Johns Hopkins: Exercise and vitamin D in tandem help reduce heart disease risk

4/27/2017

BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins researchers report that an analysis of survey responses and health records of more than 10,000 American adults for nearly 20 years suggests a "synergistic" link between exercise and good vitamin D levels in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.



"In our study, both failure to meet the recommended physical activity levels and having vitamin D deficiency were very common" stated Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The bottom line is we need to encourage people to move more in the name of heart health."



Michos added that exposure to a few minutes a day of sunlight in non-winter seasons, eating a well-balanced meal that includes oily fish such as salmon, along with fortified foods like cereal and milk, may be enough to provide adequate levels of vitamin D for most adults.



Both exercise and adequate vitamin D have long been implicated in reducing heart disease risks, but in a new study - one not designed to show cause and effect - the researchers investigated the relationship between these two health factors and their joint role in heart health. Their findings, which were published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, identified a positive and direct relationship between exercise and vitamin D levels in the blood, which may provide evidence that exercise may boost vitamin D stores.



They also found that the two factors working together seemed to somehow do more than either factor alone to protect the cardiovascular system. The researchers caution that their study is an observational one and that long-term, carefully controlled clinical trials would be needed to establish evidence for cause and effect. Nevertheless, the study does support the notion that exposure to the "sunshine" vitamin D and exercise are indicators of good health.



For their data analysis, the Johns Hopkins researchers used previously gathered information from the federally funded Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study beginning in 1987 and collected from 10,342 participants initially free of heart or vascular disease. Information about participants was updated and followed until 2013. The participants were an average age of 54 at the start of the study and 57% were women. In addition, 21% were African-American, with the remaining participants identifying as white.



Michos cautioned that people who meet the recommended daily amount of 600 to 800 International Units a day and who have adequate levels of vitamin D don't need to take additional vitamin supplements. "More isn't necessarily better once your blood levels are above 20 nanograms per milliliter," says Michos. "People at risk of bone diseases, have seasonal depression, or are obese should have their physicians measure vitamin D levels to ensure they're adequate, but for many, the best way to ensure adequate blood levels of the vitamin is from sun exposure, healthy diet, being active and maintaining a normal body weight."


 


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