Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vitamin D Supplements May Lower Heart Disease Risk

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Vitamin D Important For Overall Cardiovascular Health

New information about vitamin D suggests low levels make arteries stiffer, driving blood pressure higher in people who are otherwise healthy. Poor blood vessel health can increase the risk of heart disease.

Boosting vitamin D relaxes blood vessels in study

The study on 554 generally healthy adults, whose average age was 47, found that participants who raised their vitamin D levels, by increased sun exposure or supplements, had improved blood vessel health and lowered their blood pressure readings an average of 4.6 points.

The findings are presented by Ibhar Al Mheid, MD, a cardiovascular researcher at Emory University School of Medicine, at the April 1 - 5, 2011 annual American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.

Lack of vitamin D impairs blood vessel health same as diabetes

According to Dr. Al Mheid, "We found that people with vitamin D deficiency had vascular dysfunction comparable to those with diabetes or hypertension, even after controlling for other factors such as age, weight and cholesterol.”

Throughout the body, a layer of endothelial cells lines the blood vessels, controlling whether the blood vessels constrict or relax and helping to prevent clots that lead to strokes and heart attacks.

"There is already a lot known about how vitamin D could be acting here," Al Mheid says. "It could be strengthening endothelial cells and the muscles surrounding the blood vessels, keeping them relaxed and healthy. It could also be reducing the level of angiotensin, a hormone that drives increased blood pressure, or regulating inflammation."

Ensuring vitamin D levels are adequate

The findings have implications for maintaining blood vessel health that declines with aging. Reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke could come from ensuring vitamin D levels are adequate.

The researchers plan a follow-up study using a specific vitamin D dose. Because the study was observational, the researchers were unable to evaluate how the employees boosted their vitamin D levels to improve blood vessel health.

Source: Emory University News Release dated Apr. 4, 2011

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