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Vitamin D May Lower Heart Disease Risk

Studies Suggest That Correcting Vitamin D Deficiency Improves Heart Health
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Vitamin D Findings May Change Some Doctors' Practices

Although doctors say better-designed studies showing that vitamin D supplements help are needed, Muhlestein says the results of this research will already change the way he treats his patients.

"There is enough information here for me to start treatment based on these findings," he says.

Treatment options in this case are simple, starting with a blood test to determine a patient's vitamin D level. If low levels are detected, Muhlestein recommends that men and women boost their vitamin D levels by taking vitamin supplements and briefly exposing skin to the sun's vitamin D-producing ultraviolet light.

The Institute of Medicine suggests that an adequate daily intake of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units (IU) for children and adults up to age 70. But increasing vitamin D intake by 1,000 to 5,000 IU a day may be appropriate, depending on a patient's health and genetic risk, Muhlestein says.

Gina Lundberg, MD, medical director of St. Joseph's Heart Center for Women in Atlanta, says more and more patients are reading about the link between vitamin D and heart disease and asking to be tested.

"Sometimes if a 28 or 29-year-old turns out to have slightly low levels, we just recommend a little more time in the sun. These new results may make us think about supplementation to bring levels higher," Lundberg tells WebMD.

American Heart Association spokeswoman Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, a nutritionist at Tufts University, says the research "is interesting," adding to growing evidence suggesting a link between vitamin D insufficiency and cardiovascular disease.

But people should refrain from taking supplements on their own, Lichtenstein says. "This should always be done under a doctor's supervision.”

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