Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a chronic disease of the heart that can include arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, irregular blood pressure, stroke, cardiac arrest and more. In the United States, CVD is the number one cause of death, killing about 1 in 4 individuals per year. Cardiovascular disease mortality is usually due to heart failure, or failure of the heart to pump blood as well as it should.
CVD and heart failure are associated with a large number of risk factors, including but not limited to, lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet, being overweight or obese, heavy alcohol use and even stress. All of these risk factors are modifiable, meaning they can be managed to significantly decrease one’s risk of CVD and/or heart failure.
Recently, vitamin D status has been identified as a modifiable risk factor for CVD and heart failure . However, the research on this topic has yielded conflicting findings. Therefore, researchers decided to evaluate the risk of low vitamin D status on incidence of heart failure in an elderly population.
This study included medical records of 137 elderly individuals over the age of 60 who received care from the Care Center for the Elderly and the outpatient clinic of cardiology from the Hospital das Clínicas at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE).
The researchers included patients who were present for heart evaluations and were willing to receive a serum 25(OH)D blood draw.Vitamin D levels less than 30 ng/ml were considered deficient and less than 20 ng/ml were considered severely deficient. Researchers also included the health ABC scale. This test analyzed an individual’s risk of heart failure, with a higher percentage score indicating a higher risk of heart failure.
This is what the researchers found:
- A total of 65% of the participants were considered to be vitamin D deficient. Of these individuals, 62% were severely deficient.
- Vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 12.19 times increased risk of heart failure compared to those with sufficient status (CI 95%: 4.23-35.46; p < 0.001).
- Vitamin D deficient men had a 15.3 times increased risk of heart failure compared to women (CI 95%: 3.39-62.21; p < 0.001).
- Heart failure was 4.18 times more likely in obese, vitamin D deficient individuals that those who were of normal weight (CI 95%: 1.36-12.81; p = 0.012).
- Those with heart arrhythmia and vitamin D deficiency had a 3.7 higher chance of heart failure than those with other cardiovascular diseases (CI 95%: 1.23-11.12; p=0.02).
The researchers concluded:
“The risk of HF was present in more than half of the elderly and was strongly associated with vitamin D deficiency, male gender and obesity characterized as risk factors for developing HF and cardiac arrhythmia…”
“This research study proved that there is association between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of HF in the elderly assisted in the UFPE cardiology clinics.”
There were some limitations of this study which need to be addressed. First, the observational design does enable the researchers to prove a causal relationship exists. Additionally, while the evidence did point towards an association between heart failure and vitamin D status at a given moment, it did not provide adequate evidence to make conclusions about the effect of chronic vitamin D deficiency on heart failure over time. Therefore, randomized controlled trials are needed in order to validate these findings.
Peterson, R. Increased heart failure risk is associated with vitamin D deficiency, according to recent study. The Vitamin D Council Blog and Newsletter, 8/2017.