Vitamin D and Heart Failure

Vitamin D and Heart Failure

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, resulting in one in every four deaths. Thus, anything that helps us beat those odds has to be of great value.

In the field of heart disease, the collection of symptoms described as heart failure (HF) is an increasingly prevalent health problem, affecting more than 15 million people around the world.

“Heart failure (HF), also known as chronic heart failure (CHF), is when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain blood flow to meet the body’s needs. Signs and symptoms of heart failure commonly include shortness of breath, excessive tiredness, and leg swelling.”    (Source)

The seriousness of this condition is evidenced by the fact that only 35% of patients will survive within 5 years of diagnosis.

As research into vitamin D accumulates, a growing body of studies has discovered that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among patients diagnosed with congestive heart failure. (And some studies suggest that up to 50% of the the North American population is vitamin D deficient.)

One study found that patients with CHF had, on average, 34% lower vitamin D levels, compared with control groups. This led to another study, in which 100 patients, deficient in vitamin D, were administered oral vitamin D3 for a period of 4 months.

Patients were given 50,000 IU of vitamin D every week for 8 weeks, followed by 50,000 IU every month for the two following months.

So, to do the math, these subjects received the equivalent of 7,143 IU vitamin D daily, for 2 months, and afterward, for the following 2 months, the equivalent of 1,667 IU daily. (What was recommended to these patients following this study is unknown, but hopefully they were smart enough to continue taking their vitamin D.)

The study found that giving those with CHF vitamin D, “markedly improves their physical performance (exercise capacity), and the laboratory parameters of HF”. Moreover, vitamin D was able to suppress the concentration of C-reactive protein, a benchmark of inflammation in the body, and a strong indicator of one’s potential for manifesting heart disease.   (Study)

When recommending vitamin D to most people, I usually suggest they take 5,000 IU, 5 days a week, (an average of 3,571 IU daily). The above study averaged 4,167 IU daily, over the 4 month period, which puts my recommendation within the range of vitamin D supplementation showing protection from heart failure.

Also, consider that, given their method of administration, we also have the option of taking our vitamin D in one large dose per week. So, I’ll usually take 15 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D, every 3 or 4 days, and one could safely take 25,000 IU just once a week. (Easy do do when using vitamin D drops.)

Dogs and CHF
As a related aside for dog owners, a dog study compared blood levels of vitamin D in dogs with congestive heart failure to normal dogs. Their results were similar to those reported in human studies: dogs with congestive heart failure had lower blood levels of vitamin D.   (Source)

Remember, dogs cannot produce vitamin D in the skin, and must rely on their diet for adequate intake. So, if your dog is not eating liver (or a food fortified with cholecalciferol), you may want to consider giving your dog a vitamin D supplement. (Quick D) If you have any doubts, veterinarians offer vitamin D tests for dogs.

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