Since observational studies showed that people with higher vitamin D levels were less likely to develop heart disease, interest in vitamin D supplements skyrocketed. But can these supplements really help reduce cardiovascular risk?
If vitamin D can prevent cardiovascular disease, taking a high dose through supplements should help the heart. Or? Unfortunately, heart health isn’t that simple. The cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen provides more information on this in an article from the Cleveland Clinic (USA).
Vitamin D and heart health
Vitamin D has a well-deserved reputation as a powerful nutrient. It helps the body absorb calcium to promote bone health. Vitamin D also supports the immune system and nervous system and can reduce inflammation in the body.
When the body doesn’t get enough vitamin D…well, it seems that’s often when problems arise. Low vitamin D levels appear to be associated with a variety of health problems – including heart disease.
Although there appears to be a connection between vitamin D and the heart, research suggests that eliminating heart problems is not achieved simply by taking a vitamin D supplement.
A study published in 2017 shows that taking high doses of vitamin D supplements monthly does not help prevent cardiovascular disease. This was true even if the participants started with a vitamin D deficiency.
These results are consistent with other assessments of supplements and heart health: “This is another study showing that vitamins and supplements have virtually no benefit in preventing heart disease,” notes Dr. Nits.
According to the US Preventative Services Task Force, there is not enough evidence to recommend that adults take vitamin D or other supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Risks of Too Much Vitamin D
When it comes to vitamin D and the heart, some people may be consuming too much of a good thing.
Excessive amounts of vitamin D can lead to increased calcium levels in the blood, a condition called hypercalcemia. This can increase the risk of coronary artery disease (CHD) because calcium deposits form on the walls of blood vessels.
Over time, CHD can set the stage for a heart attack or heart failure.
High levels of vitamin D can also lead to kidney failure, kidney stones and bone problems such as osteoporosis, among other things. (In other words, it can be serious if left unaddressed.)
Against this background, Dr. Nits of caution with vitamin D supplements. He says it’s always best to speak to a doctor before starting to take any supplement.
Healthier lifestyle habits
Finally, Dr. Nissen points out that there are no magic pills for better heart health.
But something can be done about it. He recommends focusing on building healthy lifestyle habits to keep the heart happy.
“Do exercise, eat healthily, control your body weight and pay attention to your cholesterol level and blood pressure,” advises the cardiologist. “If you do that, you’ll be way ahead of the game.” (ad)