ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
38% of U.S. Adults Use Alternative Treatments
Acupuncture May Trigger Natural Painkiller
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Drinking Cuts Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
CANCER
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
HPV Vaccine Has Higher Allergic Reaction Rate
Green Tea Compound Slowed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
CAREGIVING
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Laser Technology Spots Cavities Before They Start
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
DIET, NUTRITION
Weight Loss Might Not Curb Knee Arthritis
Just Say No to Nuts During Pregnancy
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Home Renovations by Affluent Families Can Unleash Lead Threat
Small Doses of Carbon Monoxide Might Help Stroke Victims
Vitamin D Deficit May Trigger MS Risk Gene
EYE CARE, VISION
Kids Who Spend More Time Outdoors Have Better Vision
Protein Might One Day Prevent Blindness
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
FITNESS
Exercise 30 Minutes a Day? Who Knew!
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Good Sleepers More Likely to Eat Right
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
Help Your Kids Stay Active
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Keeping Mentally Active Seems To Keep The Brain Active
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Caffeine in Pregnancy Associated With Low Birth Weight Risk
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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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