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Do you get enough vitamin D?
Many of us don’t and don’t even know it.
I’ve researched the many benefits of getting adequate vitamin D and offer some ways to ensure you do.
My very first patient, when I was studying Ayurvedic medicine in India in 1986, was a middle-aged woman with crippling pain all over her body, compounded by obesity, lethargy, and cardiovascular issues.
Both Ayurvedic and medical doctors were stumped by the vast and seemingly unrelated symptoms—until a blood test revealed severe vitamin D deficiency. Within a month of proper supplementation, she was well on her way to recovery.
Today, vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50 percent of people worldwide, an estimated one billion people across all ethnicities and age groups.
People with naturally dark skin tone (my patient was Indian with a darker complexion) have natural sun protection and require at least three to five times more sun exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as a person with light skin tone.
In addition, studies show that excess weight is indirectly linked to low vitamin D levels. The more weight you carry, the lower your vitamin D levels are likely to be.
During winter months, when the sun is too low in the sky to deliver UVB rays that make pre-vitamin D in our skin, traditional humans ate organ meats to hold them over. Today, most folks are unwilling to eat organ meats, so supplements have to become the rule rather than the exception—particularly in winter.
What Vitamin D Does
Vitamin D awareness has been center stage in the healthcare industry for about a decade now. With a staggering number of deficiencies, endless questions regarding supplementation, and confusion about what exactly vitamin D does, it seems time to review this mighty vitamin.
Studies on the role and benefits of optimal vitamin D levels are vast. Recent research suggests vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin, affecting 36 target organs, with vitamin D receptors in nearly every cell.
Vitamin D is critical to maintaining mineral balance and structural, skeletal, and muscular health. It was first discovered because deficiency caused structural deformities. A deficiency is diagnosed with a blood test showing vitamin D below 30 ng/mL.
I have written numerous articles on the vast range of benefits of vitamin D, but in this one, I want to highlight some of its unsung heart benefits.
Vitamin D and Heart Health
With regard to heart health, concerns associated with low vitamin D levels are staggering. One study reports:
“Vitamin D deficiency is associated with chronic inflammatory diseases, including diabetes and obesity, both strong risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). CVDs, including coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, hypertrophy, cardiomyopathy, cardiac fibrosis, heart failure, aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease, hypertension, and atherosclerosis, are major causes of morbidity and mortality.”
Vitamin D has been found to support healthy endothelial lining inside arteries. Studies show that supplementation results in a boost of protective nitric oxide, while decreasing the destructive free radical, peroxynitrite inside arteries. Based on this study, researchers conclude that vitamin D may prove beneficial in treatment of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, myocardial infarction, vasculopathy, stroke, and diabetes.
Low vitamin D levels have also been associated with arterial stiffness, the loss of youthful suppleness that allows arteries to properly regulate blood flow and pressure.
Importance of Vitamin D
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, cardiac failure and fibrosis, cardiomyopathy, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and peripheral arterial disease.
- Increased inflammation in diabetes and/or obesity lowers circulating vitamin D levels, thereby increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases.
- Vitamin D sufficiency reduces inflammation and pro-inflammatory cytokines and thus may play a therapeutic role in treatment of cardiovascular diseases.
- Cardiomyopathy in patients with low calcium is reversible with vitamin D supplementation.
- Vitamin D supplementation reduces atherosclerosis and plaque formation.
Vitamin D Recommendations
- Get your vitamin D tested as part of your annual physical exam and blood test because everyone has individual needs for vitamin D3.
- Normal range is 30-100 ng/mL. Most experts suggest keeping your levels on the high end of normal: between 50-80 ng/mL.
- Typical adult winter dose: 5,000 IU/day.
- Typical adult summer dose: 1,000-3,000 IU per day (depending on sun exposure).
- I have found the most absorbable vitamin D supplement is from sheep lanolin. Oil on their wool is loaded with pre-vitamin D, which mimics the way humans derive most of their vitamin D from the sun. Fish-based vitamin D supplements can cause indigestion, do not digest easily, and require extremely high dosages to bring blood test numbers up to optimal range.
You may very well be in the half of people with low vitamin D. Heart health is just one more reason to keep levels up. Do you have a vitamin D story? Let me know in the comments!