Heart failure is a very common but serious and life-threatening disorder that affects millions of people. Essentially, in heart failure, the heart is unable to pump blood effectively throughout the body, due to which the tissues do not receive sufficient amount of oxygen.
Heart failure accounts for at least one out of every nine deaths in the US. While there can be different causes of heart failure, the overall treatment generally remains the same: lower the amount of fluid in the body with medications and improve the pumping action of the heart.
Unfortunately, despite many advances in the understanding of heart failure, the treatments are only temporary, and many patients continue to have repeated admissions to the hospital.
Now researchers are trying to understand the relationship between vitamin D and heart failure. There has been a lot published about the benefits of vitamin D for the human body, and preliminary evidence suggests that it may also benefit the heart. But how vitamin D actually protects the heart remains a mystery.
Recently a team of researchers from Australia decided to conduct an in-depth investigation of the role of vitamin D and heart failure. It is already well known that after a heart attack, there is a group of heart cells that are responsible for forming the scar tissue, which then decreases the force of contraction of the heart. The bigger the heart attack, the larger the scar tissue and this often compromises the heart’s ability to pump blood in the body, leading to heart failure.
The researchers discovered that vitamin D was able to unblock the effects of the scar-forming cells and prevent the build-up of scar tissue. This, in turn, preserves the muscle function of the heart. The results of this study are published in the Journal Heart Lung and Circulation.
Heart disease and heart failure are the leading causes of death worldwide, and to date, there is no treatment that can reverse the formation of scar tissue after a heart attack. Now with these observations, the researchers believe that vitamin D may play a role in protecting the heart by preventing the formation of scar tissue. But more controlled studies are needed in humans before vitamin D can be prescribed to patients with heart disease. It is important to understand that observing something in animal models may not always correlate to what happens in humans.