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Vitamin D May Prevent Heart Disease


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

According to a new study, low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The findings are based on the researchers' previous work linking low vitamin D levels to higher risk for heart disease.

Scientists from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah, carried out two studies where they analyzed levels of vitamin D in patients who visited the medical center for various health problems. The first study involved about 10,000 patients with low levels of vitamin D, according to blood tests done during a routine visit to the doctor. Their average vitamin D level was 19.3 nanograms per milliliter of blood, when levels of 30 ng per milliliter are generally considered normal. At their next follow-up trip to the doctor, about half of the patients had raised their vitamin D levels to more than 30 nanograms per milliliter.

When compared with individuals whose levels of vitamin D were still below the norm, patients who raised their vitamin D levels had about a 33 per cent decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, they were 20 per cent less likely to suffer heart failure, and had a 30 per cent less chance to die over an average follow-up period of 12 months.

In the second trial, the investigators assigned about 42,000 patients into three different groups based on their levels of vitamin D: normal, moderate deficiency, and severe deficiency. After that the experts examined and combined their medical records in order to determine who had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or had a stroke. J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, the Institute's director of cardiovascular research, said that after a thorough analysis it was established that patients with severe deficiency were most likely to develop heart disease or stroke.

The researchers also put all the data into a computer algorithm to find out if there is an optimal level of vitamin D when it comes to prevention of cardiovascular disease."While normal has generally been considered to be 30, some people have suggested 40 or 50 is better," Dr. Muhlestein said and added that his team found that patients who were able to increase the vitamin D blood level to 43 nanograms per milliliter of blood demonstrated the lowest rates of heart disease and stroke. However, increasing it higher than that, to 60 or 70 ng per milliliter, offered no greater benefit, he said.

According to the Institute of Medicine recommendations, an adequate daily dose of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units (IU) for children and adults before the age of 70 years old. But increasing vitamin D intake by 1,000 to 5,000 IU per day may be beneficial as well, depending on a person's medical conditions and genetic risk.

The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 59th annual scientific session.

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