No beauty shines without a good heart to thank - Unknown.
The heartbeats about 2.5billion times over the average life time, pushing millions of galons of blood to every part of the body. This steady flow carries with it oxygen, fuel, hormones, other compounds, and a host of essential cells. It also whisks away the waste products of metabolism. When the heart stops, essential functions fail, some almost instantly. Symptoms include shortness of breath and severe chest pain that may radiate to the back, jaw or left arm. However, women may experience different symptoms associated with heart attack and heart disease, which include pulmonary embolism, cardiac arrest, Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), Atrial Fibrilation, Stroke, Angina and so on. These life-threatening and draining conditions are more common than it appears and so we must be conscious of our heart’s health.
Given the heart's never-ending workload, it's a wonder it performs so well for so many people. But it can also fail! Why and how would the heart that has been serving us right from the days of being foetuses decide to betray us? Well, the heart can be brought down by poor diet and lack of exercise, lack of vitamins pivotal to the heart, smoking, infection, unlucky genes, and more. A key problem is an arterial calcification. The gradual and progressive process that is seen in most people after the 6th decade of life. This results in a reduction of arterial elasticity and an increased propensity for morbidity and mortality due to the impairment of the cardiovascular system's bloodflow. However, there are Vitamins D3 and K2 to the rescue. In this article, we look at how vitamins D3 and K2 help to improve the heart health and offer some tips that can help us stay healthy and happy.
Vitamin D is more than just one vitamin. It’s a family of nutrients that share similarities in chemical structure. The overall vitamin,Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Having the right amount of vitamin D and calcium is important for keeping the heart-healthy. Vitamin D is made by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Sunscreen, protective clothing, limited exposure to sunlight, darkskin, and age may prevent the body from getting enough vitamin D from the sun. Some good dietary sources include faty fish, fish oils, eggyolk, butter and liver. However, it may be difficult to get adequate quantity from all these, so supplements are other options. Vitamin D is further classified into Ergocalciferol(VitaminD2), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) and Alfacalcidol. The main point of focus is Vitamin D3; but it would help to know the difference between Vitamin D2 and D3 as they perform similar roles but are not equivalent. Vitamin D3 is found in animal-sourced foods like oily fish and fish oil, liver, eggyolk and butter, whereas D2 mainly comes from plant sources and fortified foods like mushrooms(grown in UV light).
WHAT ROLES DO VITAMIN D3 PLAY?
A growing number of studies point to vitamin D3 deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), strokes, and the other conditions associated with cardio vascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Vitamin D3 acts as a hormone, regulating more than 200 genes through out the body. It does an impressive amount of work. It keeps abnormal cells from multiplying in breast and colon tissues, helps regulate blood pressure in the kidney and helps regulate blood sugar levels in the pancreas. In fact, several studies associate low levels of vitamin D3 in the blood to a higher risk of sleep disturbances, poorer sleep quality and reduced sleep duration. All these may lead to high blood pressure causing heart problems.
WHAT CAUSES THE DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN D3 AND WHO DOES IT AFFECT MORE?
Your skin makes Vitamin D3 when exposed to the sun, specifically, Ultraviolet B(UVB) radiation from the sun triggers the formation of vitamin D3 from the compound 7-dehydrocholesterol in your skin. However, when you’re not out in the sun, your body is compeled to produce vitamin D3 on its own. Because people are spending less time outdoors and using more sunscreen when they are outdoors, levels of Vitamin D3 drop. Other factors such as weight, skin pigmentations, sex, age and where you live also affect the level of Vitamin D3.
Obesity is an important factor because fat cells absorb vitamin D and keep it from circulating through out the blood stream. People with darker skin pigmentation have a built-in natural sunscreen called melanin which keeps the skin from synthesizing vitamin D3, making the synthesis and availability of Vitamin D3 in the body less significant. Also, women have lower vitamin D3 levels than men for a few possible reasons; Women tend to have more body fat than men, they spend a bit more time indoors and tend to wear hats and sunscreen more often than men. Consequently, women pay special attention to sun screening because several studies have connected low vitamin D3 levels with cardiovascular disease. Age also plays a significant role in vitamin D3 deficiency, because as people get older they absorb less vitamin D3 from their diet and produce less vitamin D in their skin. Also, their reduced activity gives them less opportunity to be outdoors, making the Vitamin D3 really low and leading to a deficiency.
