How vitamin D deficiency can pose a risk to heart health
If you thought that a sedentary lifestyle poses a risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), which it does, several studies have now found that deficiency of vitamin D can also be a trigger.
Although numerous studies are still required to come to any conclusive takeaway, the pointers are there in many studies which have found a correlation between lower levels of vitamin D and a higher rate of cardiac events and strokes. For example, early last year, Prof Elina Hyppönen, director of the Australian Center for Precision Health at the University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute, and her team found evidence that vitamin D deficiency can increase blood pressure and the risk of CVD. “However,” she added, “increasing vitamin D concentrations will only be helpful for those participants who ‘need it,’ and further benefits from elevating concentrations beyond the nutritional requirement are going to be modest, if they exist.”
VITAMIN D CONTROLS INFLAMMATION
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble prohormone that interacts with vitamin D receptors (VDR) to regulate a variety of physiological processes. It has a significant impact on the metabolism of calcium and bones and in addition, it performs a variety of other crucial functions in the body, such as those regulating inflammation and immune function. Sufficient vitamin D consumption may promote healthy immune function and lower the risk of autoimmune disorders. On the other hand, its insufficiency is a prevalent condition that has been linked to numerous health problems, including skeletal and non-skeletal disorders.
Lack of vitamin D has been associated with both musculoskeletal (such as rickets, bone fractures, osteomalacia, osteopenia, and muscle weakness) and non-skeletal problems. Cardiovascular conditions and risk factors such as hypertension, impaired systolic and diastolic function, abdominal aortic aneurysm in older men, nonvalvular AF, and congestive heart failure are some examples of non-skeletal consequences.
Additionally, it was linked to burn injuries, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, cancers, schizophrenia, depression, cognitive deficits, common obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and metabolic syndrome. Other adults are at a much higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to reduced vitamin D intake and decreased cutaneous synthesis.
HOW VITAMIN D PROTECTS THE HEART
Vitamin D is known to provide several health benefits in the human body along with having anti-inflammatory properties which can directly help in maintaining blood pressure and ultimately reducing the risk of CVD cases caused by its deficiency. Adequate levels of vitamin D keep your heart and blood vessels in good working condition. It strengthens the lining of blood vessel walls to allow blood to flow freely. A study by Ohio University used tiny sensors, about 1,000 times smaller than a human hair, to look at blood vessel cells while injecting them with a form of vitamin D, called vitamin D3. The study showed that vitamin D3 can repair damage to the heart and blood vessels caused by high blood pressure.
HOW SHOULD WE MAKE UP FOR THE DEFICIENCY?
Thankfully, only moderate levels of vitamin D are enough to maintain cardiac health. The sun is the main source of our Vitamin D consumption but sometimes people living in urban areas, especially after the pandemic, have not been able to soak up enough Vitamin D from the outdoors. So, supplementation is required to make up for the deficit.
As Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, some of the good sources of getting Vitamin D are oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, along with red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals. Also, supplementation can be done through natural means and should never be above optimal levels.
Both animal and human studies have looked into the connection between low vitamin D levels and cardiovascular illnesses and risk factors. However, there are conflicting findings in the research and trials on the impact of vitamin D supplementation through pills on cardiovascular risk factors and hypertension. Consequently, large, powerful randomized controlled trials are necessary which, if successful, can improve our health and give us a simple and affordable method of vitamin D supplementation. A 2018 study called VITAL found that you do not need more vitamin D than what is required for bone health in order to have optimal heart health. And moderate to high vitamin D supplementation did not appear to reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes.