New Ways to a Healthy Heart

By Kris Kucera

Cardiovascular disease caused more than one third of all deaths in the US in 2004, making it the nation’s No. 1 killer. Confronted with that grim statistic, one could venture we’ve been missing something. Two new studies suggest what that might be—fruits and vegetables full of vitamin C and a daily dose of sunshine. In the first study, conducted at the University of Cambridge, researchers charted the vitamin C plasma concentrations of more than 20,000 Europeans between the ages of 40 and 79 for nearly a decade and documented their rates of stroke. “People in the top 25 percent of vitamin C concentrations had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke over 10 years versus those in the bottom 25 percent,” says lead researcher Phyo Myint, MD. “And the effect was independent of major classical risk factors.” Noting that few studies show vitamin C supplements alone prevent stroke, Myint posits that other goodies found naturally in fruit and vegetables, such as bioflavonoids and plant sterols, probably play important complementary roles in stroke prevention.

The second study, at Harvard Medical School, examined more than 1,700 people with hypertension over an average of five and a half years. It found that the participants with vitamin D deficiencies were twice as likely to have heart attacks, strokes, or other serious cardiovascular events than the participants with normal vitamin D levels. Most experts agree that 15 minutes of sun each day or 1,000 mg daily of vitamin D supplements will give you what you need.