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Research on Potential Benefits of Vitamin D for Heart Health

Evidence-based Reviewed Article

Protecting your heart is crucial for preventing chronic illness and enjoying a long life. And practicing a healthy lifestyle with quality nutrition is important for achieving this goal. While there are many different nutrients that may support your heart health, studies show vitamin D is a critical one. This article will explore the uses of vitamin D for heart health.

What Is Vitamin D?

An image of various Vitamin D sourcesVitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it can dissolve in fat and is stored within your body. Not only can you find it in food sources such as eggs, milk, mushrooms, and fish, but your body also produces it through exposure to sunlight.

There are three different types of vitamin D, namely D1, D2, and D3.

There are many different roles of vitamin D beyond just vitamin D for heart health. It also supports:

  • Bone health
  • Regulating the immune system
  • Enhancing mental health

Vitamin D for Heart Health

Vitamin D plays several different roles in supporting a healthy heart.

Blood Pressure

In simple terms, blood pressure is the pressure that your blood exerts against your arteries, tubes that transport your blood away from your heart to your organs. Your blood pressure needs to be within an optimal range. If it's too low, it can cause weakness, dizziness, and fainting, and if it's too high, it can cause headaches, memory problems, and more serious effects such as heart attacks and stroke.

One enzyme for regulating your blood pressure is renin. Your kidneys produce renin when your blood pressure is too low, causing your blood pressure to increase to an optimal range. However, if your vitamin D levels are too low, it activates the production of renin, regardless of your blood pressure levels. This can cause your blood pressure to become high and increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks (1). Many studies illustrate the effects of vitamin D on blood pressure. However, the blood pressure-lowering effects of vitamin D are conflicting in research, so more research is necessary before definitive conclusions can be made.

Endothelial Health

"Endothelial" function simply refers to the lining of your blood vessels, arteries, and veins. There are many factors affecting the health of this lining.

One of these factors is a substance by the name of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a potent dilator and helps dilate your arteries, allowing blood to flow sufficiently. Research suggests that there is a relationship between vitamin D and NO. Vitamin D is necessary for the production of NO. If there is a deficiency of vitamin D, it can cause a suboptimal release of NO. This can cause the arteries to become narrow, restricting the flow of blood, and can result in chest pain, strokes, and heart attacks.

Another way in which vitamin D helps the lining of your blood vessels is by helping to prevent the occurrence of atherosclerosis. This is when fat deposits in the lining of these vessels make the vessels narrow and restrict blood flow. If the blood vessels become blocked by these fat deposits, it can result in a heart attack or stroke.

In addition, the fat deposits in the lining of the blood vessels can stimulate the immune system, which results in inflammation. NO can help to reduce inflammation and help prevent the formation of these lesions. Vitamin D can also help directly by reducing proteins that promote inflammation and increasing the production of proteins that reduce inflammation. This may help to reduce the development of atherosclerosis (2).

Vitamin D for Heart Health: Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency

An image of a man holding his chestOne of the reasons behind the benefits of vitamin D for heart health is the risks of vitamin D deficiency. There is a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, due to increased plaque, with a vitamin D deficiency. This makes it important to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D.

Whilst vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of heart disease, however, there is conflicting information on whether or not vitamin D supplementation can help prevent heart disease.

Originally, observational studies found that individuals with a higher level of vitamin D had lower rates of heart disease. This prompted research on the use of vitamin D for heart health.

However, ongoing research by Brigham and Women's Hospital has found that individuals taking a moderate to high dose of vitamin D supplement have not reduced their risk of having a heart attack or stroke (3). There is conflicting research, however, with another recent study indicating that it may reduce the rate of major cardiovascular events (4).

Vitamin D Recommendations

The minimal daily recommendations for vitamin D for adults are:

  • 600IU of vitamin D or 15mcg for people from the age of 1 to 70 years
  • 800IU  of vitamin D or 20mcg for adults over the age of 70 (5)

If these recommendations are not met, a deficiency can occur. A deficiency can be determined by looking at your blood levels of vitamin D. Whilst vitamin D can be found in a variety of food sources as well as through exposure to sunlight, a deficiency can still occur. Most food sources contain relatively low levels of vitamin D, while sunlight exposure is often not adequate in the winter months at higher latitudes. However, just hitting your minimal amount of vitamin D doesn't mean you have optimal blood levels. It's advisable to aim for optimizing vitamin D levels to around 60 ng/mL for best health benefits, but always double-check with a doctor to ensure this level is appropriate for your individual health needs and circumstances.

