(RxWiki News) Not getting enough vitamin D has been linked to weak bones. Now, results from a new study show that having low levels of vitamin D may lead to a variety of heart and blood pressure problems.
Researchers at the Emory / Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute found that people with a lack of vitamin D had stiffer arteries, making it harder for blood from the heart to reach other parts of the body.
"Vitamin D can lower your blood pressure and protect you against heart disease."
Ibhar Al Mheid, M.D., a cardiovascular researcher at Emory University School of Medicine, and colleagues examined 554 people to study the relationship between vascular health and levels of vitamin D.
For the most part, study participants improved their vascular health (health of the blood vessels) and lowered their blood pressure when they increased their vitamin D levels by taking dietary supplements or through exposure to sunlight.
The researchers found that people with lower levels of vitamin D had stiffer arteries - meaning that it was harder for their blood vessels to relax. Stiff arteries can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
According to Al Mheid, the vascular health of study participants with low vitamin D levels was similar to that of people with diabetes or high blood pressure.
In order for blood to flow out of the heart back to the rest of the body, blood vessels have to relax and expand. When this does not happen, a person can develop clots that cause strokes and heart attacks.
While this study did not show how vitamin D levels were affecting vascular health, Al Mheid says that the vitamin could be strengthening the cells that line blood vessels and control whether the blood vessels tighten or relax.
He says that vitamin D also could be reducing levels of a hormone (angiotensin) that causes higher blood pressure.