Vitamin D Helps Reduce High Blood Pressure
by Kirsten Whittaker
hypertension at midlife.
Vitamin D is the fat soluble nutrient found in oily fish, eggs and vitamin fortified foods
like milk, cereals and drinks that we need for strong bones as it helps the body use
the calcium in foods.
Once deficiencies in this vitamin were associated with the bone disease rickets,
today's research is showing that having enough of this nutrient is important in
protecting you against a variety of health problems.
Not getting enough vitamin D leaves you with lower bone mineral density, as well as
upping your risk for certain cancers (colon, breast ovarian), arthritis, diabetes,
dementia, infections, multiple sclerosis, possibly even tuberculosis.
Estimates by a University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine team suggest that
3 out of every 4 Americans has vitamin D levels below what is believed necessary for
optimal health. A lack of exposure to natural sunlight, as well as poor eating habits
are likely to blame for the numbers.
In this latest work, researchers looked at data from the Michigan Bone Health and
Metabolism Study that followed 559 Caucasian women in their late 20s, 30s and
early 40s for a total of 15 years, beginning back in 1992.
The subject's vitamin D levels were measured in 1993 soon after the women entered
the study, and their blood pressure readings were taken each year. At the end of the
trial, when the average age of the participants was 53, about 1 in 4 had been
diagnosed with high blood pressure.
"This is preliminary data so we can't say with certainty that low vitamin D levels are
directly linked to high blood pressure," points out Fiojaune C. Griffin, MPH who is a
doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. "But this may be
another example of how what you do early in life impacts your health years later."
You can get vitamin D naturally by being out in the sun as well as trying to eat more
vitamin D rich foods. Still getting enough of this vitamin from foods isn't easy, and is
the reason supplements have become so popular.
Most multivitamins you'll find contain 400 international units (IU) of the vitamin, but
current thinking suggests that the real dosage should be far higher, maybe as much
as ten times higher. The upper limit for vitamin D intake according to the Institute of
Medicine's current standards is 2,000 IUs a day.
Study co-author and University of Michigan professor of epidemiology Mary Fran
Sowers, Ph.D. is suggesting that perhaps the public health message about protection
from the sun might need to be modified. Sunscreens of SPF 15 block virtually all
vitamin D synthesis by the skin. If you're older, or a bit overweight or obese, your
body is also naturally less efficient at making vitamin D from sunlight.
Exposure during off peak hours, for just ten minutes, is an easy, totally natural way
to get the vitamin D your body needs. "We have recognized for a long time that it
takes very limited sun exposure to get adequate vitamin D," Sowers explains.
While there's no general agreement about the right amounts of vitamin D, the
current Institute of Medicine recommended intake are currently (and rightfully
according to many experts) under review. New recommendations are due by May
If you're a younger woman who wants to reduce high blood pressure, as well as
many other health problems, your best bet is to do what you can to keep your
vitamin D levels up and keep your eye out for ongoing research.
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A woman who is lacking vitamin D
before she enters menopause may
have a higher risk of developing high
blood pressure in her later years
according to new research presented
at the American Heart Association's
63rd High Blood Pressure Research
Conference in Chicago. Only recently
have researchers come to recognize
that supplementing deficiencies of this
vital nutrient may reduce high blood
This current work found vitamin D
deficiency before 45 was linked with a
threefold-increased risk of
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