ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Pharoah's Wine Jar Yields Medicinal Secrets
Taking the Mystery Out of Hypnotherapy
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
Alcohol Abuse Can Damage Bones
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
CANCER
Meditation May Reduce Stress in Breast Cancer Patients
More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
CAREGIVING
High Rate of Rehospitalizations Costing Billions
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
DIET, NUTRITION
Leafy Greens Top Risky Food List
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
Eating in America Still Unhealthy
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Pollution Particles Impair Blood Vessel Function
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Short-Term Air Pollution Exposure May Damage DNA
EYE CARE, VISION
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
When Gauging Age, the Eyes Have It
Protein Might One Day Prevent Blindness
FITNESS
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
Brisk Walk Can Help Leave Common Cold Behind
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Sun, Smoke, Extra Weight Add Years to Skin
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too-Low Blood Pressure Can Also Bring Danger
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
MEN'S HEALTH
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
Vitamin C Protects Some Elderly Men From Bone Loss
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
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Lower Vitamin D Levels in Blacks May Up Heart Risks

New research indicates that the darker skin of blacks may increase their risk of heart disease and stroke because it reduces production of vitamin D, which is made during exposure to sunlight.

Several studies have associated low levels of vitamin D with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and "the biggest source of vitamin D levels is sunlight," said Dr. Kevin Fiscella, a professor of family medicine and community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester, and co-author of a paper in the January/February issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. "People with dark skin who live at higher latitudes, where the intensity of sunlight is less, may be at greater risk."

But the issue abounds with unanswered questions, starting with whether there is a real cause-and-effect relationship of vitamin D levels and cardiovascular risk, and ending with whether supplements that increase blood levels of the vitamin lower that risk, Fiscella said.

"We don't truly know the answer," Fiscella said. "That is the really pivotal question, what happens to cardiovascular risk if you correct blood levels of vitamin D. We do know that small supplements for middle-aged people don't seem to have any effect."

In the study, Fiscella and Dr. Peter Franks of the University of California, Davis, looked at data on more than 15,000 U.S. adults in a national nutritional study. They found that overall, the 25 percent of adults with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a 40 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death. When they singled out blacks, the report found a 38 percent higher incidence of such deaths than among whites. Most of that difference was related to lower levels of vitamin D.

"The first issue is clarifying whether vitamin D is truly an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease," Fiscella said. There are reasons to believe that it is, since too-low levels of the vitamin are associated with development of high blood pressure, kidney disease and diabetes, he said, but the case is not proven.

A second issue concerns the proper level of intake of the vitamin. "A consensus is evolving that the current levels recommended are too low, and those with darker skin need higher levels," Fiscella said.

The current recommendation is a daily intake of 400 International Units (IUs) for most adults, and 600 IU for those over 70. Fiscella declined to make a recommendation.

There was no such hesitation on the part of Dr. James O'Keefe Jr., director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, who has done his own studies of vitamin D and the heart.

"I recommend for most people 2,000 IU a day," O'Keefe said. "African-Americans probably need closer to 4,000 or 5,000."

Too few Americans have their vitamin D levels checked regularly, "so I tell people to get their vitamin D levels checked," O'Keefe said. "Three out of four Americans will need a vitamin D supplement."

While it hasn't been proven that raising vitamin D levels reduces cardiovascular risk, studies now underway will answer that question, O'Keefe said. Meanwhile, he said, "vitamin D supplements are very cheap" and it is difficult to overdose on the vitamin, although bone problems can develop with a daily intake of 10,000 or more IU, he said.

Fiscella is much more cautious. "I don't think we have great data on what happens at very high levels," he said. "If you recommend very high doses, some people will develop very high blood levels, and we don't have good enough data to say on the population level what the impact of very high levels would be."
SOURCES: Kevin Fiscella, M.D., professor, family medicine and community and preventive medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.; James O'Keefe Jr., M.D., director, preventive cardiology, Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, Mo.; January/February 2010, Annals of Family Medicine Published on: January 06, 2010