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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Low Levels of Vitamin D Indicate Much Higher Risk for Heart Attack, Early Death

Large study funded by Danish Heart Foundation used blood samples from 10,000 Danes

Sept. 24, 2012 - Low levels of vitamin D are associated with a markedly higher risk of heart attack and early death in a large study that involved more than 10,000 Danes. The researchers say those with the lowest levels of vitamin D have at least an 81 percent higher risk of death from heart disease than those with the optimal levels.

Vitamin D deficiency has traditionally been linked with poor bone health. However, the results from several population studies indicate that a low level of this important vitamin may also be linked to a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, a designation that covers heart attack, coronary arteriosclerosis and angina.

 

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Other studies show that vitamin D deficiency may increase blood pressure, and it is well known that high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack.

"We have now examined the association between a low level of vitamin D and ischemic heart disease and death in the largest study to date. We observed that low levels of vitamin D compared to optimal levels are linked to 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease, 64% higher risk of heart attack, 57% higher risk of early death, and to no less than 81% higher risk of death from heart disease," says Dr. Peter Brøndum-Jacobsen, Clinical Biochemical Department, Copenhagen University Hospital.

The scientists have compared the 5% lowest levels of vitamin D - less than 15 nanomol (amount of substance) vitamin per liter serum - with the 50% highest levels (more than 50 nanomol vitamin per liter serum). In Denmark, it is currently recommended to have a vitamin D status of at least 50 nanomol vitamin per liter serum.

The higher risks are visible, even after adjustment for several factors that can influence the level of vitamin D and the risk of disease and death. This is one of the methods scientists use to avoid bias.

Facts About Vitamin D

The average person gets 1/5 of his or her need for vitamin D covered through diet and 4/5 through sunlight.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin. The amount of sunlight needed to cover the body’s requirement for vitamin D corresponds to 5-30 minutes of sunlight on arms, neck and head several times a week in spring, summer and early fall in most countries.

However, in late fall and winter in Northern countries/states and in countries closer to the South Pole, the sun is so low in the sky that it does not provide enough light to initiate vitamin D production in the skin. Therefore, in such countries diet and possibly vitamin D supplements are extremely important as sources of vitamin D in the winter half of the year.

National health authorities often recommend on intake of vitamin D. For example, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority recommends a daily consumption of 7.5 mcg of vitamin D. Most Danes receive from 2-4 mcg of vitamin D from diet.

With the exception of certain mushrooms, only animal products contain vitamin D (fish, meat, eggs and dairy products). In Denmark, it is recommended to eat 200-300 gram of fish every week. Fatty fish in particular is rich in vitamin D.

Vitamin D is important for good bone health, and vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for the development of osteoporosis. Whether vitamin D can have a protective effect on the development of heart disease and certain types of cancer is not yet known, which is why recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are aimed primarily at preventing osteoporosis.

Supplements are most often not recommended for healthy individuals who eat a varied diet.

However, vitamin D supplementation is often recommended for pregnant women, children under the age of two, people with dark skin, women who are veiled in the summer half of the year and for people over the age of 70.

Blood samples from more than 10,000 Danes

The population study that forms the basis for this scientific investigation is the Copenhagen City Heart Study, where levels of vitamin D were measured in blood samples from 1981-1983. Participants were then followed in the nationwide Danish registries up to the present.

"With this type of population study, we are unable to say anything definitive about a possible causal relationship. But we can ascertain that there is a strong statistical correlation between a low level of vitamin D and high risk of heart disease and early death. The explanation may be that a low level of vitamin D directly leads to heart disease and death. However, it is also possible that vitamin deficiency is a marker for poor health generally," says Børge Nordestgaard, clinical professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen and senior physician at Copenhagen University Hospital.

Long-term goal is prevention

The scientists are now working to determine whether the connection between a low level of vitamin D and the risk of heart disease is a genuine causal relationship.

If this is the case, it will potentially have a massive influence on the health of the world population. Heart disease is the most common cause of adult death in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that at least 17 million people die every year from heart disease.

"The cheapest and easiest way to get enough vitamin D is to let the sun shine on your skin at regular intervals. There is plenty of evidence that sunshine is good, but it is also important to avoid getting sunburned, which increases the risk of skin cancer. Diet with a good supply of vitamin D is also good, but it has not been proven that vitamin D as a dietary supplement prevents heart disease and death," says Børge Nordestgaard.

