When we think about vitamin D, our thoughts probably turn to the mental health benefits of absorbing vitamin D from the sun. We might also think about vitamin D in milk and how it helps us build strong bones. But we have also learned that not getting enough vitamin D can be detrimental to your heart.
Vitamin D and the heart
“A growing number of studies point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, strokes, and the conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes,” said Dr. Erin Michos in an article for Johns Hopkins. “The question is, if you’re deficient and I give you vitamin D back, can I actually prevent a heart attack?”
Dr. Michos said that question could be answered more conclusively by clinical trials over the next several years.
Michos adds, “Your body produces vitamin D on its own, particularly when you’re out in the sun. Because people are spending less time outdoors, and using more sunscreen when they are outdoors, there is a general deficiency among the entire American population.”
Those most at risk for low levels of vitamin D include:
- People with dark skin
- The elderly
- Those who are overweight or obese
- Those who don’t have much vitamin D in their diets
A balanced approach to heart health
Kelly Rasmussen, a cardiology nurse practitioner at Marshfield Clinic Health System, stresses a comprehensive approach to caring for your heart.
“Certainly we are learning more about the impact of vitamin D on the heart,” she said. “But what we know for sure is that a healthy diet, regular exercise, not smoking, these are keys to a healthy heart. I stress with my patients that it’s not one thing that keeps your heart healthy. It’s a combination.”
If you have concerns about your heart health, talk with your provider.