Researchers discuss the link between vitamin D and ischemic strokes.

Human brain strokeResearchers finding show that Vitamin D may help prevent ischemic strokes. These new findings were presented at the International Stroke Conference. [1]The research presented at the conference showed that patients with vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL had infarcts two-fold larger than those with higher levels and had a higher risk for functional dependence at 3 months. Nils Henninger, MD, assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, conducted a study of 96 patients (median age, 73 years; 45% women) with acute ischemic stroke admitted to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center from January 2013 to January 2014.[2] Henninger noted that this study was not designed to answer the question of the exact role of vitamin D. However, he said questions remain: “Is vitamin D the factor causing all the effects that we notice, or is it an innocent bystander, a sentinel or a biomarker?[3]

The true effects of vitamin D still remain a mystery to Doctors. A direct link has not yet been established to show how it affects patient outcomes. What is known is that there is a correlation between patient outcomes and vitamin D which may also be related to patient lifestyle. Dr. Henninger stated, “Maybe vitamin D is associated with greater brain tissue damage after a stroke.”

Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such a salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are the best sources. Vitamin D is also found in small amounts in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. One other good source is milk that is fortified with vitamin D. A source not related to food is direct sunlight.[4]

Older adults are at increased risk of developing vitamin D insufficiency. This is due partly because their skin cannot synthesize vitamin D efficiently and they may spend more time indoors. People of dark skin may also not process vitamin D from sunlight due to increased pigment melanin in the epidermal layer. People who are obese or who have had bypass surgery may also find it harder to produce vitamin D from sunlight and should also be aware of a possible deficiency.



[1] Low Vitamin D Linked to More Severe Stroke, Poor Outcomes. Medscape. Feb 13, 2015.

[2] Low Vitamin D Levels predict stroke severity, worse outcomes. Cardiology Today. Feb 16, 2015

[3] Ibid

[4] Vitamin D, Health Sheet for professionals. National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

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