This new research from the University of Copenhagen and Copenhagen University Hospital has been published in the American journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

>> The research was funded by The Danish Heart Foundation


Food Sources of Vitamin D

Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D in these foods is primarily in the form of vitamin D3 and its metabolite 25(OH)D3. Some mushrooms provide vitamin D2 in variable amounts. Mushrooms with enhanced levels of vitamin D2, from being exposed to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions, are also available.

Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. For example, almost all of the U.S. milk supply is voluntarily fortified with 100 IU/cup. (In Canada, milk is fortified by law with 35–40 IU/100 mL, as is margarine at ≥530 IU/100 g.) In the 1930s, a milk fortification program was implemented in the United States to combat rickets, then a major public health problem. Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are generally not fortified. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and other food products.

>> National Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health


Links to More Archived Reports About Vitamin D

Vitamin D Acts as Protective Agent Against the Advance of Colon Cancer

Study by VHIO researchers confirms lack of vitamin D increases the aggressiveness of colon cancer

Aug. 16, 2011


Vitamin D Appears Linked With Risk of Skin Cancer, Although Relationship Complex

Study looked at vitamin D level in senior citizens with non-melanoma skin cancers - Aug. 15, 2011


Vitamin D Helps Build Bone But Evidence Lacking That It Lowers Risk of Other Disease

IOM sets new dietary intake levels for calcium and vitamin D: Aging senior citizens, especially women, need more than others

Nov. 30, 2010


Vitamin D Deficiency Rampant in Patients for Orthopedic Surgery, Damaging Recovery

People undergoing procedures involving bone or muscle should correct their vitamin D if they want an earlier faster, better, result  - Oct. 6, 2010


sunflower oil a good source of vitamin EOlder People Eating Vitamin E Rich Foods  Less Likely to Suffer Dementia, Alzheimer’s

New tests indicated high levels of the sun vitamin, D, and now E, both help older people preserve their memory

July 13, 2010


Low Vitamin D in Senior Citizens Signals Cognitive Decline; Higher Parkinson’s Risk

An estimated 40 to 100% of seniors in U.S. and Europe are deficient in vitamin D: linked to fractures, various chronic diseases and death

July 12, 2010


Senior Citizens with Highest Levels of Vitamin D Show Most Vitality as They Age

Will vitamin D research lead us to The Fountain of Youth?New study does say participants with better physical function may have higher vitamin D simply because they go outside more often

April 26, 2010


Senior Citizens with High Levels of Vitamin D at Less Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes

Review of 28 studies finds the vitamin associated with a substantial decrease in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome for seniors and middle aged - Feb. 16, 2010


Fractures that Plague Senior Citizens Can be Reduced by Taking Calcium with Vitamin D

Large study supports growing consensus that combined calcium and vitamin D is more effective than vitamin D alone in reducing fractures

Jan. 14, 2010


More Sunlight May Provide Senior Citizens with Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes

Prevalence of dangerous metabolic syndrome found among those with low vitamin D levels

May 11, 2009


Calcium Lowers Cancer Risk in Older People: More So for Women Than Men

Long respected by senior citizens as a nutrient for building strength in aging bones, calcium now adds ‘cancer fighter’ to its resume

Feb. 24, 2009


Link Between Blood Pressure and Outside Temperature for Seniors May Tie to Vitamin D

Researchers also urging close monitoring of elderly with hypertension during weather extremes; second study says thinking ability varies with blood pressure

Jan. 16, 2009


Vitamin D is ‘It’ Nutrient with Success Against Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, Osteoporosis

Many of the 23 million Americans with diabetes have low vitamin D levels

Jan. 12, 2009


Scientists Find New Way to Detect, Treat Vitamin D Deficiency that Threatens Heart

Lack of vitamin D spells heart trouble as well as a lot of other ailments

Dec. 2, 2008


Remember the Bump? It's Back for Older Women as Way to Prevent Falls, Hip Fractures

Website to fight falls and fractured hips, Survey finds women not well informed – offers calcium calculator

Sept. 13, 2008


Low Level of Vitamin D Seems to Be Invitation to Most Deadly Diseases: Increases Death Risk

May be associated with death through effect on blood pressure, the body’s ability to respond to insulin, obesity and diabetes risk

Aug. 12, 2008


Calcium Calculator Now Online to Help Senior Citizens Fight Osteoporosis, Bone Breaks

People who are physically active and get enough calcium can strengthen their bones - even in old age

Sept. 12, 2008

 

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