Vitamin D-3 could ‘reverse’ damage to heart

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By probing the effect that vitamin D-3 has on the cells that make up the lining of blood vessels, scientists at Ohio University in Athens, OH, have identified for the first time the role that the “sunshine vitamin” plays in preserving cardiovascular health.

In a paper published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine, they describe how they used nanosensors and a cell model to identify the molecular mechanisms that vitamin D-3 can trigger in the endothelium, which is the thin layer of tissue that lines blood vessels.

It was previously believed that the endothelium served no other purpose than to act as an inert “wrapper” of the vascular system, allowing both water and electrolytes to pass in and out of the bloodstream.

However, advances over the past 30 years have revealed that the endothelium acts more like an organ that lines the whole of the circulatory system from the “heart to the smallest capillaries,” and whose cells carry out many unique biological functions.

Changes to the endothelium have been linked to several serious health problems, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, tumor growth, virus infections, and atherosclerosis, which is a condition wherein fatty deposits can build up inside arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Vitamin D-3 has role beyond bone health

The new study suggests that vitamin D-3 — a version of vitamin D that our bodies produce naturally when we expose our skin to the sun — plays a key role in preserving and restoring the damage to the endothelium that occurs in these diseases.

Some other natural sources of vitamin D-3 include egg yolks and oily fish. It is also obtainable in the form of supplements. Vitamin D-3 is already well-known for its role in bone health.

“However,” explains senior author Tadeusz Malinski, a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, “in recent years, in clinical settings people recognize that many patients who have a heart attack will have a deficiency of D-3.”

“It doesn’t mean that the deficiency caused the heart attack,” he adds, “but it increased the risk of heart attack.”

Nanosensors probed effect of D-3 on cells

For their study, Prof. Malinski and colleagues developed a measuring system using nanosensors, or tiny probes that are 1,000 times smaller than the thickness of human hair and can operate at the level of atoms and molecules.

They used the nanosensors to track the impact of vitamin D-3 on molecular mechanisms in human endothelial cells that had been treated to show the same type of damage that occurs from high blood pressure.

The findings suggest that vitamin D-3 is a powerful trigger of nitric oxide, which is a molecule that plays an important signaling role in the control of blood flow and the formation of blood clots in blood vessels.

The researchers also found that vitamin D-3 significantly reduces oxidative stress in the vascular system.

They note that their study “provides direct molecular insight to previously published observations that have suggested that vitamin D-3 deficiency-induced hypertension is associated with vascular oxidative stress.” The effects of vitamin D-3 were similar in both Caucasian and African American endothelial cells.

Could D-3 reverse cardiovascular damage?

The study authors note that while their findings came from tests performed on a cellular model of high blood pressure, “[T]he implications of the influence of vitamin D-3 on dysfunctional endothelium is much broader.”

They suggest that vitamin D-3 has the potential to significantly reverse the damage that high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other diseases inflict on the cardiovascular system.

“There are not many,” Prof. Malinski adds, “if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged, and vitamin D-3 can do it.”


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More Fiber Lowers BP

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Increasing dietary insoluble fiber intake may markedly lower systolic blood pressure.

Whole wheat and wheat bran foods are abundant dietary sources of insoluble fiber. GS Aljuraiban, from Imperial College London (United Kingdom), and colleagues analyzed data collected on 2,195 men and women, ages 40 to 59 years, enrolled in the INTERnational study on MAcro/micronutrients and blood Pressure (INTERMAP) study.  During four visits, the team collected blood pressure, dietary surveys, and urine samples.  Data analysis revealed that a total fiber intake higher by 6.8 g/4184 kilojoules  (6.8 g/1000 kcal) associated with a 1.69 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure and reduced to -1.01 mmHg after adjustment for urinary potassium. Insoluble fiber intake higher by 4.6 g/4184 kilojoules (4.6 g/1000 kcal) associated with a 1.81 mmHg lower systolic blood pressure.  No changes to blood pressure were seen for soluble fiber intake.  The study authors conclude that: “higher intakes of fibre, especially insoluble, may contribute to lower BP, independent of nutrients associated with higher intakes of fibre-rich foods.”

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Higher fat variation of DASH diet lowers blood pressure, triglycerides, study shows

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The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) dietary pattern, which is high in fruits, vegetables and low fat dairy foods, significantly lowers blood pressure as well as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. In a study to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at the UCSF Benioff’s Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) found that a higher fat DASH diet lowered blood pressure to the same extent as the DASH diet, but also reduced triglycerides and did not significantly raise LDL-C.

