A new study disputes previous ideas about a link between vitamin D and cardiovascular disease. A North Texas cardiologist talks about what prompted the idea in the first place.
Previous clinical trials or observational studies have suggested links between vitamin D and cardiovascular disease — low levels of vitamin D could lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases; use of vitamin D supplements could lower the risk.
However, a new study of 21 clinical trials concluded vitamin D supplements won't lower cardiovascular disease. But Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla, a cardiologist with Texas Health Fort Worth, says there might be an indirect benefit because of what vitamin D can do for other areas of the body.
What could link vitamin D and cardiovascular disease: "There have been some observational studies in the past that suggested vitamin D may improve cardiovascular disease risk. Observational studies are typically flawed in that there could be other confounding variables that could affect the study results. People enrolled in such studies may be exercising more. They could be eating healthier. And we know that both of those factors play a significant role in the decrease of cardiovascular disease risk."
What does vitamin D have to do with the heart? "We don't know quite what it has to do with the heart. There has been some talk about it affecting calcium levels, but there's really no direct evidence that calcium within the heart would make any major difference in terms of the microscopic level affecting cardiac muscle contraction and basal dilation and so forth."
However: "Vitamin D supports bone health. That reduces the risks of fractures, of osteoporosis and so forth. If they have better bone health, they tend to exercise more they tend to be much more physically active. They tend to be more proactive in taking care of themselves because they feel better and all of those factors have a significant role in improving cardiovascular health."
What's the best way to lower cardiovascular disease? "If you take care of yourself starting when you're young. Try teaching our kids to be healthy and learn a healthy lifestyle: A healthy diet, physical activity, don't smoke. All of those things are going to have the biggest impact in reducing cardiovascular risk overall. There's some people genetically prone to developing cardiovascular disease at a younger age and we can't control that factor, but we need to take advantage of the things that we can control to reduce cardiovascular disease and we need to do it early and we need to encourage the population as a whole to do it early."
So as you get older, all you can do is treat heart disease? "Once they come to you with problems, the state of the disease is so advanced that now you're trying to treat what's there. It would have been better to do things in the 20 or 30 years before to prevent it from occurring in the first place: Exercise, a heart-healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, avoidance of trans fats, avoidance of too many sweets and just a good heart healthy lifestyle."