One commonly used indicator for an increased risk of atherosclerosis and eventual cardiovascular disease is coronary artery calcification. Statistically, the higher your coronary calcification scores, the more likely you are to have a heart attack. That's because when the mechanisms that regulate calcification become imbalanced and calcium is deposited in the arteries, your arteries start to harden. And as any long-time reader will know, keeping your arteries smooth and flexible is key to maintaining good heart health.
One of the ways our bodies prevent calcification is through the work of matrix Gla protein (MGP). And MGP depends on vitamin K to work properly. So if you don't get sufficient vitamin K, you can set off a chain reaction that leads to calcification and eventual heart disease.
Researchers in the Netherlands wanted to see if supplementing with vitamin K could help slow the calcification process down. They identified patients with coronary artery disease and divided them into two groups. This study isn't complete as of yet. It's ongoing. But it's worth reporting because these researchers are going to find just how good vitamin K is for you. In the study, one group will receive a vitamin K supplement, while the other group will receive a placebo. They plan to follow the groups for 24 months and determine whether the vitamin K supplements will indeed slow down or stop the coronary artery calcification process.
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I suspect that it will. In fact, I don't think I'd sign up to be in this study. I wouldn't want to end up being part of the control group! I think vitamin K can do a lot for your heart health. You'll find it in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. And if you don't eat enough of these foods, I think it's a good idea to take 15 mg of vitamin K2 every day as a supplement. But here's the problem.
If you're on a blood thinner called Coumadin (also called warfarin), you need to know that this drug works by blocking vitamin K activity. In effect, the drug creates a vitamin K deficiency. That's why when a doctor puts a patient on this drug, he is always careful to tell the patient to stay away from eating vegetables high in vitamin K and especially to avoid vitamin K supplements. They will counteract the effect of the drug.
But you can see the problem with Coumadin. By creating a vitamin K deficiency, it increases the likelihood of coronary artery calcification. This is why I don't like this drug. I've written about alternatives to conventional blood thinners in past alerts. You can find them on my website
. If you're taking Coumadin, you have a vitamin K deficiency. And if that's the case, I would advise you to revisit those alerts so that you and your doctor can come up with a safer plan.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD