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Low vitamin D levels may raise heart disease risk

September 25, 2012

Nutrition and healthy aging go hand in hand, and vitamin D has come to be recognized as one of the most vital nutrients for seniors. A team of researchers from Denmark recently found that people who do not get enough vitamin D may be putting themselves at a greater risk for ischemic heart disease and an early death.

The study, published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, looked at the levels of vitamin D in the blood of more than 10,000 people. The research team noticed that people with the lowest levels had an approximately 40 percent higher chance of developing ischemic heart disease along with a 64 percent greater risk of heart attack. Additionally, a low level of vitamin D was associated with at least an 81 percent rise in the risk of dying from heart disease.

Despite the seemingly strong relationship between vitamin D and heart health, researchers were cautious to make any bold claims. Specifically, they say the results could be indicative of the fact that people in poor health tend to have lower levels of vitamin D naturally. However, they say there's no harm in seniors making sure they get healthy amounts of the vitamin.

"The cheapest and easiest way to get enough vitamin D is to let the sun shine on your skin at regular intervals," said Borge Nordestgaard, a clinical professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. "There is plenty of evidence that sunshine is good, but it is also important to avoid getting sunburned, which increases the risk of skin cancer."

Though many people are aware of how they can use sunlight to get vitamin D, there are also some ways seniors can include the beneficial nutrient in their diet. Fish, including salmon and tuna, has high levels of vitamin D, according ABC News. Other foods such as mushrooms and eggs are also reliable sources of the nutrient.

Getting plenty of vitamin D, whether through sunlight or salmon, offers numerous benefits other than improving heart health. The vitamin also helps the body absorb calcium, which helps seniors maintain strong bones and stave off conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis - something that means they can enjoy the benefits of active senior living longer.