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There are various layers when it comes to your risk of health conditions and heart disease is no different. However, a new study has found that getting more sun could boost your levels of a certain vitamin and reduce inflammation, which can consequently cut your risk of heart disease.
Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the research suggests that getting enough vitamin D from the sunshine can help lower inflammation.
Although inflammation can be a normal part of your body’s immune system as well as other processes, too much can boost your risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, according to Hopkins Medicine.
Looking at 294, 970 subjects from the UK Biobank, the research team investigated the link between vitamin D and inflammation.
People who had higher levels of the sunshine vitamin were less likely to show signs of inflammation, which is considered a precursor of various conditions.
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How can I get vitamin D from the sun?
While there are many different ways to boost your vitamin D levels, one of the easiest ways is to spend time outside in the sun.
The NHS explains that from about late March till the end of September, the majority of people in the UK should be able to make vitamin D from the sunlight.
Your body is able to organically synthesise the vitamin just from spending time outdoors with bare skin, which landed the nutrient its nickname as the sunshine vitamin.
While most people are able to top up their levels during the spring and summer, the NHS recommends taking a vitamin D supplement during autumn and winter due to the lack of sunshine.
Adults need to get 10 micrograms of the sunshine vitamin on a daily basis.
Heart disease and vitamin D
Senior Dietitian Victoria Taylor from British Heart Foundation (BFH) also explained that there might be a link between heart disease and the vitamin.
She said: “It has also been suggested that low levels of vitamin D could be linked to chronic diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and heart and circulatory disease.”
However, previous research on this topic wasn’t as conclusive.
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Taylor said: “A 2015 Scottish study, part funded by the BHF, showed that although having low levels of vitamin D is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the low vitamin D is a result of lifestyle factors that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, rather than the cause of increased risk.”
However, now researchers found the mechanisms between vitamin D and inflammation, which is considered to be a driver for heart disease.
Dr Ang Zhou, lead researcher, said: “Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting your tissues if you’ve been injured or have an infection.
“High levels of C-reactive protein are generated by the liver in response to inflammation, so when your body is experiencing chronic inflammation, it also shows higher levels of C-reactive protein.
“This study examined vitamin D and C-reactive proteins and found a one-way relationship between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of C-reactive protein, expressed as inflammation.
“Boosting vitamin D in people with deficiencies may reduce chronic inflammation, helping them to avoid a number of related diseases.”
These findings could have major implications for medical experts. However, there’s a need for more research to understand the role of vitamin D and health conditions further.
Another thing to remember is that while most people can get vitamin D from the sunshine, there are also people who might be unable to get enough this way.
The NHS warns that these groups might be at a risk of deficiency:
- Those who are not often outdoors (for example, if they’re frail or housebound)
- Those who are in an institution like a care home
- Those who usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors.
- The good news is that there are also other sources of vitamin D like food and supplements.
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