Researchers say treating vitamin D deficiency with supplements may help to prevent or reduce a person's risk for cardiovascular disease and a host of other chronic conditions.
According to two new studies at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, preventing and treating heart disease in some patients could be as simple as supplementing their diet with extra vitamin D.
The finding has been presented at the American College of Cardiology 59th annual scientific session in Atlanta.
"Vitamin D replacement therapy has long been associated with reducing the risk of fractures and diseases of the bone," says Dr. J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. "But our findings show that vitamin D could have far greater implications in the treatment and reduction of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions than we previously thought."
For the first study, researchers followed two groups of patients for an average of one year each. In the first study group, over 9,400 patients, mostly female, reported low initial vitamin D levels, and had at least one follow up exam during that time period. Researchers found that 47 percent of the patients who increased their levels of vitamin D between the two visits showed a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
In the second study, researchers placed over 31,000 patients into three categories based on their levels of vitamin D. The patients in each category who increased their vitamin D levels to 43 nanograms per milliliter of blood or higher had lower rates of death, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure, high blood pressure, depression, and kidney failure. Currently, a level of 30 nanograms per milliliter is considered "normal."
Heidi May, PhD, a cardiovascular clinical epidemiologist with the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, and one of the study's authors, says the link between low levels of vitamin D and increased risk for a variety of diseases is significant.
"It was very important to discover that the 'normal' levels are too low. Giving physicians a higher level to look for gives them one more tool in identifying patients at-risk and offering them better treatment," says Dr. May.