The study “Comparison of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and a higher-fat DASH diet on blood pressure and lipids and lipoproteins: a randomized controlled trial,” tested the effects of substituting full-fat for low-fat dairy foods in the DASH diet on blood pressure and plasma lipids and lipoproteins. The DASH diet was originally developed as a means for lowering blood pressure, and was designed to include low-fat and nonfat dairy foods. When substituted for carbohydrates or unsaturated fats, saturated fats have been consistently shown to increase LDL-C. The DASH diet was developed with research originally sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Since that time, a number of studies have shown the health benefits of the DASH diet, and it has many of the same characteristics as the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern that is one of three recommended dietary patterns in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In this study, researchers led by Ronald Krauss, MD and Sally Chiu, PhD of CHORI and Nathalie Bergeron, PhD of CHORI and Touro University, tested whether the blood pressure benefit, as well as a favorable lipid and lipoprotein profile of the DASH diet, could be maintained with a modification of the DASH diet (HF-DASH) that included full-fat dairy foods. Compared to the DASH diet, the HF-DASH has more total and saturated fat and less carbohydrate, the latter achieved primarily by reducing fruit juices and other sugars.

The researchers used a randomized crossover trial of healthy individuals who ate a control diet (Control), a standard DASH diet (DASH), and a higher fat, lower carbohydrate modification of the DASH diet (HF-DASH) for 3 weeks each. The Control diet contained less fiber, fruits and vegetables and more red meat than either of the DASH diets. Each diet period was separated by 2-week washout periods and participants maintained a constant weight during the study periods.

Thirty-six adult participants completed all three diet periods. Blood pressure was reduced similarly in the DASH and HF-DASH diet compared to the Control diet. The HF-DASH diet significantly reduced triglycerides and large and medium sized very low-density lipoprotein particles in comparison with the DASH diet, and there was no significant difference in LDL-C response between these diets. Therefore the modified HF-DASH diet presents an effective alternative to the widely recommended DASH diet, with less stringent dietary fat constraints that may promote even broader implementation.

In addition to Drs. Krauss, Chiu, and Bergeron, the paper’s other authors are Barbara Sutherland, RD; Paul T Williams, PhD; and George A Bray, MD. The study received funding from Dairy Management Inc. The full text of the article can be found here and on the AJCN’s website in the “articles in press” section.

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Protein May Moderate Blood Pressure

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One of the most common risk factors of stroke and an accelerator of multiple forms of heart disease, especially when paired with excess body weight, high blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading chronic health concern worldwide.  Lynn Moore, from Boston University School of Medicine (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues report that a diet rich in protein foods may help to lower elevated blood pressure.  The researchers analyzed protein intakes of healthy participants from the Framingham Offspring Study and followed them for development of high blood pressure over an 11-year period.  Data revealed that those adults who consumed more protein, whether from animal or plant sources, had statistically significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels after four years of follow-up. In general, these beneficial effects were evident for both overweight (at/over 25 kg/m2 BMI) and normal weight (at/less than 25 kg/m2 BMI) individuals. The investigators also found that consuming more dietary protein also was associated with lower long-term risks for high blood pressure. When the diet also was characterized by higher intakes of fiber, higher protein intakes led to 40–60% reductions in risk.  Observing that: “Higher protein intakes were associated with lower mean [systolic blood pressure] and [diastolic blood pressure],” the study authors conclude that: “Adults consuming more dietary protein from either plant or animal sources had lower long-term risks of [high blood pressure].



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Self-reported daily exercise associated with lower blood pressure, glucose readings

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Self-reported moderate to vigorous exercise was associated with lower blood pressure and blood glucose levels in a Kaiser Permanente study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. Data collected from Kaiser Permanente’s Exercise as a Vital Sign (EVS) program, in which medical office staff asks patients about their exercise habits at every health care visit, revealed associations between moderate to vigorous exercise and improved measures of cardiometabolic health for both men and women. Few previous studies have examined associations between self-reported physical activity and cardiometabolic risk factors within a health care setting.

The study examined the electronic health records of 622,897 Kaiser Permanente Southern California adult members who were generally healthy and had at least three outpatient visits during the two-year study period. As part of the EVS program, patients were asked how many days per week they engage in moderate to strenuous exercise (like a brisk walk) and how many minutes they engage in exercise at this level. The study authors categorized patients as “regularly active” if they reported 150 minutes of exercise per week or more, “irregularly active” if they reported any exercise but less than 150 minutes per week, and “inactive” if they reported no exercise. Among those excluded in the study were people with major health issues and individuals taking medications to lower blood pressure or control glucose.

“Although this study was cross-sectional and we cannot presume causality between the level of physical activity and health status based on these data, combining our findings with results from intervention studies suggest that exercise can play an integral part in moderating/lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, and ultimately a patient’s cardiometabolic health,” said Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, of the Kaiser Permanente Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, California.

