This Simple Test Might Help Identify Your Risk for Heart Disease, According to Science
Since heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States (yep, even taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic), scientists and cardiologists continue to hunt for every last detail they can to discover potential risk factors—and how we can reduce our risk.
What we know for sure: These 7 things could make you more likely to get heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. What we're still uncovering: A lot more data about emerging research interest areas, including if any specific micronutrients might spike or slash risk for these all-too-common conditions.
The latest edition of the European Heart Journal includes a fascinating study that hints at a certain bone-boosting vitamin—available from sunlight and certain foods including eggs, yogurt and certain kinds of seafood—might also be related to heart disease risk. According to the new research, low levels of vitamin D may be linked to higher blood pressure and increased risk for heart disease.
But this doesn't mean you should rush out to snag a supplement to proactively try to prevent a vitamin D-ficiency. Just like a multivitamin won't automatically keep your heart healthy, a supplement or consuming more than your daily recommended value (600 IU) will not offer any additional benefits once your system is no longer deficient.
"Increasing vitamin D concentrations will only be helpful for those participants who 'need it,' and further benefits from elevating concentrations beyond the nutritional requirement are going to be modest, if they exist," lead author Elina Hyppönen, director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia Cancer Research Institute, tells Medical News Today.
That said, more than four in 10 Americans are deficient in vitamin D, according to research published in the journal Cureus, so it may be wise to discuss a vitamin D blood test with your doctor if:
- You think you might be lacking in D
- You have a family history of cardiovascular disease
To come to this conclusion, the researchers investigated the connection between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (AKA 25(OH)D, a way to track vitamin D status) and the risk of developing heart disease. They dove into questionnaires about health and lifestyle plus blood sample data gathered for the UK Biobank, which is a large database of United Kingdom residents between age 37 and 73.
After controlling for age, sex and time of data collection, the scientists landed on a pool of 267,980 people to analyze. They compared the control group of those who had not received a heart disease diagnosis yet with a study group of those who had been diagnosed with heart disease. The average 25(OH)D concentration level among the participants was 50 nanomoles per liter (nmol/l)—about on target with what Mount Sinai health experts say is a healthy level.
Participants who had the lowest concentration levels of vitamin D in their blood (less than under 25 nmol/l) had 11% higher risk for heart disease than their peers who had levels that fell more within the normal range of vitamin D (25 and 49.9 nmol/l). Above 50, there appeared to be diminishing returns in terms of a heart health boost, meaning once you meet your quota, you're at your lowest risk possible (at least regarding vitamin D).
Blood pressure levels among those in the lowest vitamin D category were also higher than their peers who scored enough vitamin D.
Since this is just one (albeit large) study, more research is needed among diverse populations and to discover more about why vitamin D may be related to blood pressure and heart health. But in the meantime, it can't hurt to bring this up to your doctor at your next check-up if you're concerned about your vitamin D levels or your heart health—or both. You can also get started boosting your consumption with these delicious vitamin D-rich recipes.
"People should discuss checking their vitamin D level with their physicians, as there is variability from one doctor to another as to whether this is checked as a matter of routine," Rigved Tadwalkar, MD, a board-certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California tells Medical News Today. "If the vitamin D level is found to be significantly low, there is now evidence to suggest that increasing this level will decrease cardiovascular disease risk, including the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke."