Vitamin D: An Important Vitamin for a Healthy Heart

Mima Geere, MD, MS, NU  @MimaGeere
January 20, 2016  | Last Updated: January 19, 2016

Vitamin D, also known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or its active form, plays many different roles in the body and acts as a critical hormone that controls over 200 genes. Amongst its many critical functions in bone health, some of its lesser known but prominent roles involve preventing abnormal cells from multiplying, regulating blood pressure, and also regulating blood sugar. This is incredibly important for anyone that is predisposed to cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The experimental data is mounting over the past 10 years that low levels of vitamin D put the heart at risk. A review paper in the European Heart Journal shows that the risk is real and confirms that we need more in-depth studies to be sure of the relationship, and to verify whether everyone’s levels need to be checked as a standard of care. 


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Being deficient in vitamin D can put you at risk for a multitude of disease, but, in particular, the role that vitamin D plays in heart disease is becoming clear scientifically. Not only does vitamin D seem to have a direct effect on your cardiac cells, there is a direct interplay between obesity and vitamin D levels. Having more body fat inhibits the ability for vitamin D to do its job in the body. In effect, fat can store the vitamin D and prevent it from effectively circulating in your body. For overweight or obese individuals at risk of heart disease, it might be beneficial to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. 

Natural sources of vitamin D are found in fatty fish like salmon, in other types of seafood and fish like shrimp and tuna, as well as in eggs, milk products, and direct exposure to sun. Obtaining vitamin D from these natural sources can be limited, however, because of the added scare of mercury toxicity in fish, poor farming practices, and skin cancer risk from the sun. 

Unfortunately, 30 to 50 percent of adults in developed countries are vitamin D deficient. To maintain healthy levels most adults need about 1,000 to 2,000 International Unit (IU) a day, but it really does depend on where people live geographically. It’s important to have your doctor check your vitamin D levels as part of your routine checkup if you are noticing signs of fatigue or are particularly overweight or obese. You should keep your blood levels around 30 to 60 nanograms/milliliter. 

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