You may already know that vitamin D offers a range of health benefits related to calcium metabolism, immune health, and proper nerve function (not to mention the expression of over 1,000 different genes), but one recent study has revealed a new and exciting benefit: heart health.
While this study was focused specifically on overweight African Americans (aged 13-45), the new research offers hope to anyone suffering with arterial stiffness, a condition closely associated with cardiovascular disease.
Recent Report Finds Vitamin D May Promote Heart Health
In the study, scientists carefully assessed participants on day 1 of the trial, and again 16 weeks later. All participants reported varying degrees of arterial stiffness. Participants were instructed to take varying doses of vitamin D over different timeframes, and at the end of the study, researchers found that the hardening of the arteries improved in a dose-dependent manner.
This specific population of people is well known to have an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. This is due in part to the fact that darker skin pigmentation absorbs less sunlight (and ultimately less vitamin D). Researchers have also found that vitamin D is less absorbable by those carrying excess fat.
How Vitamin D Works For a Healthy Heart
In this study, hardening of the arteries was assessed with a non-invasive gold standard pulse wave technology. Reports revealed measures on the carotid artery in the neck to the femoral artery, a major blood vessel, which supplies the lower body with blood.
When your heart beats, it not only pumps blood and nutrients, but it also generates what is known as a waveform. In a healthy heart and cardiovascular system, these wavelengths tend to be smaller and with less frequency.
"When your arteries are more stiff, you have higher pulse wave velocity, which increases your risk of cardio metabolic disease in the future," says the author of the study.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. African American populations are recorded to have higher rates of vitamin D-related heart disease and death than white people, putting them at a considerably higher risk of developing heart problems.
What Can I Do if I Have a Vitamin D Deficiency?
If you are worried that you may have a vitamin D deficiency, your first step is to visit your doctor's office for a simple blood test. This can help you to determine a long-term plan for regaining your nutrient balance. And while many people are vitamin deficient, for African Americans a vitamin D deficiency can lead to arterial stiffening, a common precursor of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and even premature death.
How Much Vitamin D Should I Take?
“Participants taking 4,000 international units -- more than six times the daily 600 IUs the Institute of Medicine currently recommends for most adults and children -- received the most benefit,” says Dr. Anas Raed, research resident in the MCG Department of Medicine and the study's first author.
4,000 IUs per day was also shown to reduce arterial stiffness in just four months -- the fastest of all dosage protocols measured in the study.
Dong also noted that participants given doses of both 2,000 and 4,000 IUs of vitamin D supplementation were able to successfully restore their balanced vitamin D blood levels of 30 nanograms per milliliter.
Here are a few vitamin D-rich foods to include in your diet:
- Fatty fish
- Leafy green vegetables like collards and kale.
Another simple way to increase vitamin D levels is spend at least 15 minutes in the sun between 10 am and 2 pm -- the ideal time to absorb vitamin D since the direct effects of UVB are more mild during this time period.
It is possible to restore vitamin D levels from diet and spending more time in the sun, but the easiest and most effective way to maintain healthy levels is to take a high quality vitamin D3 supplement.
A Final Note on Vitamin D
Over 80 percent of Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. While common, having inadequate amounts of this essential nutrient can cause a variety of health problems. Vitamin D is responsible for many different bodily processes including proper nerve and muscle function, immune function and calcium metabolism.
If you are lacking in this vital nutrient, speak to your doctor about obtaining a simple test, and then you can work together with your healthcare provider to establish a long-term plan to get your Vitamin D levels back on track. And why not? It’s worth it to be in your best health!