Furthermore, according to Dr Michos, Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health Association and Professor of Medicine, your geography and environment also play a part. If you live farther away from the equator, you aren’t exposed to enough ultraviolet light, so your body is unable to make vitamin D3 from November to February which is long enough to cause a deficiency.
HOW TO CHECK AND MAINTAIN HEALTHY VITAMIN D3 LEVELS.
Firstly, just like any other parameter, we need to ascertain the amount and level of Vitamin D3 in the body to know what's next. This is because the Vitamin D3 levels cannot be too high as there are chronic side effects like build up of calcium in the blood(hypercalcemia), which can cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination. Vitamin D3 toxicity might progress to bone pain and kidney problems, such as the formation of calcium stones so it has to be monitored. The most accurate way to measure how much Vitamin D3 is in the body is the 25-hydroxy Vitamin D blood test as it is the best indicator of Vitamin D3 supply to the body from cutaneous synthesis and nutritional intake. A level of 20ng/ml to 50ng/ml is considered adequate for healthy people. After the thorough checking of the Vitamin D3, and the establishment that the levels need to be raised(that is, the levels are below 20ng/ml), most adults on average would need 1,000 to 2,000 International Unit(IU) a day, nothing more than 2,000IU to maintain healthy levels. Consequently, women with levels well below 30ng/ml might need a carefully monitored prescription of up to 5000IU per week for several weeks, followed by a lower over-the-counter dosage when Vitamin D3 levels are back to normal. According to a recent study in 17 people, taking Vitamin D3 supplements with the largest meal of the day increased Vitamin D3 blood levels by about fifity percent after two to three months. Therefore it takes four to six months to replenish one hundred percent of the Vitamin D3.
Going further, in order to maintain healthy Vitamin D3 levels, you can take vitamin D in fatty fishes such as salmon,fortified orange juice, and milk. Although, sunlight is the strongest natural source for vitamin D. Supplements are synthetic forms with abundant doses. Getting about 10 minutes of moderate summer sun exposure can supply you with 3,000 to 5,000IU of vitamin D. You would have to drink approximately 30 glasses of milk to match that amount. Vitamin D3 intoxication occurs when blood levels rise above150ng/ml. Therefore, large doses of Vitamin D3 should be taken only under the advice and supervision of a health care provider, in order not to tamper with the heart.
Vitamin K plays a pivotal role in helping the blood clot and preventing excessive bleeding. Unlike many other vitamins, Vitamin K is not potentially used as a dietary supplement. It’s definitely not everyday one bleeds, right? Especially as an adult, so why feed on Vitamin K daily? Well the vitamin K just like the vitamin D is also divided into two.The two divisions are vitamins K1(phyloquinone) and vitamins K2 (menaquinone). Vitamin K1 is obtained from leafy greens and some other vegetables. Vitamin K2 is a group of compounds largely obtained from meats, cheeses, and eggs, and synthesized by bacteria. They play their respective roles in the body.
Now lets talk about the relationship between Vitamin K2 and the heart. Directly or indirectly, bleeding still involves the heart since the heart is the organ that pumps blood! Unlike the Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2 is less complex and has not too many stories to tell.
Firstly, adequate intake of vitamin K2 has been shown to lower the risk of vascular damage because it activates MGP which inhibits calcium from depositing in the vessel walls. Hence, calcium is available for other multiple roles in the body, leaving the arteries healthy and flexible. However, vitamin K deficiency results in inadequate activation of MGP which greatly impairs the calcium removal process and increases the risk of blood vessel calcification. As this process occurs in the vessel wall, it leads to the wall thickening via the formation of calcified plaques(typical at herosclerosis progression), which is associated with a higher risk of cardio vascular events i.e heart problems. On the other hand, taking K2 as a supplement reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by a significant amount. In infants, Vitamin K2 prevents excessive bleeding due to injuries and this improves the heart since losing too much blood is not good for the heart. Vitamins K is available in supplements.