Heart Helper: Inspired by Studies, Doctors Prescribing Higher Doses of Vitamin D
This month, a review article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology came to a similar conclusion. It said heart patients who have insufficient vitamin D levels should be treated with one dose of 50,000 IU a week for eight weeks. Pills of 50,000 IU generally are available only as a prescription. After eight weeks, patients can take 50,000 IU every two weeks, or 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day.
The authors recommended vitamin D3, which can be found 'over the counter'. "Vitamin D supplementation is simple, safe and inexpensive," the authors wrote.
"There is a growing chorus from around the world that the (recommended daily allowance) is way too low," said O'Keefe, who also is a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
An inexpensive blood test measures vitamin D levels. Many experts say levels between 21 and 29 nanograms per deciliter are insufficient, and levels less than 21 are deficient.
In Wisconsin, wintertime vitamin D levels appear to be low, according to a research article this year. The study involved a sample of 71 women ages 70 and older whose vitamin D levels were measured between the winter of 2005 and the spring of 2006 in Madison. The study found that 59% of the women had vitamin D levels of less than 30 ng/dl.
Several observational studies this year have focused on low levels of the vitamin and increased risk of heart disease:
All those studies were observational. What's needed, experts say, are clinical trials.
Indeed, more cardiologists say they are becoming aware of the growing amount of vitamin D research. One problem, though, is that, while studies consistently link low vitamin D levels to heart disease, there is no consensus on the best way to restore a person's vitamin D levels, said Richard Staudacher, a cardiologist with ProHealth Care Medical Associates Cardiology in Waukesha.
However, because there is little danger from taking vitamin D, Staudacher said he will be testing his patients, and those with low levels probably will be offered doses similar to those recommended in the cardiology journal article.
That would include an initial prescription dose of 50,000 IU and a maintenance dose of about 2,000 IU a day, he said.
A person's vitamin D level "is something all cardiologists should be aware of," Staudacher said.
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