Vitamin D protects during heart surgery

The sunshine vitamin isn't just essential for overall heart health and function. If you're about to undergo major heart surgery, how or low vitamins D levels can literally mean the difference between life and death.

In one new study, 324 coronary-artery bypass graft patients with an average age of 67 were divided into three groups based on their vitamin D levels: sufficient, insufficient, and deficient.

Three months after the operation, just 1.9 percent of those with sufficient D levels had died.

That's a pretty good track record, if you ask me -- but not everyone had that same level of success. In those with low vitamin D levels, the death rate was 7.5 percent.

And the patients with the lowest D levels had the highest risk of all as 8.8 percent of them died in the three months after the surgery.

That's not just a difference. That's a massive difference -- and it held even after researchers adjusted for age, race, gender, and other risk factors.

The researchers considered anyone with blood levels of vitamin D of 30ng/mL or higher to be sufficient. But in reality, you need more than that -- and that's true whether you're going in for coronary artery bypass graft or not.

And if there's any chance you'll be having that procedure yourself, the time to raise your low vitamin D levels is before your surgery -- not after it, when it might be too late.

While your body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight, for some adequate sunshine is not possible -- and for others, a history of skin cancer can prevent you from getting what you need.

Make sure to supplement. I recommend between 2,000 IUs and 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 a day, but a holistic physician can check your levels and help determine exactly how much you need.