ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Gene Plays Key Role in Clubfoot
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
CANCER
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
Ginger Can Ease Nausea From Chemotherapy Treatments
CAREGIVING
Recession Scrambling Health Spending in U.S.
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
Older Caregivers Prone to Worse Sleep Patterns
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
DIABETES
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
DIET, NUTRITION
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Global Warming May Bring More Respiratory Woes
Rainy Areas in U.S. Show Higher Autism Rates
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids' Eye Injuries From Golf Clubs Rare But Severe
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
FITNESS
Barefoot Best for Running?
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients
Vitamin E Helps Treat Common Liver Disease
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
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
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
Music Soothes Anxiety as Well as Massage Does
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Exercise Benefits Even the Oldest Old
For a Healthier Retirement, Work a Little
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Add your Article

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