Vitamin D deficiency results in part from reduced exposure to sunlight, which is common during cold weather months when days are shorter and more time is spent indoors.
"Chronic vitamin D deficiency may be a culprit in heart disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome," said Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, study author and professor, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Loyola University Chicago.
The researchers found that risk of severe disease or death may be 30 to 50 percent higher among sun-deprived individuals with heart disease.
The research team led by Penckofer suggest that diet alone is not sufficient to manage vitamin D levels.
Treatment options to correct the deficiency, such as vitamin D2 or D3, may decrease the risk of severe disease or death from cardiovascular disorders.
"Most physicians do not routinely test for vitamin D deficiency," said Penckofer.
"However, most experts would agree that adults at risk for heart disease and others who experience fatigue joint pain or depression should have their vitamin D levels measured," she added.