Everyone knows exercise is good for your heart. And most folks are aware that vitamin D is important for overall good health, including your heart health.
But researchers just uncovered a surprising synergistic relationship between exercise and vitamin D. And you may be able to use their discovery to slash your own heart risk and reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
Make a move to lower your heart risk
Our bodies crave exercise. We simply weren’t built to be sedentary. Which is why we get into trouble when we sit behind a desk all day or spend hours planted on the couch.
One of the biggest losers when you don’t move enough is your heart. Folks who exercise are far less likely to develop heart disease or die from it. In addition exercise can improve your blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels.
According to researchers when we sit without moving for more than five hours a day our LDL (“bad”) cholesterol rises, and our HDL (“good”) cholesterol drops. Also for each extra hour we sit, our risk for heart disease rises by 0.2 percent, according to research published in the International Journal of Obesity.1
There’s no question that exercise is essential for your heart health. But it turns out vitamin D also has a more critical role in heart health than most folks realize.
Your heart does better with D
Vitamin D is actually a hormone which you have receptors for throughout your entire body. This includes receptors in your heart muscles and the walls of your blood vessels.2,3,4 You can think of them like locks, and vitamin D is the key.
Experts say drooping D levels raise your heart risk making you more likely to suffer from hypertension, heart failure, heart disease and even sudden death.5,6,7
And according to the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, vitamin D deficiency can raise your risk for a heart attack a chilling 200 percent.8 Plus vitamin D deficiency could send your risk for dying from a stroke shooting up 50 percent.9
Simply put, maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is absolutely necessary to lower your heart risk and keep your heart in tip top shape.10
Heart hero duo teams up for better heart health
But according to Johns Hopkins researchers combining exercise and healthy D levels could send your heart health soaring.
Scientists dug deep into the data from over 10,000 health records and survey responses spanning a 20-year period. And the dream team rose to the top of the heap. The researchers say when you combine exercise with high levels of vitamin D they have a synergistic effect. And their combined benefits add up to more than the sum of their separate effects alone.
In other words, the two work together to supercharge your heart health.
The more a person exercised the higher their vitamin D levels were, according to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.11 And the folks who were unseating their seats the most had the lowest risk for heart problems over the course of the study.
In fact, according to the researchers those study participants who got their recommended exercise, and kept their D levels above 20 nanograms per milliliter, had a 23 percent lower risk of any heart issues than their peers who did neither.
Your doctor can check your D levels with a simple blood test. Or you can look for a kit online. And fitting in more exercise can be much easier than you might imagine. You can adopt an active hobby you love like dancing, swimming, biking or walking. Plus check out our 8 effortless ways to squeeze in some exercise and our Five tricks to turn any walk into a workout.
1. “Time spent in sedentary posture is associated with waist circumference and cardiovascular risk,” International Journal of Obesity, 31 January 2017)
2. “1,25(OH)2-vitamin D3 actions on cell proliferation, size, gene expression, and receptor localization, in the HL-1 cardiac myocyte,” J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007;103:533–7
3. “Effects of Vitamin D analogs on gene expression profiling in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells,” Atherosclerosis. 2006;186:20–8
4. “Identification and regulation of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 receptor activity and biosynthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Studies in cultured bovine aortic endothelial cells and human dermal capillaries,” J Clin Invest. 1989;83:1903–15
5. “Prevalence of hypovitaminosis D in cardiovascular diseases (from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001 to 2004),” Am J Cardiol. 2008 Dec 1;102(11):1540-4
6. “25-Hydroxyvitamin D deficiency is independently associated with cardiovascular disease in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” Atherosclerosis. 2009 Jul;205(1):255-60
7. Prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and the serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the United States: data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” Arch Intern Med. 2007 Jun 11;167(11):1159-65
8. “25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of myocardial infarction in men: a prospective study,” Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jun 9;168(11):1174-80
9. “Low vitamin d levels predict stroke in patients referred to coronary angiography,” Stroke. 2008 Sep;39(9):2611-3
10. “Vitamin D Deficiency and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease,” Am J Med Sci. 2009 Jul; 338(1): 40–44
11. “Physical Activity, Vitamin D, and Incident Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in Whites and Blacks: The ARIC Study,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab (2017) 102 (4): 1227-1236
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