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Sep 20, 2011

How Vitamin D and Parathyroid Hormone Levels Affect Cardiovascular Risk

These health markers could increase risk for heart disease.

Vitamin D and parathyroid hormone concentrations are two important markers of cardiovascular and overall health. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that not only can be found in some types of food, but is also produced by the body in response to sunlight. It is essential for strong bones and may help protect against diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Parathyroid hormone is a protein hormone released by the parathyroid gland, which helps regulate the body’s calcium and phosphorus levels.

Together, vitamin D and parathyroid hormone levels are important markers that can tell a lot about an individual’s health. When calcium levels are low, parathyroid hormones are released by the body to help counteract this deficiency. Therefore, high concentrations of parathyroid hormones in the blood indicate a variety of health concerns, one of which is vitamin D deficiency. And when the body experiences a vitamin D deficiency, this causes weakening of the bones and inflammation, which may increase cardiovascular risk.

How important are vitamin D and the parathyroid hormone to cardiovascular health? A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology followed a total of 2,312 patients over 14 years to assess the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and elevated parathyroid hormone with cardiovascular risk. Researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 9–29% increased risk for death and a 25% increased risk for heart attack. Elevated parathyroid hormone levels were associated with 30% increased risk for heart failure.

These findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with increased risk for heart attack and death, and elevated parathyroid hormone levels are associated with heart failure. As vitamin D deficiency and elevated parathyroid hormone levels are extremely common in older adults, it is important that adults get enough calcium and vitamin D to promote cardiovascular health.

Read this Article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are good sources of vitamin D?

  • Vitamin D can be found naturally in a few food sources such as fatty fish, cheese and egg yolks. Vitamin D is also added to some food products like milk and some yogurts, juices and cereals. The best way to prevent vitamin D deficiency, however, is to get enough regular exposure to the sun and to take supplements when necessary.
  • Who is at risk for vitamin D deficiency?

  • Those at greatest risk for vitamin D deficiency include breast-fed infants, older adults, people with dark skin, people with fat malabsorption and people who are obese or have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

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