Lack of vitamin D linked to whites' stroke death
November 14th, 2010
03:55 PM ET

Lack of vitamin D linked to whites' stroke death

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with fatal strokes among white patients, but it's not tied to more stroke deaths among black people, researchers announced Sunday at the the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Chicago, Illinois.

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine professed surprise at their findings, which were based on health records of nearly 8,000 black and white adults.

Whites with low vitamin D levels had twice the risk of dying from a stroke compared with whites with higher vitamin D levels. But the researchers found no increased fatal stroke relationship among blacks with vitamin D deficiency, even though they found black people in the study had an overall 60 percent higher risk of dying from stroke compared with whites.

Previous research has found that black people are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D and to have higher risk of strokes than whites. The lead researcher stressed that further clinical trials are needed to determine whether treating vitamin D deficiency will help lower the risk of strokes among whites.

Other presentations Sunday included how drinking alcohol affects heart bypass patients and a look at the dramatic decrease in smoking over the last three decades.

Light to moderate alcohol consumption by men after coronary bypass surgery showed benefits compared with not drinking, but researchers say the findings did not apply to patients with two specific disorders: left ventricular dysfunction and heart failure.

Italian researchers from the University of Rome La Sapienze presented their study looking at how two to three alcoholic beverages per day– which is considered light to moderate alcohol consumption– affected men who had experienced coronary artery bypass surgery. Using a questionnaire to survey 1,021 men who had heart bypass surgery, researchers found being a light to moderate drinker was associated with 25 percent fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths than non-drinkers.

Researchers revealed moderate to heavy drinking– about four drinks daily– was associated with significantly higher risk of death in men with left ventricular problems. The lead researcher noted that the study results need to be confirmed over a longer follow-up period using more patients and controlling for more factors.

A long-term look at the smoking habits of one metropolitan area –Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota - found that the proportion of adult smokers dropped dramatically during that past 30 years. Using data from the Minnesota Heart Survey, which includes 3,000 to 6,000 participants ages 25 to 74  in each of its six surveys, researchers revealed these smoking trends from 1980 to 2009:

The number of current smokers dropped by half in both men and women. The largest decreases were among adults with higher income and education; current smokers smoked less per day. Men dropped from almost 24 cigarettes to just over 13 cigarettes and women dropped from over 21 cigarettes to 10; the number of "ever-smokers" - those who had smoked at some point – dropped from 71.6 percent of American men to 44.4 percent and from 54.2 percent of American women to 39.6 percent; men who began smoking regularly were just under 18 years old, and women who started smoking regularly at just under age 18, which is a drop from age 19 over the 30-year study period. It's important to note that the study group did not include ages 18 to 24, or below age 18, a period in which smoking often begins.

The scientific meeting continues through Wednesday.

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