TUESDAY, Nov. 15, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Low levels of vitamin D may put women at greater risk for heart attack and stroke, according to one of several new studies on the important nutrient.
After analyzing 16 years of data on more than 2,000 healthy, postmenopausal white women aged 45 to 58, researchers found that the 788 women with a vitamin D deficiency had more risk factors for heart disease than 1,225 women with normal levels of the vitamin. They were scheduled to present their findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Women with low vitamin D levels had higher levels of triglycerides; higher fasting glucose; a higher body mass index; and lower HDL "good" cholesterol. The researchers noted 47 percent of the women who were deficient in vitamin D were smokers compared to 38 percent of the women with normal vitamin D levels.
About 15 percent of the women deficient in vitamin D either died or suffered heart failure, a heart attack or stroke during the study period compared to 10.2 percent of the women who did not have this deficiency.
Three other studies also looked at vitamin D's possible protective effects on the heart. One study found that people who took 4,000 units of vitamin D daily for five days following a severe heart event had less inflammation afterward than patients who didn't take the supplement.
A third study found that chest pain patients with low Vitamin D levels were more likely to die during the next two years than those with adequate levels of the nutrient.
Finally, a fourth study found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with lower death rates from cardiovascular disease.
Because these studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on vitamin D.