All the 'healthy eating' hype is aimed at preventing heart attacks caused by 'ischaemic heart disease', where the coronary arteries become blocked, either by a build-up of plaque in the artery walls, or by a blood clot. But there are many diseases of the heart – and the one that is responsible for the most deaths is a condition called 'heart failure' or 'sudden cardiac death' (SCD).
We have been told for many years that we should not go out in the sun unless we cover up and/or wear a strong sunscreen. But this measure dramatically reduces the amount of vitamin D our bodies can make from UVB sunlight (our major source of vitamin D). As a consequence, there is now a widespread deficiency of vitamin D in all industrialised countries, particularly those furthest from the equator.
There are also increasing numbers of cases of SCD in those countries.
The classic role of vitamin D for maintaining bone health is well documented and recent reports have linked vitamin D deficiency to various other diseases, including arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus and cancer which are already covered in Trick and Treat.
A combined German/Austrian study published in October 2008 looked to answer the question of whether vitamin D deficiency also increased the risk of SCD. They found clear evidence that it did, concluding that:
"Low levels of 25(OH)D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D are associated with prevalent myocardial dysfunction, deaths due to heart failure, and SCD."
So, this is yet another reason to get out in the sun – without sunscreen - as often as you can.
Pilz S, et al. Association of Vitamin D Deficiency with Heart Failure and Sudden Cardiac Death in a Large Cross-Sectional Study of Patients Referred for Coronary Angiography. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2008; 93: 3927-3935.