A recent analysis carried out by Johns Hopkins University examining survey results and health records of 10,000 Americans, spanning 20 years has revealed that there are synergistic benefits between sufficient vitamin D intake and regular exercise, at reducing the risk the onset of strokes and heart attacks. The analysis found that both these factors combined had a greater influence on heart health then either sufficient vitamin D levels or exercise alone.
The study utilised data that was previously collected in an Atherosclerosis Risk study starting back in 1987.
All 10,342 particpants in the study were not subject to heart or artery disease when the study began. The study ended in 2013.
The initial data collection was taken between 1987 and 1989 and scored each participants activities level against the recommendations set by American Heart Association (150 minutes/week). Researchers found that 60% of participants weren’t getting sufficient exercise during this time.
The follow up data-collection, carried out between 1990 and 1992 required subjects to have their blood taken to determine vitamin D levels. The benchmark for sufficient vitamin D intake was 20 nanograms. The study found that only 30% of subjects were getting enough vitamin D in their diet.
The initial part of the study identified a positive correlation with participation in exercise and vitamin D levels, signalling that the more a participant exercised, the higher his/her vitamin D would be.
In the follow up part of the study, researchers also determined a trend between vitamin D levels and risk of developing cardiovascular disease, looking back retrospectively at instances of cardiovascular health issues or fatalities.
More specifically, the research team found that subjects who met the recommendations for exercise, but did not meet the sufficient vitamin D threshold had a 23% less chance of developing cardiovascular issues then individuals who didn’t met both the exercise or vitamin D guidelines. Whereas subject who were low on vitamin D, but still met the exercise recommendations had no reduced risk. Meaning that both the vitamin D and exercise – combined – were the influential tipping point for reducing the onset of cardiovascular health issues.
One of the lead researchers for the study suggests that the adequate levels of vitamin D noted in the study, in alignment with individuals who exercised frequently, may not be the consequence of sunlight.
Typically vitamin D through sunlight reaches a plateau, whereas vitamin D levels linked to the aforementioned criteria showed no sign of this. This suggests that maybe the individuals who hit the recommended exercise targets also practice other healthy lifestyle habits, associated to the kind of foods they eat or supplementing with vitamins.
Whilst there is an abundance of literature outlining the positive association between exercise and cardiovascular health, vitamin D positive impact to cardiovascular issues has yet to be fully proven in studies. A recent study looking into this actually failed to link high doses of vitamin D with enhanced heart health.
Researchers from the initial test stress more research into diverse populations and varying dosing protocol are taking place and necessary to shed more light on the impact of vitamin D for preventing cardiovascular disease.