Despite some research linking low vitamin D levels to heart disease, a new study suggests that lacking D does not increase one's risk of an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation.
Researchers followed nearly 3,000 middle-aged men and women, aged 54 to 76, for roughly 10 years and found that 425 people developed atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation stems from a malfunction in the heart's electrical system, which causes the irregular heartbeat. That can lead blood to pool in the heart, increasing the risk of blood clots, which in turn may cause strokes. Treatment often includes blood thinners taken to prevent clots.
The study found there was no difference in the likelihood of getting the condition between people with the highest vitamin D levels in their blood and those with the lowest. The findings show that vitamin D doesn't have an effect on all types of heart diseases.
Previous studies have revealed that people who are deficient in vitamin D have a higher risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease.
Scientists do speculate that low vitamin D affects the heart, but likely not the electrical system of the heart.
Vitamin D may protect the heart in a few ways. It assists in keeping heart cells healthy and maintaining normal blood pressure. Studies have linked low blood vitamin D levels to greater inflammation, impaired fasting glucose, metabolic syndrome and hypertension - all risk factors for heart disease.
Whether vitamin D is important for their heart health remains to be seen. Vitamin D is very important for bone health and may help guard against certain cancers.
Adults aged 19 to 70 are advised to get 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D daily; older adults need 800 IU daily. The safe upper daily limit is 4000 IU.
In Canada, adults are advised to take 1000 IU vitamin D daily in the fall and winter months when the sun's rays aren't strong enough to trigger vitamin D production in the skin.
The study was published in the September issue of the American Heart Journal.
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