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Vitamin D Vital for the Heart
Date:12/1/2008

Lack of the sunlight-derived nutrient tied to increased cardiovascular events

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 can
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