Lack of D can impair heart health

lack of vitamin d

A lack of vitamin D, even in healthy people, can impair vascular health by stiffening arteries and preventing blood vessels from relaxing to restore blood flow, Emory and Georgia Tech researchers have found.

Study participants who increased their vitamin D levels were able to improve vascular health and lower their blood pressure.

The average level of vitamin D among the participants was 31.8 nanograms per milliliter. Within the group, 14% had levels considered deficient (less than 20 nanograms), and 33% had levels considered insufficient (less than 30 nanograms).   

“We found that people with vitamin D deficiency had vascular dysfunction comparable to those with diabetes or hypertension,” says Ibhar Al Mheid, an Emory cardiovascular researcher. “There is already a lot known about how vitamin D could be acting here. It could be strengthening endothelial cells and the muscles surrounding the blood vessels. It also could be reducing the level of angiotensin, a hormone that drives increased blood pressure, or regulating inflammation.”

Study participants with an insufficient level of vitamin D and whose level later went back to normal, either through dietary supplements or ample sun exposure, had an average drop in blood pressure of 4.6 millimeters of mercury.

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Emory Medicine Fall 2011