Vitamin D deficiency may increase heart disease risk

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The same vitamin D deficiency that can result in weak bones now has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Framingham Heart Study researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, above and beyond established cardiovascular risk factors,” said Thomas J. Wang, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass. “The higher risk associated with vitamin D deficiency was particularly evident among individuals with high blood pressure.”

In a study of 1,739 offspring from Framingham Heart Study participants (average age 59, all Caucasian), researchers found that those with blood levels of vitamin D below 15 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) had twice the risk of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, heart failure or stroke in the next five years compared to those with higher levels of vitamin D.

“Low levels of vitamin D are highly prevalent in the United States, especially in areas without much sunshine,” Wang said. “Twenty to 30 percent of the population in many areas has moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency.”

Most of this is attributed to lack of sun exposure, pigmented skin that prevents penetration of the sun’s rays and inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D enriched foods, researchers said.

During the past decade, researchers have studied several other vitamins that initially showed promise in reducing heart disease. But the vitamins didn’t reduce heart disease in subsequent large randomized trials.

“On the flip side, just because other vitamins haven’t succeeded doesn’t preclude the possibility of finding vitamins that might prevent cardiovascular disease,” Wang said. “This is always an area of great interest. Vitamins are easy to administer and in general have few toxic effects.”

Co-authors are: Michael J. Pencina, Ph.D.; Sarah L. Booth, Ph.D.; Paul F. Jacques, D.Sc.; Erik Ingelsson, M.D., Ph.D.; Katherine Lanier, B.S.; Emelia J. Benjamin, M.D.; Ralph B. D’Agostino, Ph.D.; Myles Wolf, M.D.; and Ramachandran S. Vasan, M.D.

The National Institute of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and American Heart Association funded the study.

Source: Circulation, USA

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