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 deficiencies of this vital nutrient may be a risk factor for heart disease.
This current work found vitamin D deficiency before 45 was linked with a threefold-increased risk of 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.
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Vitamin D Protects Against High Blood Pressure Continued…
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 2010.
If you’re a younger woman who wants to protect against 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.
Daily Health Bulletin
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