Vitamin D deficiency in younger women may be linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure later in life, according to an ongoing study conducted by University researchers.

According to the Michigan Bone Health and Metabolism Study, subjects who had a vitamin D deficiency in 1993 were three times as likely to have developed high blood pressure when they were tested again in 2007.

Public Health student Flojaune Griffin, a co-investigator of the study and doctoral candidate in epidemiology, said the longitudinal nature of the study allowed for certain developments to come to light.

“It was actually over time that (the vitamin D-blood pressure linkage) stood out,” she said.

High blood pressure often doesn’t affect women until middle age, Griffin said, but the findings suggest that the vitamin D deficiency could serve as a warning sign.

“There may be something we could do in younger age that has an impact on the trajectory of our health,” Griffin said.

She added that one way to stave off high blood pressure is by increasing vitamin D intake by getting more sun and eating foods like fatty fish, milk, eggs and mushrooms.

She added that in regions like Michigan — where it is often cloudy — it could be difficult to get healthy amounts of ultraviolet rays.

“It’s important to start supplementing, especially if there’s a possibility that failing to do so could have a negative impact on our cardiovascular health,” she said.

The study was based on annual check ups of 559 Caucasian females in Tecumseh, Mich. The main objective was to document physical changes in women as they aged, with a particular emphasis on bone health. The relationship between vitamin D and heart health was an indirect finding.

Today, Griffin and Dr. Crystal Gadegbeku, the study’s co-author and internal medicine associate professor in the Medical School, are presenting the study’s findings at the American Heart Association’s annual High Blood Pressure Research Conference in Chicago.

While Griffin is optimistic about the study’s findings, she said more research needs to be done to account for racial disparities in blood pressure.

“Future studies need to be done to really flesh out what’s going on,” Griffin said.

Griffin is also currently investigating the disparity in high blood pressure between black and white women in a separate study called the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation.

Griffin said more research will “help develop nuanced public health messages to ensure that we are optimizing health.”

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