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Vitamin D and Your Health

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Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with decreased calcium absorption in the gut and impaired bone metabolism. However, Vit D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of death from heart disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, asthma in children and certain cancers. It may also play a role in high blood pressure and diabetes. Ultimately, Vit D deficiency occurs because of limited sun exposure (avoidance or use of > SPF 8 sunscreen), inadequate dietary intake or absorption, and significant liver or kidney disease.

Because cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in developed countries, affecting over 5 million adults in the US, and recent evidence suggests that development of CAD is in varying degrees an inevitable function of the aging process, maintaining normal Vit D status is imperative. Every year over 900,000 Americans experience a heart attack (MI), about 65% are first time heart attacks. Often times the survivors of MIs develop and die prematurely from heart failure due to the negative effects of an MI on heart’s ability to pump blood.

A recent study by Bae et al. in animals has shown that Vit D deficiency accelerates the progression of heart failure following an MI, while normal Vit D status was protective. Much is yet unknown about the interactions of Vit D and various disease processes, but given the prevalence of heart disease in developing countries, and the surprising high number of Vit D deficiencies in otherwise healthy people, a simple blood test for Vit D status (25 OH) by your doctor during your routine physical exam may be a good idea, especially if you have one or more known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Vit D supplementation is simple and inexpensive, but excess consumption is toxic. To know whether or not you have a deficiency, get tested and consult with your physician before taking supplemental Vit D. 

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