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Study: Vitamin D Can Significantly Improve Heart Function

FILE - A doctor examines the X-ray of a patient's heart, April 15, 2012. A new study shows vitamin D3 can significantly improve cardiac function in people with chronic heart failure.

A new study has found that a daily dose of vitamin D3 can significantly improve the cardiac function of people with chronic heart failure.

More than 160 heart failure patients participated in a five-year study at the University of Leeds School of Medicine. They were using proven treatments such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and pacemakers. One group took a vitamin D tablet every day for a year, and a second group took a placebo. The vitamin D group members saw their heart pumping function improve from 26 percent to 34 percent.

Dr. Klaus Witte, who led the study and is a senior lecturer in cardiology at the university, said the findings could make a significant difference in the care of heart failure patients.

"It is the first evidence that vitamin D3 can improve heart function of people with heart muscle weakness — known as heart failure," he said.

The study provides hope that daily doses of vitamin D may lessen the need for heart failure patients to be fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD is an expensive device that can detect irregular heart rhythms and restore the heart to a normal rhythm.

There are about 23 million people worldwide with heart failure, which can affect people of all ages, but is more common in older people. More than half of all people with heart failure are 75 or older.

The study was presented Monday at the American College of Cardiology's 65th Annual Scientific Session and Expo in Chicago.