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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Vitamin D:  Strengthening your bones and perhaps your heart too!

By: Karen McPartland, RD
Senior Dietitian

Vitamin D, otherwise known as the “sunshine vitamin”, has been shining very brightly recently due to research showing potential links between vitamin D deficiency and diseases like cardiovascular disease and conditions like high blood pressure.  Most of us know that vitamin D is important for bone health, but is it good for your heart too?  Here are some of the recent positive findings on vitamin D’s potential heart health role as well as some advice on what you might want to do about your vitamin D levels.

A possible link between Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease
Some studies have been showing that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a few studies have even reported that increasing vitamin D levels may reduce the risk of heart attacks.  One study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,found that doubling blood levels of vitamin D was associated with reducing the risk of a heart attack by half.  These results are promising, but more clinical trials are necessary.

A possible link between Vitamin D & High Blood Pressure
Recently, results from human trials have shown that vitamin D may modestly lower diastolic blood pressure in people with blood pressures over 140/90.  Those who have hypertension along with vitamin D deficiency may see even greater blood pressure lowering benefits.  There are quite a few ways in which vitamin D may play a role in blood pressure regulation from protecting the kidneys to dilating blood vessels to possibly even preventing insulin resistance that may lead to an increased blood pressure.  Again, although the results are encouraging, there is more to learn about the role vitamin D may play in blood pressure control.   

How can you get vitamin D?
You can get vitamin D from food sources, safe sun exposure and supplements.  Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, sun-dried mushrooms, egg yolk, fortified milk/soy milk, fortified juices and fortified cereals.  As you may notice, food sources of vitamin D are somewhat limited.  Exposing your skin to sunlight helps your body to make vitamin D.  However, UV radiation from sun exposure may contribute to an increased risk of skin cancer, so it is advisable to focus on getting most of your vitamin D through foods and/or supplements.  If you choose to supplement, it is important to remember that the upper tolerable limit of vitamin D established by the Institute of Medicine is 2,000 IU per day for adults.  Dosages above this amount need to be discussed with your physician (see below!).

What should you do about vitamin D?   
The answer to this question is individualized based on personal dietary habits, current health status and future disease risk.  But, a good first step for most people is to ask your physician if getting your vitamin D levels tested would be right for you.  You would then need to discuss the results with your physician.  If your results indicate a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency, your physician will most likely recommend vitamin D supplements.  Meeting with a registered dietician would be beneficial as well so that you can get more guidance on how you can increase your vitamin D-rich food intake.  If your levels are in the normal range, you should still consult a registered dietician so that he or she can assess your current vitamin D intake and offer advice on how you can maximize your vitamin D intake through foods and possibly, supplements.   

 

As mentioned previously, at this time, research results are promising, but still somewhat limited, so vitamin D’s role in regards to heart health is still unclear.  Advances in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease could affect many people since this disease is our nation’s number one killer.  It will be interesting to see what continued research shows with regards to vitamin D’s role in disease prevention and possibly, in the treatment of disease.  At PLC, our medical team is continually reviewing the latest research and guidelines regarding the prevention and treatment of disease so we will keep you up to date on the emerging vitamin D research. 

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