More than 75 years ago, we learned that lack of vitamin D causes rickets, bone deformities and failure to grow in children. Twenty years ago, reports started to appear showing that lack of vitamin D also impairs your immunity to limit your ability to kill germs. This was followed by studies showing that it also increase risk for certain cancers. Now the Framingham Offspring Study from Harvard tells us that low blood levels of vitamin D increase risk for heart attacks ( Circulation , January 2008).
The authors followed 1700 participants (mean age 59) without prior cardiovascular disease for five years. Those with low blood levels of active vitamin D at the onset had one and a half times the chances of suffering a heart attack. Those with low vitamin D and high blood pressure had twice the risk. At this time, nobody knows why lack of vitamin D increases heart attack risk.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include deep-water fish and fortified cereals, but most North Americans meet their needs for vitamin D from sunlight and not from their diets. If you do not get out in the sun at least a few times a week, ask your doctor to check your blood levels of vitamin D. People with dark skin and those who are overweight are most likely to be deficient. Free newsletter