Identifying the Role Vitamin D Plays in Heart Disease
More than one in three Americans has heart disease or suffers from a condition that increases the risk of getting a cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D may play a significant role in many aspects of heart and vascular health.
The numbers of people affected by heart disease are staggering and include the following:
High blood pressure: 75 million
Heart attacks: 8.5 million
Chest pain: 10.2 million
Heart failure: 5.8 million
Stroke: 6.4 million
Evidence shows there are many ways that we can reduce the chances of cardiovascular disease. These include the following:
Getting more exercise
Eating more fruits and vegetables
Taking in less saturated fats
Eating more fish
Cardiovascular disease isn’t really a single disease but a group of related diseases. For example, coronary artery disease is a form that affects the arteries which feed the heart and cerebrovascular disease is a form that affects the blood vessels in the brain.
One of the new ways to prevent cardiovascular disease is keeping your vitamin D status high. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D may play a significant role in many aspects of heart and vascular health. Some even think that high vitamin D status may prevent the development of heart disease. But the reasons we develop cardiovascular disease are complex, so it’s not clear how and where vitamin D is contributing.
Autopsies of young men killed in war have turned up early signs of cardiovascular disease. With that in mind do we need high levels of vitamin D at a very young age to avoid this problem? Also, older people with cardiovascular disease often have low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Can a supplement with vitamin D be used to stop the disease after it’s begun? Researchers don’t know.
However, researchers have learned some specifics about vitamin D and heart disease. For example, the farther a population is from the tropics, the higher the incidence of heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes in that group. This higher rate of disease seen with changing geography could be explained by a lower production of vitamin D by the skin.
Of course, there are other risk factors in cooler climates that could account for the higher incidence of heart disease, such as greater weight, less exercise due to poor weather conditions, increased alcohol intake, and so forth.