Individuals who are at increased risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency include:

  • People with darker skin
  • Low vitamin D intake
  • Obese individuals
  • Elderly

Vitamin D Supplements

If you are concerned that you are not meeting your requirements for vitamin D, or if you are in one of the groups considered at risk, supplementation can come in handy. The one benefit of vitamin D supplementation is that it ensures that you receive an optimal dose of vitamin D daily.

There are a range of different vitamin D supplements available. Many vitamin D supplements contain additional nutrients, such as other fat-soluble vitamins.

One vitamin D supplement that we recommend is Dr. Lam's D3K2. This contains 5000 IU of vitamin D3 and 100 mcg of vitamin K2 for improved absorption. Taking vitamin K with vitamin D3 is beneficial because vitamin K helps to regulate the amount of calcium in the blood and is essential for proper blood clotting, while vitamin D3 enhances calcium absorption in the gut. This combination ensures that calcium is efficiently absorbed and correctly utilized in the body, supporting bone health. This supplement also contains calcium and bioperine, also known as black pepper fruit extract, that may help to improve the absorption of these nutrients. Because vitamin D is fat soluble, this supplement needs to be taken 20-30 minutes before a meal, and it can be taken once to twice a day depending on recommendations from your healthcare professional.

Vitamin D Deficiency

To support vitamin D for heart health, bone health, mood, and other key functions, it's important to ensure that vitamin D stays within the optional range. Some signs of vitamin D deficiency to watch for are:

  • An image of a man lying on a sofaFatigue
  • Bone Pain
  • Muscle weaknesses
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Depression

Stress and Heart Health

Avoiding vitamin D deficiency for heart health is important, but there are several other factors that can affect heart health including stress. Your body handles short-term stress through the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response System. This system is comprised of six different circuits of related organ systems. When stress becomes long-term, it can strain these circuits and lead to imbalances. This results in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).  This syndrome is the non-Addison's form of adrenal dysfunction, where the body's stress response cannot keep up with life's chronic stressors.

One of the circuits with the NEM system that can become imbalanced is the cardionomic circuit. The adrenal glands, cardiovascular, and the autonomic nervous system make up this circuit. This circuit is responsible for managing stressful situations.

If there is an imbalance within this circuit, it can cause multiple symptoms, such as dizziness, breathlessness, changes in heart rate, and changes in blood pressure. Reducing stress and managing AFS is key to rebalancing this circuit.

Vitamin D for heart health can help in this case to improve endothelial health, reduce plaque in the arteries, and may assist in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Vitamin D for Heart Health: Conclusion

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that your body requires for optimal functioning. Vitamin D is available through dietary sources as well as through sunlight exposure, but deficiency is common, so you should consider supplementation. Research on vitamin D for heart health shows that it plays a role in your blood pressure and the lining of the blood vessels, but more research is needed.

© Copyright 2024 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

De la Guia-Galipienso, F., et al. "Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Health." Clin Nutr, vol. 40, no. 5, 2021 May, pp. 2946-57.

Surdu, A.M., et al. "Vitamin D and its Role in the Lipid Metabolism and the Development of Atherosclerosis." Biomed. vol. 9, no. 2, 2021, pp. 172

Thompson, B., et al. "Vitamin D Supplementation and Major Cardiovascular Events: D-Health Randomized Controlled Trial." BMJ, 2023 Jun.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Vitamin D for Heart Health: Where the Benefits Begin and End." 2022 Sept.

National Institutes of Health. "Vitamin D"Last Updated September 2023"

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Vitamin D for heart health does not offer permanent benefits. If your levels of vitamin D are low, then heart health can improve with supplementation. However, if you stop taking vitamin D or are no longer getting enough from other sources, your levels will decline again and your heart will be at higher risk for blood pressure problems and arterial plaque.

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