ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Osteoporosis May Raise Risk for Vertigo
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
In Elderly Women, Hip Fractures Often Follow Arm Breaks
CANCER
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Vitamin E, Selenium and Soy Won't Prevent Prostate Cancer
Antioxidants Pose No Melanoma Threat
CAREGIVING
3 Steps Might Help Stop MRSA's Spread
Undoing the 'Big Baby' Trend
Newborn Screenings Now Required Across U.S.
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
DIABETES
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
DIET, NUTRITION
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Eating Healthy : You Can Live Longer
Eating Nuts May Help Cholesterol Levels
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Controversial Chemical Lingers Longer in the Body
Most Mt. Everest Deaths Occur Near Summit During Descent
Is It Safe to Go in the Gulf Coast's Water?
EYE CARE, VISION
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
Too Much Sun, Too Few Antioxidants Spell Eye Trouble
Unconscious Learning: In the Eye of the Beholder?
FITNESS
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Moderate Aerobic Exercise Lowers Diabetics' Liver Fat
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Toxins May Form When Skin, Indoor Ozone Meet
Adults Need To Get Thier Food Facts Straight
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
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
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
Soy May Not Lead to Denser Breasts
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Add your Article

Vitamin D Vital for the Heart

By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A lack of vitamin D, which is absorbed primarily through exposure to sunlight, helps boost the risk of heart attacks and strokes, new research finds.

"There are a whole array of studies linking increased cardiovascular risk with vitamin D deficiency," noted Dr. James H. O'Keefe, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. "It is associated with major risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stiffening of the left ventricle of the heart and blood vessels. Inflammation is really important for heart disease, and people with vitamin D deficiency have increased inflammation."

O'Keefe is the lead author of a review of such studies to be published in the Dec. 9 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Experts estimate that up to half of adults and 30 percent of children and teenagers in the United States are vitamin D-deficient, according to the report.

Recent data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study indicated that someone with vitamin D levels below 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood is twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problem within two years as someone with the recommended 20 nanograms per milliliter, the report said.

Vitamin D is well known as the "sunshine vitamin" because human skin makes the nutrient upon exposure to sunlight. Only 10 minutes of exposure to sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day will be enough for whites to reach the recommended level, experts say. People with darker skins will need somewhat longer exposure. Sunscreen can also block vitamin D production, the experts add.

People must balance the risks and benefits of sun exposure, however. "A little bit of sunshine is a good thing, but the use of sunscreen to guard against skin cancer is important if you have more than 15 to 30 minutes of intense sunlight exposure," O'Keefe noted.

Some foods are also rich in vitamin D, he noted. "Salmon and other deepwater fish are good," O'Keefe said. "Also milk, which is supplemented with vitamin D. But you would have to drink 10 to 20 glasses of milk a day to get the recommended intake."

Recommended vitamin D intake is 200 international units a day up to age 50, 400 units for ages 50 to 70, and 600 units a day over the age of 70.

One way to reach that level is to pop a supplement, O'Keefe said. "There is strong evidence that supplementing vitamin D improves health."

"This is an important report," said Robert U. Simpson, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Michigan, whose group was the first to identify vitamin D receptors in heart cells. "It will help those interested in cardiovascular disease understand more about the vitamin D system."

Vitamin D is not just another vitamin, Simpson said. "It is a precursor to a hormone, and this prehormone is responsible for making a very important regulator of cardiovascular processes," he said.

Supplementation is an acceptable way of getting enough vitamin D, Simpson added. "Food is not really an option," Simpson said. "You don't get enough vitamin D in the foods we ordinarily eat. Supplementation is my preferred choice, although I get sunlight whenever the sun shines here in Ann Arbor."

More information

There's more on recommended levels of vitamins and other nutrients at the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements.



SOURCES: James H. O'Keefe, M.D., director, preventive cardiology, Mid America Heart Institute, Kansas City, Mo.; Robert U. Simpson, Pharm.D, professor, pharmacology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Dec. 9, 2008, Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Last Updated: Dec. 01, 2008

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