The study found that women who were consistently and even irregularly active had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared with those who were inactive. Men had lower diastolic blood pressure but there was no association with their systolic blood pressure. The findings also showed that consistently and irregularly active male and female patients had fasting glucose levels lower than the consistently inactive patients. Consistently active and irregularly active women had a greater magnitude of difference for cardiometabolic variables compared with similarly active men.

The EVS program also encourages Kaiser Permanente physicians and other health care professionals to recommend more exercise to those who report little or no regular activity in an average week. Physicians recommend “moderate to vigorous” exercise (such as a brisk walk) to patients who report being inactive.

“If health care providers would routinely assess the physical activity of their patients and refer the physically inactive patients to exercise programs, it may reduce the incidence of future chronic diseases,” said Young.

Kaiser Permanente can deliver transformational health research in part because it has the largest private electronic health system in the world. The organization’s integrated model and electronic health record system securely connect approximately 9.5 million people, 618 medical offices, and 38 hospitals, linking patients with their health care teams, their personal health information, and the latest medical knowledge. It also connects Kaiser Permanente’s epidemiological researchers to one of the most extensive collections of longitudinal medical data available, facilitating studies and important medical discoveries that shape the future of health and care delivery for patients and the medical community.

This paper is part of Kaiser Permanente’s ongoing efforts to encourage physical activity among its members and improve health care quality and safety. Kaiser Permanente has published numerous studies about the benefits of Exercise as a Vital Sign, which it launched in 2012. In April, a Kaiser Permanente study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society found that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who had moderate to vigorous physical exercise had a lower risk of hospital readmission within 30 days. In December 2013, a Kaiser Permanente study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that asking patients about their exercise habits was associated with weight loss in overweight patients and improved glucose control for patients with diabetes.


This work was supported by the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Other authors of the paper include: Karen J. Coleman, PhD, Eunis Ngor, MS, Kristi Reynolds, PhD, Margo Sidell, PhD, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, and Robert E. Sallis, MD, of the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center.

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Do you really know what your blood pressure reading means?

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Numbers surround our everyday lives. They reveal the cost of products, the temperature outside and even how fast we should be cruising on the highway. Understanding numbers, then, is highly important because when we don’t, it can lead to unwanted results – like getting a speeding ticket or not wearing a jacket and it turns out to be cold!

When it comes to our heath, there are also numbers we must closely pay attention to and one in particular we must keep a sharper eye on…

We’re talking about blood pressure numbers and understanding your reading can be the difference between life and death. You see, the numbers shown when we take our blood pressure reveal a lot about our health. Keeping your numbers in a healthy range will help you to continue a long, joyful life. So if you didn’t quite understand the importance of those numbers, let us break down some blood pressure facts for you to give you a better idea.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure by name is simple: Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure put on your blood vessels as it travels around your body. Your blood originates in your heart and gets pumped out to reach other vital organs and parts of your body.

Blood pressure can come in three forms: Low, normal and high. Ideally, you want a normal blood pressure reading, but if it’s low or high it can have serious health consequences. Understanding blood pressure, though, goes a bit further than just recognizing its role in the body. To get a better understanding of blood pressure, you have to look at the numbers themselves.

Understanding blood pressure readings: Diastolic and systolic

You may have heard such readings like 130/86 mmHg or 123/82 mmHg, but what does this really tell us? Blood pressure readings use two numbers: Diastolic and systolic.

Diastolic is the bottom number; this number is always lower and tells us the pressure on the arteries between heart beats. This is the time when the heart refills with blood. Systolic is the top number which is always higher. It reveals the amount of pressure on the arteries while the heart beats.

The American Heart Association has created recommendations for blood pressure so you can stay healthy and avoid hypotension and hypertension. The following recommendations are:

  • Hypotension (too low): Lower than 90/60 mmHg
  • Normal: Lower than 120/80 mmHg
  • Prehypertention: 120/80 to 139/89 mmHg
  • Hypertension stage 1: 140/90 to 159/99 mmHg
  • Hypertension stage 2: Higher than 160/100 mmHg
  • Hypertension crisis: 180/110 mmHg – emergency personnel should be called.

When it comes to importance, systolic pressure is more closely looked at as that is what can cause higher risk to your health, even more so with seniors.

Understand your blood pressure readingsWhat affects blood pressure?

There are many internal and external factors which contribute to blood pressure. Because of this, monitoring it daily can give you the most accurate numbers. Here are some factors to consider in regard to blood pressure:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diet – high salt foods, processed foods, foods high in fat
  • Age
  • Race
  • Family history
  • Lack of physical activity – if you check your blood pressure after activity, though, it will appear higher
  • Lack of potassium
  • Lack of vitamin D
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Stress
  • Chronic conditions like kidney disease.

