Background: Some evidence suggests that an inadequate vitamin D level may increase the risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Whether a low vitamin D level plays a role in venous thromboembolism (VTE), that is, venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is largely unexplored.
Objectives: We tested prospectively, in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort, whether the serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) is inversely associated with VTE incidence, and whether it partly explains the African American excess of VTE in the ARIC Study.
Patients and methods: We measured 25(OH)D by using mass spectroscopy in stored samples of 12 752 ARIC Study participants, and followed them over a median of 19.7 years (1990-1992 to 2011) for the incidence of VTE (n = 537).
Results: The seasonally adjusted 25(OH)D level was not associated with VTE incidence. In a model adjusted for age, race, sex, hormone replacement therapy, and body mass index, the hazard ratios of VTE across 25(OH)D quintiles 5 (high) to 1 (low) were: 1 (ref.), 0.84 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.65-1.08), 0.88 (95% CI 0.68-1.13), 1.04 (95% CI 0.78-1.38), and 0.90 (95% CI 0.64-1.27). The lowest 25(OH)D quintile contained 59% African Americans, whereas the highest quintile contained 7% African Americans. However, lower 25(OH)D levels explained little of the 63% greater VTE risk of African Americans over whites in this cohort.
Conclusions: A low 25(OH)D level was not a risk factor for VTE in this prospective study. However, the totality of the literature (three studies) suggests that a low 25(OH)D level might modestly increase VTE risk in whites, but this needs further confirmation.
Keywords: prospective studies; pulmonary embolism; risk factors; venous thrombosis; vitamin D.
© 2014 International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis.