Mercola Speaks – Vitamin D and the Heart

Low levels of vitamin D have again been linked with reduced survival rates in patients with heart failure.

The study, conducted at the University Medical Center, Groningen, in the Netherlands, also suggested that low levels of vitamin D are associated with activation of the Renin Angiotensin System (RAS – a pivotal regulatory system in heart failure) and an altered cytokine profile.

Vitamin D concentration was assessed in plasma samples from 548 heart failure patients. According to the researchers, patients with lower concentrations had a higher risk of death or required re-hospitalization, whereas patients with higher concentrations had lower survival risks for these endpoints.

Researcher Licette Liu said on

“This study provides compelling evidence that a high vitamin D status is associated with improved survival in heart failure patients.

Until an intervention study has been designed and completed, it seems that we should advise patients with heart failure to maintain appropriate vitamin D levels by taking supplements, by eating oily fish or eggs, or simply by exposure to sunlight.”

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, common cancers, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases. There is also some evidence that the vitamin may reduce the incidence of several types of cancer and type-1 diabetes.
Nutra Ingredients September 16, 2010
European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2010 August 28-September 1, 2010, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

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Along with eating healthy and exercising, if you want to maintain a healthy heart making sure your vitamin D level is optimized is crucial. This is an incredibly simple step, yet one that stands to make an immense difference in your health.

The research is pouring in on just how important vitamin D — which is the only known substrate for a potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects), repair and maintenance seco-steroid hormone — is for your heart health.

In this latest study, researchers found that low levels of vitamin D lower your chances of surviving heart failure, and previous studies have found the vitamin can also lower your risk of developing heart disease in the first place.

Want to Lower Your Risk of Dying from a Heart Problem by 378 Percent?

If you do, it’s time to get your vitamin D levels checked, and if they’re low get out in the sun, spend some time in a safe tanning bed, or consider supplementing with vitamin D3 to get them optimized.

Researchers have found that people with the lowest average vitamin D levels had a 124 percent greater risk of dying from all causes and a 378 percent greater risk of dying from a heart problem — so optimizing your levels will keep you out of this risk bracket.

You see, vitamin D has beneficial effects way above and beyond the bone benefits that are typically touted. In terms of heart disease, there are a number of protective physiological mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production through sunlight exposure, including:

* An increase in your body’s natural anti-inflammatory cytokines
* The suppression of vascular calcification
* The inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth

Researchers from Finland have also showed that when compared with the participants with the highest vitamin D, those with the lowest levels had a 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. And when only stroke was looked at, those with the lowest levels had twice the risk as those with the highest.

Women who take vitamin D supplements also lower their risk of death from heart disease by one-third, so you can see the research is incredibly strong in support of optimized vitamin D.

Vitamin D Lowers This Major Risk Factor for Heart Disease and Stroke

Arterial stiffness, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke — two of the most common killers in the United States — is associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Yet when black teens — 95 percent of whom were vitamin D deficient — took the 400 IU of vitamin D per day recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was nowhere near enough to bring their levels into a healthy range. In the study, only the teens who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day became vitamin D “sufficient,” instead of “deficient.”

This latter point is important because if you listen to the government’s recommendations about how much vitamin D you need to stay healthy you’ll likely come up far too short to receive these amazing benefits to your heart.

As of right now, the conventional RDAs are only:

* 400 IU for infants, children and adolescents
* 200 IU for adults up to age 50
* 400 IU for adults aged 51 to 70
* 600 IU for seniors over 70

These are a far cry from what is actually needed for optimal health.

Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly and pregnant women.

However, vitamin D requirements are highly individual.

How to Take Advantage of Vitamin D’s Benefits

Your ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D is dependent on several factors, such as the color of your skin, where you live, and how much sunshine your skin is exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the level of what most people likely need, it is virtually impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone.

The only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you’ll want to maintain a vitamin D level of at least 50ng/ml and perhaps as high as 80-90 ng/ml year-round.

If you’ve never had your levels tested, I strongly suggest you make it a priority to do so. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the United States, where the late winter average vitamin D is less than 20 ng/ml — a very serious deficiency state. It’s estimated that over 95 percent of U.S. senior citizens may be deficient, along with 85 percent of the American public, including all ages from newborns through adulthood.

Fortunately, vitamin D deficiency is incredibly easy to fix, and as I said earlier the only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. You can get your blood tested by your physician (be sure you get the correct test called 25(OH)D, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D), or if you’re interested you can join the D*action study.

D*Action is a worldwide public health campaign, aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic in one year through focus on testing, education, and grassroots word of mouth.

When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels at home twice a year during a 5-year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient.

There is a $60 fee each 6 months for your sponsorship of the project, but you can get a 15 percent discount by entering “Mercola” on your order form. The fee includes a complete new vitamin D test kit to be used at home (except in the state of New York), and electronic reports on your ongoing progress.

From there, and no matter how you choose to get your levels tested, I encourage you to watch my free one-hour vitamin D lecture to find out what your vitamin D levels should be, and how to keep them optimized for your heart, and overall, health.

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