Vitamin D toxicity may increase your risk of atrial fibrillation – symptoms to spot

Lorraine: Dr Amir says spine could shrink if deficient in vitamin D

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Vitamin D, which is synthesised by the body with exposure to sun, is used to regulate calcium and phosphate concentrations in the blood and is essential for growth and development, cellular health, and bone remodelling, a process where mature bone tissue is removed from the skeleton and new bone tissue is formed. However, over supplementing during the colder winter months could be negatively affecting your heart, health researchers warn.

Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity can include a loss of appetite, weight loss, excessive urination, and heart arrhythmia.

High doses of vitamin D can raise blood levels of calcium (hypercalcemia), which can damage the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels.

Scientists have long known that low levels of the nutrient can hurt the heart, but new research shows that higher than normal levels can make it beat too fast and out of rhythm, a condition called atrial fibrillation.

Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center, studied more than 132,000 patients and found the risk of developing atrial fibrillation was two and a half times greater in those with excess levels of vitamin D compared to patients with normal levels.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart’s upper chambers quiver instead of beating rhythmically, which can cause blood to pool and clot.

The obvious symptom of the condition includes heart palpitations and is also known to cause light headedness, tiredness and chest pain.

Atrial fibrillation has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attack, dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr T. Jared Bunch, a heart rhythm specialist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and lead investigator on the study, says the findings are significant because so many people use vitamin supplements to promote their health.

“There are both benefits and harm to taking vitamin supplements of all kinds,” added Dr Bunch.

“Our goal is to determine a safe dose and usage range so patients can understand what amount is healthy, and what amount is may be toxic.”

In regions where sun exposure may be limited, supplemental vitamin D may be required to maintain normal blood levels.

The exact amount of vitamin D to achieve normal levels is unknown and usage varies in different regions and communities, which can cause problems, say the researchers.

“Patients don’t think of vitamins and supplements as drugs,” added Dr Bunch.

“But any vitamin or supplement that is touted as ‘healing’ or ‘natural’ is a drug and will have effects that are both beneficial and harmful.

“Just like any therapy, vitamins need to be taken for the right reasons and at the right doses.”

What is the recommended daily dose of vitamin D?

Most people need around 10mcg of vitamin D a day, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Any babies younger than one year old need between 8.5 and 10mcg daily.

During the late spring to early autumn, most people should get enough vitamin D by going about their daily lives.

But it can be difficult to top up on vitamin D between the end of September and the start of March.

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