Low Vitamin D Levels May Raise Heart Risk
Study Shows Vitamin D Supplements May Be Useful in Preventing Heart Disease
Nov. 16, 2009 (Orlando, Fla.) -- Some men with low levels of vitamin D in their blood are at particularly high risk of developing heart disease and weakened bones that can lead to osteoporosis, researchers report.
In a study of more than 1,000 men, those with low levels of both vitamin D and the sex hormone estrogen were at significantly increased risk of having cardiovascular disease, says study head Erin Michos, MD, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins.
"They were also at dramatically increased risk of osteopenia," or bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis, she says.
"Our results suggest that vitamin D supplements, which are already prescribed to treat osteoporosis, may also be useful in preventing heart disease," Michos tells WebMD.
Men with low levels of vitamin D and testosterone, on the other hand, were not at heightened risk for heart disease or osteopenia.
Role of Estrogen and Vitamin D
The new findings build on previous studies showing that low levels of vitamin D and estrogen, a sex hormone found in differing amounts in men and women, are independent risk factors for developing plaque-laden arteries and weakened bones.
The new study confirmed that men who had low levels of estrogen were at increased risk of both heart disease and osteopenia.
And if both estrogen and vitamin D levels were depressed, the men's rates of heart and bone disease were even higher, Michos says.
Michos and colleagues now plan to analyze blood samples from women to see if the same results hold true for them. Studies are also under way to determine whether vitamin D supplements can cut the risk of heart attack, stroke, and osteoporosis.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).
How to Get Enough Vitamin D
Previous research showed that 41% of men and 53% percent of women are deficient, with vitamin D levels below 28 nanograms per milliliter, Michos says.
The Institute of Medicine suggests that an adequate daily intake of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units for children and adults up to age 70. But Michos feels this is inadequate to achieve optimal nutrient blood levels.