Low Vitamin D Levels Raise Heart Disease Risk, Study Finds

A new study on vitamin D shows that those who have insufficient levels have a higher risk of heart attack and early death.

In a study of more than 10,000 people, researchers found that people who do not get enough vitamin D had a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, which includes heart attack, coronary arteriosclerosis and angina.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital, is the largest of its kind to date, according to a university news release. The results were published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Previous studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency may increase blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack.

“We observed that low levels of vitamin D compared to optimal levels are linked to 40 percent higher risk of ischemic heart disease, 64 percent higher risk of heart attack, 57 percent higher risk of early death and to no less than 81 percent higher risk of death from heart disease,” said Dr. Peter Brondum-Jacobsen, from Copenhagen University Hospital, in the news release.

The study does not prove that low vitamin D levels cause heart attacks and early death, but it does show a “strong statistical correlation,” said Dr. Borge Nordestgaard, a clinical professor at the University of Copenhagen and senior physician at Copenhagen University Hospital. “The explanation may be that a low level of vitamin D directly leads to heart disease and death. However, it is also possible that vitamin deficiency is a marker for poor health generally.”

The study could have widespread implications as cardiovascular diseases kill more people each year than any other, according to the World Health Organization. More than 7 million people died of ischemic heart disease worldwide in 2008.

“The cheapest and easiest way to get enough vitamin D is to let the sun shine on your skin at regular intervals,” Nordestgaard said. “There is plenty of evidence that sunshine is good, but it also important to avoid getting sunburned, which increases the risk of skin cancer.”

Eating healthy foods that contain vitamin D is also beneficial, he said. But vitamin D supplements have not been proven to prevent heart disease and death.

Source: University of Copenhagen news release, World Health Organization

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