On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

Role of Vitamin D in Cardiovascular Diseases

Despite vitamin D's renowned role in bone health and ability to improve resistance against certain diseases, vitamin D sources may offer more than strengthening bones. Is vitamin D the link to prevent heart failure?

Role of Vitamin D in Cardiovascular Diseases

Individuals generally think to cut out fat, cholesterol, and salt when it comes to reducing heart disease risk. And though the heart may thank you for taking such precautions, there may be an unrecognized vitamin component the heart misses out on. Interestingly, despite vitamin D's renowned role in bone health, vitamin D sources may offer more than strengthening bones. Is vitamin D the link to prevent heart failure?

Vitamin D: Working Beyond Bone Health

Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, meaning it is dissolved in fat and and stored in the body's tissues. It is known for its large role in bone health but is a key player in further body processes - regulates cell growth and blood pressure, reduces inflammation, functions in neuromuscular and immune strength, along with further notable responsibilities.

Uniquely and astonishingly, human skin can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Ethnicities with darker skin may need five to 10 times more sunlight exposure compared to fair-skinned individuals. Regions with limited and weak sunlight are more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Food sources include beef, egg yolks, cheese, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and cod liver oil along with vitamin D fortified products such as milk, yogurt, and orange juice.

Overdosing is rare, if not almost impossible, with food sources and sunlight. However, toxicity may arise with vitamin D supplementation and the intake of cod liver oil. Since vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, the primary consequence results in hypercalcemia (buildup of calcium in the blood). Hypercalcemia can lead to weakness, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, and kidney problems.

But unlike the toxic rarity, vitamin D deficiency is a common concern. In correspondence, the newly revised nutrition label has added vitamin D onto food products. The addition is in hopes to promote its intake and prevent further and future deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can compromise a wide-variety of body processes and increase the risk of diseases such as congestive heart failure.

But What is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure (CHF), or simply heart failure, is when the heart is no longer able to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. The insufficiency can lead to increased blood pressure and swelling, especially in the body's extremities. The condition effects approximately 500,000 individuals each year, with CHF taking the lives of over half of those diagnosed. Risk factors include coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, obesity, and diseases that compromise proper heart structure and function. In addition to risk factors, heart failure is most common in females, people aged 65 years or older, and those who are African-American, Hispanic, or Native American. Despite CHF potentially being irreversible once diagnosed, lifestyle changes can contribute to a better quality of life - modifications including exercise, stress management, and diet.

Can Congestive Heart Failure Be Cured with Vitamin D?

When it comes to linking vitamin D and heart disease, research has expanded and continues to do so. Studies have shown individuals with CHF have lower vitamin D levels and an increased risk of death. Additionally, higher levels of vitamin D have shown higher survival rates. Although the mechanism is unclear, experts believe vitamin D intake can reduce heart failure risk by strengthening the heart muscle and reducing inflammation and the diseases shown to lead to CHF (CAD, hypertension, and diabetes). Since CHF prevention is multifaceted, the use of vitamin D to treat CHF should not be a single, independent option. Rather, verifying vitamin D doses as apart of a total nutritional approach may be a preventative measure for CHF and a potential treatment method.

So when describing the total nutritional approach, a nutrient-dense diet is commonly recommended. Like previously mentioned, people who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of CHF. A diet full of whole grains, fresh produce, lean proteins, and healthy fats can not only keep weight within a healthy range, but may lead to weight loss. But if or once diagnosed, the diet for congestive heart failure is generally low-sodium/salt. Too much salt may cause the body to retain water and worsen fluid buildup. In conjunction with low-sodium, a fluid restriction may also be advised. For further information, check out Cleveland Clinic's guide (http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/heart-failure-what-is/nutrition_hf) regarding nutrition and diet for congestive heart failure.

Congestive Heart Failure. Vitamin D Council. Available at: https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health-conditions/congestive-heart-failure/.