Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack 50% Playing Outdoors!

June 08, 2008

Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack 50%  Playing Outdoors!  

Summer Starts Today Competency #  17: Vitamin D – SuperVitamin Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine, June 9 th 2008 Giovannucci et at from the Harvard School of Public Health Date:  6/08 

 Another blockbuster study was published this last week!  From the Harvard Professional Men's Health Study prospectively following over 18,000 men who were initially free of heart disease, Dr. Giovannucci and team found that there was a linear relationship with increasing heart disease in all circumstances in which vitamin D is lower.  Simply put, there was a 50% increased risk for men in the lowest range (below 15 ngs) compared to men over 30 ngrams.  

There were higher rates as the population moved further north (less sunshine and less D all winter), lower rates at higher altitudes (up in mountains you get sunburned easier because there is less atmosphere to protect you from UVB - but you also then make more D with your skin.) and during the winter.  Vitamin D has been identified with all components of the clot-making process that plugs your arteries: vascular smooth-muscle-cell proliferation, inflammation, vascular calcification, the renin-angiotensin system, and blood pressure. Only 23% of men had blood levels of vitamin D over 30.  

If you lived in the tropics your blood level would be 50-60 ngrams.   Let me repeat.  The relative risk of a heart attack was DOUBLE for those with levels below 15 ngs.  Many of us get below 15 ng without a supplement in winter.  And the study found a linear risk for more and more heart attacks the lower the D was.  The opposite suggests that the more D you have, the less risk of a heart attack.  

What they didn't test was whether blood levels above 32 were even more protective.  They couldn't because the numbers were too small. This is a major study.  Heart attacks kill half of us.  If we can reduce your risk by 50% by raising your D level up to the minimum of 30 nanograms, think what would happen if we raised your level to 60.  That was not tested because so few men were above 30.  Yet we know that living in the tropics your blood level would naturally be 60.  

The house of medicine is going to have to redo all of its research on heart disease to consider this new component of risk.  We need to add D deficiency to the list of heart attack risks because it seems to be just as dangerous as high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle.  

This same Harvard study of health professionals showed that you can reduce heart attacks 87% by 1) stopping smoking, 2) exercising 30 minutes every day, 3) eating lots of fruits and veggies (5 servings a day) with no trans fats and little red meat, 4) a glass of wine, 5) staying skinny (body mass index below 25).  Now we can add 6) go play outdoors. We do know that 5-10% of people will not achieve a level of 30 on 2,000 U day.  We do know that optimal levels are around 60.  I suspect the recommended supplement level is going to have to go up to 3-5,000 IU a day to achieve that.  We do know 10,000 IU a day is safe, forever (NEJM last summer)  But we also know you will make D from sunshine.  It's summer.  Get outside! 

WWW:  What will work for me.  I'm already taking well over 2,000 U a day.  I want a blood level at least 60 year around.  We heard about a reduced risk of breast cancer two last month with 2,000 U of D a day.  So Grandma was right.  You have to play outside in the sun, when the sun is out.  And high altitude gives you more Vitamin D exposure.  That's new to my list now.  I'm booking my tickets for Rocky Mountain National Park.  I now know how John Denver got his "high".  Sunblock only after 20 minutes in the sun.

The column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)