Health Team

Vitamin D could be vital to healthy heart

Posted December 5, 2008 5:40 p.m. EST
Updated December 5, 2008 6:33 p.m. EST

New research shows that getting enough vitamin D – from the sun and other sources – could be vital for a healthy heart.

The sun is a major source of vitamin D, and too little of it can cause bone and muscle weakness.

New research suggests that low levels of vitamin D can double the risk of cardiovascular disease – like stroke and heart failure.

“Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher blood pressure,” said Dr. Seth Uretsky of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.

Researchers say a lack of vitamin D can also lead to thickening of the blood vessels.

Many people aren’t meeting their daily vitamin D requirements because they are spending less time in the sun. When going outside, sunscreen is vital, but that blocks the body from making vitamin D.

About half of adults and 30 percent of children and teens aren't getting enough of it, but experts say that’s easy to fix.

“Oily fish is known to have large doses of vitamin D. You can also drink milk,” Uretsky said.

There are also vitamin supplements, but the simplest prescription is some fresh air.

Doctors caution that the key is brief sun exposure. Too much exposure may increase the risk of skin cancer.

“Short periods of time, in the sunlight, can pretty much give us all the vitamin D that we need,” Uretsky said.

Doctors say more research is needed to determine if giving patients vitamin D can actually improve heart health.