When they say everybody needs milk, they’re partly talking about vitamin D. According to science, this fat-soluble vitamin helps the body absorb the calcium and phosphate it needs to build and preserve bone strength.
But does science support a direct link between vitamin D and cardiovascular health? Can we take vitamin D to avoid heart disease or restore a diseased heart to health? Some people think so. But according to Phillip Tran, DO, FACOI, a cardiologist with YRMC PhysicianCare, science doesn’t fully bear it out yet.
Vitamin D Sustains the Heart Muscle
“Studies do show an inverse relationship between vitamin D and some chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Tran said. “But taking more Vitamin D does not necessarily lower the risk of getting cardiovascular disease or help treat it. Preliminary evidence may suggest the fact, but more research is needed.”
That isn’t to say vitamin D doesn’t impact heart health at all. Our bodies need the full family of vitamins to function properly. Not getting enough of any one vitamin can impact our health. Along with bones, vitamin D also sustains muscle. Insufficient levels can cause both bone pain and muscle weakness. This includes the weakening of muscles found in the heart.
“Vitamin D deficiencies may cause scar tissue to form on the heart wall,” Dr. Tran said. “This can lead to heart chamber dilation, impairing normal heart function.”
When heart chambers are dilated, or enlarged, the heart muscle is weakened and can’t pump blood as well.
Getting Enough of the Sunshine Vitamin
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced naturally when skin is exposed to moderate sunlight. It also occurs naturally in foods – including some fish, fish liver oils and egg yolks – and in fortified dairy and grain products. Depending on the degree of sun exposure and diet, you may want to include an over-the-counter supplement. But what is the recommended daily allowance?
“To maintain healthy levels, most adults need approximately 400-800 IU per day,” Dr. Tran said.
However, 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day from a supplement is generally considered safe. More than 4,000 IU per day may lead to vitamin D toxicity.
If you think you may be deficient in vitamin D see your doctor before taking too much of the vitamin. Remember, vitamin D deficiencies are more common in those who are elderly, have darker skin, or live farther away from the equator.
Bottom line? Get your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D and your whole body with thank you—including your heart.