Heart Health

Vitamin D Benefits Heart and Bone Health, But You Need More Than Sunshine

Sitting by the pool during the summer is a great way to relax, catch some rays, and generate vitamin D. You probably know that sunshine will trigger vitamin D production in your body. However, it may not trigger enough for you to gain all the vitamin D benefits. Why?

Because you're most likely wearing sunscreen, and with good reason. The American Academy of Dermatology notes, though, that SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of the sun's rays. Or maybe your skin pigment is dark enough to hinder production of vitamin D. Or perhaps you're only outside on the weekends because you work in an office all week. During the short days of winter, you may leave home before the sun comes up and return after it's set, losing any chance of being exposed to sunshine.

Vitamin D is important for numerous aspects of your health, so it's crucial that you make up for a lack of sun exposure with other sources of the nutrient.

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin D?

Research shows that vitamin D is crucial to your bone health. Individuals with insufficient vitamin D production or intake may suffer from thin or misshapen bones, rickets, or osteomalacia, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When it comes to cardiovascular disease and heart health, experts at the American College of Cardiology note that evidence points to robust vitamin D benefits. A number of studies show a link between bad heart health and a deficiency of vitamin D. Among the risk factors that vitamin D seems to improve are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and other heart-related causes of death. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nutritionists also believe that adequate vitamin D intake may help prevent the development of congestive heart failure.

Although mounting evidence suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular issues, no formal research has confirmed that deficiency of the nutrient directly causes heart problems. However, research funded by the National Institutes of Health is currently underway and may offer a clearer understanding in the near future.

Where Can You Get Vitamin D?

It's recommended that people under age 70, except for newborns, get 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily. Many products, such as milk and breakfast cereal, contain vitamin D supplements that can help you reach this goal. Here are a few examples of food fortified with vitamin D and their approximate IUs:

  • 1 cup fortified milk: 115 IUs
  • 1 cup fortified orange juice: 137 IUs
  • 6 ounces fortified yogurt: 80 IUs

Fatty fish are also good sources of vitamin D. When you get your vitamin D from food, rather than dietary supplements, you also get the added benefits of fiber, minerals, and other nutrients that support optimal health. Foods that are natural sources of vitamin D include:

  • 3 ounces cooked salmon: 447 IUs
  • 2 canned sardines: 46 IUs
  • 3 ounces cooked swordfish: 566 IUs
  • 3 ounces canned tuna: 154 IUs
  • 1 large egg: 41 IUs

If you think you're not getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure and your diet, talk to a physician about ways you can increase your intake. Your bones and heart will appreciate it!

Posted in Heart Health

Randy Gerber writes on health topics for print and online blogs in an effort to help people enhance their quality of life and improve the patient experience. Randy has worked on and written about national, local, and personal health care issues for 25 years. Also, he's married to an OB/GYN, which leads to lively dinner conversations.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.