You probably know that vitamin D is good for healthy bones, but new evidence shows it might also benefit your circulatory system. Using data from the 4,839 participants who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers analyzed the relationship between vitamin D and peripheral artery disease (PAD)—hardening of the arteries in the legs—which affects about 8 million Americans. PAD can lead to plaque build-up in vessel walls and block circulation in the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack by up to five times.
Researchers categorized participants age 40 and older into four groups, according to how much vitamin D showed up in their blood. “We found that participants with the lowest vitamin-D levels were 80 percent more likely to have PAD compared to those with the highest vitamin-D levels,” says Michal Melamed, MD, assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, and lead author of the study. Although there is insufficient evidence to suggest that decreased vitamin D causes PAD, Melamed notes that if a causal link is established in the future, vitamin-D supplementation could be used for prevention.
Vitamin D can be obtained from fortified foods, such as milk and orange juice, and sunlight. Aim for 5–30 minutes of sun exposure, preferably on unprotected skin, at least twice a week.