereals. Supplements are another good source of this vital nutrient.
If you are found to have a deficiency of vitamin D, there are methods you can use to restore the right levels in your body, either through vitamin d sunlight or through taking supplements. Talk with your own doctor about exactly what you can do. The research and vitamin D recommendations appear in the December 9, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).