Can you fend off heart problems just by popping a vitamin? Sounds too good to be true. But it isn't.
In a recent study, people who were D deficient had stiffer arteries and the cells that lined their arteries showed greater signs of dysfunction. But everything got better quickly – and their blood pressure improved once they got their D levels back to normal.
When a person's levels of vitamin D are low, the cells lining their blood vessels tend to be less healthy. They have several jobs to do, including help arteries constrict and relax, help with blood clotting, and help control fluid levels in the blood.
When they aren't working correctly, one or more of these systems may slow down. But getting enough D may be insurance against that dysfunction. In another study, D-deficient young adults experienced great improvements in their previously impaired endothelial functioning after receiving monthly high-dose D supplements for 3 months.
Heart of Gold
You don't want to go overboard with D. But most people don't get enough. RealAge recommends 1,000 IU per day – or closer to 1,200 IU if you're over 60. It not only helps your body use calcium, but more and more research suggests D is a serious heart-helper. It's all thanks to D's ability to reduce oxidative stress – a physiological process thought to encourage aging and cell damage.
D also may help decrease levels of parathyroid hormones that damage blood vessels. And if you have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, stroke, or heart disease, getting enough D may be a safeguard against some of the damage that comes with those conditions.
Effect of vitamin D deficiency and replacement on endothelial function in asymptomatic subjects. Tarcin, O. et al., The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2009 Oct;94(10):4023-30.
Vitamin D and cardiovascular prevention. Nadir, M. A., et al., Cardiovascular Therapeutics 2010 Aug;28(4):e5-12.
Vitamin D status is associated with arterial stiffness and vascular dysfunction in healthy humans. Mheid, I. A. et al., Journal of the American College of Cardiology April 5, 2011; 57: E2049