Simple Vitamin D3 deficiency contributes to a higher number of heart and stroke-related deaths among African Americans compared to whites, according to a University of Rochester Medical Center study. To quote the study directly, ~ the measured deficit serum levels of 25(OH)D between African Americans and whites is “associated with increased cardiovascular mortality in a nationally representative US sample.” The Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly one-third of African-Americans are deficient in Vitamin D.
Researchers for this study were trying to understand the well-documented disparity between African Americans and whites in cardiovascular deaths (heart failure, stroke or myocardial infarction). How much difference?
Would you believe that African Americans die at DOUBLE the rate! And nearly 30% of all cardiovascular disease deaths among African Americans occurred in those aged under 65 years, compared with 13% among whites. Three-fourths of African-Americans who develop heart failure have high blood pressure by age 40. What’s going on here? And why single out Vitamin D3?
Lead author Kevin Fiscella, M.D., explained that there are a complex list of genetic and lifestyle factors among African Americans which explain why this population has increased health challenges across the lifespan than other races. Studies suggest that those factors include reduced access to health care, pervasive obstacles to healthful living (one example, neighborhoods that lack fresh groceries), disparities in income, education, opportunity and the stress of racial inequality itself.
Scientists began their investigation of the high death rate among African Americans with Vitamin D3 levels because there’s so much growing evidence which directly links low serum levels of D to many serious illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, kidney and heart disease for people of all races. In fact, most of your body's tissues and cells have Vitamin D receptors, making it a crucial regulator of healthy cell activity and growth. A deficiency contributes to the inflammation associated with heart disease, many cancers and poor bone health.
But what is Vitamin D? It’s a fat-soluble hormone that your body can obtain through food and also through supplements. Still the primary, and the most effective way for your body to accumulate Vitamin D is during exposure to sunlight. Sunlight exposure naturally stimulates your skin to self-manufacture Vitamin D.
Increased skin pigmentation lowers the rate of production of Vitamin D. For that reason, higher levels of skin pigmentation are automatically considered a risk factor for Vitamin D deficiency. The knowledge that darker skin pigment significantly reduces Vitamin D3 synthesis has been well-documented for over 40 years. Boston University professor Michael Holick, a leading Vitamin D researcher, says yes: "We think it's why African Americans develop more prostate cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer and get more aggressive forms of those cancers."
Fiscella and colleagues studied a sample of more than 15,000 American adults. The data included measurements of blood levels of Vitamin D3 and death rates due to cardiovascular disease. Researchers also looked at other factors that contribute to heart health, such as body mass index, smoking status and levels of C-reactive protein.
Largely, the analysis proved that, as expected, a Vitamin D3 deficiency was linked with higher rates of death among all people in the sample. In fact, those adults with the worst deficiency had a 40% higher risk of death from cardiac illness. “This suggests that Vitamin D3 may be a modifiable, independent risk factor for heart disease,” Fiscella said.
Most shocking, however, was that when researchers adjusted the statistics to look at race, African Americans had a whopping 38% higher risk of death than whites. On the other hand, as Vitamin D3 levels rose, the risk of death was reduced. Identical results were true when researchers analyzed the effect of poverty on cardiovascular death rates among African Americans, which suggests that Vitamin D3 deficiency and poverty each exert separate risk factors, the study said.
"Therefore, our study suggests that the next step would be to intervene to boost Vitamin D3 levels safely, with supplements," said Fiscella, a national expert on disparities in health care and a professor of Family Medicine and Community and Preventive Medicine at URMC.
This dilemma is only compounded when the factor of location is added. You see, the Vitamin D3 production in your skin relies specifically on your exposure to UVB-radiation from sunlight. This means fundamentally, supplementation of Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for most people of any race living in the northern latitudes, especially during the winter season to maintain adequate levels of circulating 25(OH)D3 to maintain optimal body function and prevent diseases.
This puts literally everyone in the United States at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. In the U.S., inadequate Vitamin D3 has been reported in about 36% of otherwise healthy young adults and about 57% of general medicine hospitalized patients. Both in an American Journal of Nutrition article in 2007 in 2007and a September 2009 article published in The American Journal of Medicine, it’s been noted that Vitamin D3 deficiency is a worldwide health problem.
If you have a deficiency, you should correct it with 5,000 to 10,000 IU of Vitamin D3 a day for 3 months — but only under a doctor's supervision. For maintenance, take 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of Vitamin D3. Some people may need higher doses over the long run to maintain optimal levels because of differences in Vitamin D receptors, living in northern latitudes, indoor living or skin color.
So it’s time to talk seriously with your doctor about having your Vitamin D levels monitored routinely.
About the author: Jeanne Ricks is a Holistic Health Coach & Clinical Hypnotist who provides personal diet, wellness & nutrition coaching combined with Hypnosis to help you achieve your personal best. www.NuDay.org