Researchers have made a "significant breakthrough" for patients with heart disease, identifying a simple way to improve their condition.
A team at the University of Leeds found that daily doses of vitamin D could improve the heart function of people diagnosed with chronic heart failure.
The five-year project included more than 160 patients from Leeds who had already started treatment for heart failure and were using treatments that have been proven to be effective, such as beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors and pacemakers.
Funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the study - known as VINDICATE - asked participants to take either a vitamin D tablet or a placebo alternative for a year.
Dr Klaus Witte, from the School of Medicine at Leeds University and consultant cardiologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, called the study a "significant breakthrough for patients".
He said: "It is the first evidence that vitamin D3 can improve heart function of people with heart muscle weakness – known as heart failure. These findings could make a significant difference to the care of heart failure patients."
Although exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D, heart failure patients are often deficient in it even during sunny periods as they are usually older and people make less vitamin D as they age.
The study found that participants who took vitamin D daily saw an improvement in their heart function, compared to those who were given the placebo.
Of the 80 people who received vitamin D, the heart’s pumping function improved from 26 per cent to 34 per cent. Those who took a placebo saw no change.
For people with heart disease, this is significant as it reduces the chance that they'll need an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to regulate the rhythms of their heart.
“ICDs are expensive and involve an operation” said Dr Witte. “If we can avoid an ICD implant in just a few patients, then that is a boost to patients and the NHS as a whole.”
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