Does vitamin D reduce the risk of heart disease?

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Spencer D. Kroll, MD
Internal Medicine
Many studies support the idea that low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and that adding vitamin D supplements can help reduce this risk. Several large clinical trials are now looking for more conclusive evidence of this potential association.

There are studies that indicate vitamin D sufficiency reduces the risk for mortality, especially cardiovascular mortality, by as much as 8 -- 15%.  

Dietary sources of vitamin D are hard to find. Dairy contains supplemented Vitamin D but even this is in small amounts. Fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel are a good source of vitamin D and also have additional cardiovascular health benefits because of their omega-3 fatty acid content.
Your heart disease risk could probably be lower with a little more of this nutrient on board: vitamin D.

Older adults who had the highest blood levels of vitamin D enjoyed a 33% lower risk of developing heart disease in a recent study. And supplements are a fine source. You can also look to sunshine and fortified dairy products to get your fill of D.

Vitamin D has long been touted for its benefits to bone health. But more and more research is showing a bigger role in health. In a study, adults who had the highest levels of D had the lowest level of "cardiometabolic disorders" -- the family of conditions that includes heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Exactly how high levels of vitamin D protect against cardiometabolic problems isn't entirely understood. Vitamin D may protect the heart and blood vessels by acting on genes or vitamin D receptors or by regulating calcium levels in the body. Vitamin D also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Whatever the mechanism of action, you likely need more D in your life. Many adults are deficient.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
A handful of observational studies suggest that people with low levels of vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin, face a higher risk of heart disease. People with dark skin (especially African Americans) and those who live in colder climates are particularly susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. So far, two large trials of vitamin D supplementation showed no benefit in reducing the likelihood of heart disease or stroke.
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
A handful of observational studies suggest that people with low vitamin D levels face a higher risk of heart disease. And one study linked low blood levels of vitamin D with a 76% increased risk of high blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease.

However, two large randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation -- including one that was part of the large Women's Health Initiative study -- showed no benefit in reducing the likelihood of heart disease or stroke. Currently, there isn't sufficient evidence to conclude that vitamin D supplements can lower the risk of high blood pressure or heart disease.
The jury is still out on whether vitamin D can reduce heart disease risk. However, some of the research done to date is promising.

For example, there is evidence that vitamin D can help control blood pressure and prevent artery damage. Moreover, a ten-year study found that men with low blood levels of vitamin D were twice as likely as those with adequate levels of D to have a heart attack. Other studies have found that people with low levels of vitamin D are at increased risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease. However, more research is needed before experts would recommend vitamin D to prevent heart disease.
Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
Research has shown that taking vitamin D can reduce certain people's risk for heart disease. In this video, Dr. Robin Miller explains how vitamin D works and for which gender it works best.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.