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Very Low Levels of Vitamin D and Heart Problems

  New research found that negative health effects - 35% increased risk of cardiovascular problems (coronary heart disease, heart attacks, strokes) are when the vitamin D levels are really low (under 15 nanograms per milliliter). Currently many doctors recommend optimal levels for health as somewhere between 35 to 40 ng/ml. One article in Medscape recommended 1,000 IU of vitamin D (preferably D3) daily to achieve this level. Or you can go outside in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes. From Science Daily:

Specific vitamin D levels linked to heart problems

A lack of vitamin D can result in weak bones. Recent studies also show that vitamin D deficiency is linked to more serious health risks such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes. And now, a new study shows what level of deficiency puts someone at risk of developing these heart problems.Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City have found that patients are fine from a heart standpoint, and may need no further treatment, if their vitamin D level is anywhere above 15 nanograms per milliliter.

"Although vitamin D levels above 30 were traditionally considered to be normal, more recently, some researchers have proposed that anything above 15 was a safe level. But the numbers hadn't been backed up with research until now," said J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, co-director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, and lead researcher of the study.

The body naturally produces vitamin D as a result of exposure to the sun, and it's also found in a few foods -- including fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks as well as some dairy and grain products. Those who don't have enough exposure to sunlight or vitamin D producing foods often have low vitamin D levels. Low levels are also attributed to race because people with dark skin have a natural protectant against ultraviolet light.

Dr. Muhlestein and his team have studied the effects of vitamin D on the heart for several years, looking at smaller numbers of patients. In this study, thanks to Intermountain Healthcare's vast clinical database, they were able to evaluate the impact of vitamin D levels on more than 230,000 patients. The 230,000 patients were split up into four groups (<15 ng/ml, 15-29, 30-44, ≥45) and were followed for the next three years by researchers who looked for major adverse cardiac events, including death, coronary artery disease, heart attacks, stroke, and incidents of heart or kidney failure.

Dr. Muhlestein found that for the nine percent of patients in the lower than 15 group, their risk of cardiovascular events increased by 35 percent compared to the other three groups, and the risks faced by the other three groups weren't very different from each other.

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