I’m beginning to think that if I could peek into the closet of vitamin D, I’d spot a little red cape and a snazzy spandex outfit with “Super D” emblazoned across the chest.
Once the Clark Kent of vitamins… reliable, unassuming, and under-appreciated… vitamin D has donned its red cape in the last couple of years to become the superhero vitamin to beat.
Vitamin D helps keep arteries flexible
And now vitamin D is once again making headlines. It turns out that a lack of this critical vitamin may lead to stiff arteries, high blood pressure, and ultimately even a stroke or heart attack.
A research team from Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Cardiovascular Research Institute tracked the ability of volunteers’ blood vessels to relax by inflating blood-pressure cuffs on their arms and then monitoring the returning blood flow into the vessels by ultrasound.
After controlling for variables like weight, cholesterol, and age, the researchers found that the volunteers with lower vitamin D levels had stiffer arteries and impaired vascular function.
Their blood vessels didn’t relax and refill with blood nearly as quickly as did those with sufficient levels of the vitamin.
In fact, according to researcher Dr. Al Mheid those volunteers with a vitamin D deficiency… less than 20 nanograms per milliliter… had a degree of vascular dysfunction comparable to those with diabetes or hypertension.
So, in other words, otherwise healthy people had blood vessels that resembled those of people with a major disease!
Low D raises your risk of heart attack or stroke
Apparently just being low on this one vitamin can literally stiffen your arteries, putting you at an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
The real kicker is that it’s estimated that up to 77 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D, while about 6 percent of them would be classified as deficient.
And across the pond in the UK things aren’t any better at 50 percent insufficiency and a shocking 16 percent deficiency.
So what’s the bottom line? There’s a very good chance that you’re not getting enough of this important vitamin and should be looking for ways to increase your levels.
Tips for raising your D levels
The easiest way to get more also happens to be the simplest—just step outside every day and spend about 15 to 20 minutes with your face and arms exposed to the sun.
You can also eat more food rich in vitamin-D like wild-caught cold-water fish, including herring and salmon.
Or you can supplement with cod-liver oil, which will give you about 1,200 to 1,500 IU of vitamin D per tablespoon. Just don’t forget to also take a 400-IU mixed-tocopherol vitamin E supplement as well to combat free radicals.
“Vitamin D levels linked with health of blood vessels,” data presented at the annual American College of Cardiology meeting April 3,2011 in New Orleans by Ibhar Al Mheid, MD cardiovascular researcher at Emory University.
“Vitamin D Deficiency,” N Engl J Med, 2007, 357, 266-81.
“Vitamin D in preventive medicine: are we ignoring the evidence?,” Review article, British Journal of Nutrition, 2003, 89, 552–572
“High Prevalence of Vitamin D Inadequacy and Implications for Health,” Mayo Clin Proc. , 2006, 81(3), 353-373
“Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial,” Am J Clin Nutr 2007, 85, 1586 –91
“Prospective Study of Predictors of Vitamin D Status and Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Men,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 98, 2006, No. 7.
“25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men,” Arch Intern Med, VOL 168 (NO. 11), 2008
“Benefits of Vitamin D Supplementation,” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Volume 14 Number 2, Summer 2009
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