As you can see, some of these risk factors are controllable and some are not – race, age and family history. Therefore, it’s recommended you manage your lifestyle habits to promote healthy blood pressure, especially since you can’t control your race, age or family history.

Below is a chart that reveals healthy blood pressure readings for age and gender that can be used a guideline.

Blood pressure chart by age and gender

15-18 117/77 mmHg 120/85 mmHg
19-24 120/79 mmHg 120/79 mmHg
25-29 120/80 mmHg 121/80/ mmHg
30-35 122/81 mmHg 123/82 mmHg
36-39 123/82 mmHg 124/83 mmHg
40-45 124/83 mmHg 125/83 mmHg
46-49 126/84 mmHg 127/84 mmHg
50-55 129/85 mmHg 128/85 mmHg
56-59 130/86 mmHg 131/87 mmHg
60 and older 134/84 mmHg 135/88 mmHg

High blood pressure (hypertension)

As we mentioned, hypertension – or high blood pressure – refers to a high amount of pressure being pushed against the arteries which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

There are two types of high blood pressure: Primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension refers to high blood pressure without an identifiable cause and can develop over many years. Secondary hypertension is caused by an underlying condition. Secondary hypertension can occur suddenly and can be a result of some of the following illnesses:

  • Kidney problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid problems
  • Alcohol abuse or long time use
  • Use of illicit drugs
  • Medications like decongestions, birth control and cold remedies.

Depending on which type of hypertension you have, the causes will differ.

High blood pressure symptoms

High blood pressure symptoms may be unnoticeable for years and that is why keeping regular readings – especially if you have risks factors for hypertension – is that much more important. Symptoms of hypertension include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in legs, abdomen and ankles
  • Bluish color to lips or skin
  • Changes in heart rate – speeding up or palpitations.

High blood pressure side effects

High blood pressure is linked to serious health consequences. Here are some of the side effects and other illnesses in which high blood pressure plays a role:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease.

If you already have another underlying medical condition like diabetes or high cholesterol, paired with high blood pressure, your risk for these diseases vastly increases.

High blood pressure prevention

To avoid hypertension and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, prevention is your best defense. For primary hypertension, prevention methods include enjoying healthy lifestyle habits like exercising, eating well, moderating alcohol consumption, reducing and managing stress, and not smoking. These are simple ways you can reduce your risk of developing hypertension over time.

In the case of secondary hypertension, the means of prevention is about managing the chronic illness. If the underlying medical issue you have is not managed, it can put you at greater risk for hypertension. Following directions of medications and treatment options provided by your doctor can help you prevent high blood pressure as a result of an underlying health condition.

High blood pressure natural remedies

High blood pressure natural remedies are very similar to the means of preventing high blood pressure altogether. If you lack physical activity, start now. Depending on age and ability, it may be wise to consult your doctor, but start off with some swimming or light walking – both are great beginnings to get stronger and help your hypertension.

Eating a balanced diet is also essential. Fruits and vegetables should be enjoyed in abundance and the less processed and fast-food the better. Greens, lean meats and whole grains are all part of the recipe for a healthy life and may help you lower your high blood pressure naturally.

Low blood pressure (hypotension)

On the other side of high blood pressure, we can also develop low blood pressure which is still harmful to our health. Low blood pressure can be temporary or can be chronic and something you have to manage, it all depends on the cause.

Potential causes of low blood pressure are:

  • Dehydration
  • Heart problems
  • Blood loss
  • Infection
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Lack of nutrients
  • Medications.

Low blood pressure causes can also come in different forms like standing up too quickly, occurring after a meal, a result of faulty brain signals, or damage to the nervous system. As you can see, there are many causes of low blood pressure and doctors recognize that, for some, their normal levels are just low. That is why doctors don’t usually diagnose someone with hypotension unless symptoms are visible.

Low blood pressure symptoms

Many of the low blood pressure symptoms are quite similar to that of the high blood pressure ones, but there are a few differences:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of concentration
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression
  • Thirst
  • Dizziness.

If you continuously have readings of low blood pressure but don’t experience these symptoms then what may be low for others is quite normal for you. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in health.

Low blood pressure prevention and natural remedies

Because most of the time low blood pressure isn’t too serious, continuing to live a healthy lifestyle is your means of prevention and a natural remedy. Drinking plenty of water and enjoying whole foods can help balance out your blood pressure. Also, depending on what kind of low blood pressure you have can also help you prevent or treat it. For example, if your blood pressure drops when you strand up or get out of bed, being more mindful of this and moving slower can help alleviate this rush and change.

Either too high or too low, blood pressure should always be monitored, especially as you age. The detrimental effects of blood pressure can be life-threatening and so understanding your readings and taking the appropriate steps to healthier living is your secret to healthy blood pressure.

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