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Low Vitamin D in Older Adults Raises Heart Disease Risk


Among older adults, adequate vitamin D levels are important to help protect against an increased risk of dying from heart disease, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Older adults often have insufficient or deficient levels of this critical vitamin.

The findings of this study and of many others in recent years have highlighted the concern that the dietary recommended daily intake values (DRIs) in the United States are much too low. Currently they stand at 200 IU (International Units) daily for adults 19 to 50 years, 400 IU for people 51 to 70, and 600 IU for people older than 70. Some experts recommended doses of 3,000 to 5,000 IU daily for adults.

The authors of the current study, which was headed by Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, from the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, analyzed data regarding vitamin D status and its health impact from 3,488 people aged 65 and older who had participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The older adults were followed for an average of seven years.

After the follow-up period, the researchers documented 1,493 deaths, 767 of which were attributed to cardiovascular disease. Compared with the older adults who had optimal vitamin D levels (defined as at least 100 nanomoles of 25(OH)D, which is the storage form of vitamin D), those who had low levels (25 nanomoles) were three times more likely to die from heart disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from any cause.

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Along with an increased risk of dying of heart disease and of dying overall, a vitamin D deficiency among older adults can precipitate or worse osteoporosis, muscle weakness, autoimmune disease, diabetes, infectious diseases, fractures, and many cancers. The gravity of this information is heightened by the concern noted by Dr. Ginde that more than 33 percent of older adults likely have vitamin D levels that place them at increased risk of death and that few have levels of the vitamin that supports optimum health and survival.

To achieve an optimal level of vitamin D in the body, the Vitamin D Council recommends that adults take 5,000 IU daily and that they have their vitamin D levels checked by obtaining a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Individuals should consult with their physician, and supplementation with vitamin D should be adjusted so that blood levels are between 50 and 80 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) or 125 to 200 nM/L (nanomoles per liter).

Dr. Ginde and his research team have applied for funding from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a large clinical trial in which they want to evaluate vitamin D supplementation in older adults and find ways to reduce the incidence of heart disease and improve survival. In the meantime, older adults may want to talk to their physician about their vitamin D levels and the possible need for supplementation.

Ginde AA et al. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2009 Sept. 57((): 1595-1603
Vitamin D Council

Written by Deborah Mitchell,
Exclusive to eMaxHealth