Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Cardiovascular
Disease and Death
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
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.
Findings from the study will be presented at the American Heart
Association's Scientific Conference on Monday, Nov. 16 in Orlando,
"This was a unique study because the association between
Vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular disease has not been well-established,"
says Brent Muhlestein, MD, director of cardiovascular research
of the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center and one
of the authors of the new study. "Its conclusions about how
we can prevent disease and provide treatment may ultimately help
us save more lives."
A wealth of research has already shown that Vitamin D is involved
in the body's regulation of calcium, which strengthens bones
and as a result, its deficiency is associated with musculoskeletal
disorders. Recently, studies have also linked Vitamin D to the
regulation of many other bodily functions including blood pressure,
glucose control, and inflammation, all of which are important
risk factors related to heart disease. From these results, scientists
have postulated that Vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to
heart disease itself.
"Utah's population gave us a unique pool of patients whose
health histories are different than patients in previous studies,"
Dr. Muhlestein says. "For example, because of Utah's low
use of tobacco and alcohol, we were able to narrow the focus of
the study to the effects of Vitamin D on the cardiovascular system."
The results were quite surprising and very important, says Heidi
May, PhD, MS, an epidemiologist with the Intermountain Medical
Center research team and one of the study authors.
"We concluded that among patients 50 years of age or older,
even a moderate deficiency of Vitamin D levels was associated
with developing coronary artery disease, heart failure, stroke,
and death," she says. "This is important because Vitamin
D deficiency is easily treated. If increasing levels of Vitamin
D can decrease some risk associated with these cardiovascular
diseases, it could have a significant public health impact. When
you consider that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause
of death in America, you understand how this research can help
improve the length and quality of people's lives."
Because the study was only observational, definitive links between
Vitamin D deficiency and heart disease could not be assigned
but the findings create an impetus for further study, says Dr.
"We believe the findings are important enough to now justify
randomized treatment trials of supplementation in patients with
Vitamin D deficiency to determine for sure whether it can reduce
the risk of heart disease," he says.
Reference Source 125
November 16, 2009