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Low Vitamin D Levels May Contribute to Hypertension in African Americans

By HERWriter
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High Blood Pressure related image Photo: Getty Images

High blood pressure in any adult can lead to a greater incidence of strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease. African Americans have higher rates of hypertension than Caucasians of similar age and sex. A recent study at University of Rochester Medical Center found that the discrepancy between vitamin D levels measured in African American and Caucasian participants might be a contributing factor in the differences of their blood pressure measurements.

Dr. Kevin Fiscella and his colleagues performed the study that evaluated the vitamin D levels in almost 2,000 African Americans and over 5,000 non-Hispanic Caucasians from a National Health and Nutrition survey collected between 2001-2006. The researchers compared the vitamin D blood levels in the black and white participants against their systolic blood pressure readings. Factors such as cardiovascular fitness, percent body fat, physical activity levels and social support were statistically controlled for in calculations.

The researchers found that 61 percent of blacks and 11 percent of whites had vitamin D levels that were significantly low. Only 2 percent of blacks and 25 percent of whites had vitamin D levels in a more acceptable range. Blood pressure differences were measured adjusted for socio-demographics and other health characteristics and then compared with vitamin D levels.

According to e! science news, “when the researchers excluded participants on blood pressure medication, the effect of vitamin D explained 40% of the difference in blood pressure,” with African American subjects being higher.

Vitamin D production is directly affected by UV light exposure to the skin. Those with darker skin absorb less UV light. Combined with the fact that many people live in colder, less sunny climates, their body’s natural ability to make vitamin D is reduced. Additionally, many African Americans have lactose intolerance so are less able to get vitamin D in their diet.

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I agree with your idea of better screening. We keep finding data that vitamin D plays a role in many health problems and acting on it makes perfect sense. Implementing it is the difficulty. We have so many opposing sides as to how people think healthcare should be delivered and of course there is the cost.

What also needs to have happen though is for African Americans to ask for screening when they do have blood work drawn for any other reason. You can't supplement vitamin D levels if you don't know what they are to start. If they come back low, then the person can monitor their own levels by asking for follow up testing in the future while they supplement with oral Vit D.

June 1, 2011 - 5:05am
EmpowHER Guest

Isn't it time for a public health policy that guarantees that African Americans and other darker-skinned populations are automatically screened for Vitamin D deficiency in all treatment settings? Here's the truth of the matter: Widespread administration of Vitamin D3 to African-American communities would increase their lifespan by five to six years. That's 150 million years of life extension in the US alone. Morbidity associated with autoimmune disease - diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, asthma - would all diminish. So would cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia and osteoporosis. The literature is all there. Why doesn't someone just do it? Take ten primarily African-American zip codes around the US and mail each household a thousand 2000 IU vitamin D3 pills once annually and watch the hospitalization and death rates plummet. Obama's healthcare plan would work just fine. Doctors could concentrate on preventive medicine and the pharmaceutical industry would just have to -- deal with a precipitous drop in demand for their medications. Preach it! Yeah! Mm-hmm! So why aren't they giving it. Do they just not like us darker-skinned people?

May 31, 2011 - 11:24pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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